The first contest between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals since Game Seven of the 2014 World Series nevertheless yielded the same result as that game—a one-run victory by the Giants over the Royals with Kansas City stranding the tying run in scoring position, this game with a 2-1 score.
Though the impact of this game was significantly less than the last one between the two teams, Kansas City made up for it with an extraordinarily sloppy performance. The Royals left 11 men on base, and had more than one stranded baserunners in each of the eighth, ninth, 10th, and 11th innings.
It started with Matt Cain, starter for the Giants. Cain was the 22nd player in Major League history to toss a perfect game, doing so in 2012. But in the past four years, Cain has struggled with health issues, pitching less than 250 innings with an ERA north of 5.
The Royals apparently decided it would be more fun to face the former Cain rather than the latter. Cain dominated the Royals, pitching seven innings, only allowing four hits and one run. Kansas City’s struggles against pitchers who happen to have arms continue, as they entered tonight’s game ranked 29 out of 30 MLB teams in runs per game. It showed.
That one run? You can thank one Whitley Merrifield for that, who was playing in his first game at the Major League level this season.
Merrifield crushed AAA pitching when he was sent to the minors, and hit over .400 with a gaggle of extra base hits. This prompted the Royals, struggling for runs like an overweight man struggling for air trying to climb a second flight of stairs, to call up Merrifield for a boost. And boost he did: Merrifield launched an opposite field homer to net the Royals their first and only Baseball Point of the evening.
Alas, the Giants tied the game up in the sixth inning. Royals starter Jason Hammel, who had been dealing to that point and brought a perfect game halfway to the finish line, began to lose some steam. Joe Panik singled to lead off the inning and scored on a Hunter Pence single to tie the game at 1-1.
I would at this point like to point out my utter disdain for watching Mondesi play baseball for Kansas City. He’s fantastically overmatched by big league pitching and continually makes routine defensive errors. Then, when he inevitably drops down a sacrifice bunt, he gets praised for ‘moving the runner over’ and his ‘unselfish approach.’ Tonight was a Mondesi tour-de-force: he went hitless again, and his batting average just keeps dropping and dropping (it’s now at .114—.114!—, with an OPS of .370). In the sixth inning, Mondesi bungled an easy grounder up the middle, and only got an out because he threw a perfect shot to the plate which resulted in a surprise tagout. And when he got on base via a walk in the fifth inning, he was promptly picked off.
That leads to the eighth inning. Giants reliever Ty Blach was throwing errant baseballs all over the place, which resulted in a four-pitch walk to Merrifield. Mondesi, sensing the opportunity for a sacrifice bunt like a shark senses blood in the water, of course plopped one down on a pitch that would have been a ball. This gave Blach a free out rather than letting Merrifield attempt a steal on his own. Rather predictably, the Royals did not score. Hosmer grounded out to end the threat.
Joakim Soria and Kelvin Herrera tossed a scoreless eighth and scoreless ninth, respectively, looking very sharp. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, Brandon Moss cracked a single. Merrifield walked again, a nice plate appearance after being down in the count.
Next up: Mondesi! Mondesi is terrible. This was Mondesi’s plate appearance:
- First pitch: fastball down the middle of the plate (called strike)
- Second pitch: fastball lower third of the plate (called strike)
- Third pitch: fastball upper third of the plate (swinging strike) (strikeout)
Alright, moving on. Ok. Scott Alexander, also recently called up from AAA Omaha, pitched a scoreless tenth inning, including a nice key strikeout of Buster Posey with runners on first and second to end it.
In the tenth, the Royals had yet another chance to score, with two on and one out, but Hosmer grounded to second for a double play and I’m not going to spend more energy describing that.
Anyway, it’s probably unfair to expect Alexander of all people to hold the Giants totally scoreless in two consecutive innings in free baseball time, and he did not do so. Alexander bled one run in the 11th inning, as Nick Hundley doubled and Panik singled him home. 2-1 Giants. That was all the damage that was done, but that’s all that was needed. Mark Melancon, the Giants’ very expensive closer, yielded a single to Perez, but struck out Moss and Escobar. Still, Merrifield singled for his second hit of the game, placing pinch-runner Christian Colon in scoring position.
Mondesi then stepped up to the plate. You can guess the outcome.