clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pérez fuels huge comeback win with a GRAND DONG

Boston pen loses its first game in 30 tries when leading after seven. Grand slams will do that.

Boston Red Sox v Kansas City Royals
Touch ‘em all, Sal.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

While they scuffled for the greater part of seven innings, struggling to get their attack off the ground against Drew Pomeranz and Joe Kelly, the Royals exercised an unusual measure of patience before finally pouncing on the Red Sox in the eighth in the grandest of fashions.

The Royals offense got things going a little against Boston starter Drew Pomeranz in the second with Eric Hosmer starting things off with a lead-off double from the All-Star first baseman getting the start at designated hitter this afternoon. Hosmer took an opportunistic turn at first and raced toward second after hitting one off the end of the bat and not sending it particularly deep into right-center. Salvador Pérez singled to move Hosmer up a station, and Mike Moustakas followed with a grounder that erased Pérez along with Moustakas, but still drove in the first run of the game.

In the bottom of the third, Alcides Escobar kicked the second straight Royals’ inning off with a double up the line in left. Ramon Tórres—getting the rare start at second as a left-handed starter meant Whit Merrifield shuffled to left and Alex Gordon got the day off—grounded out to the right side of the infield but moved Escobar to third in the process, and Merrifield hit a long sacrifice fly to right, plating the second Royal run of the day.

Ian Kennedy didn’t allow a hit until the top of the fourth, but when he did, he really allowed a hit. Ahead in the count 1-2, Kennedy grooved a fastball to Andrew Benintendi, who deposited the ball into the second tier of fountains in deep right-center. Kennedy then fell behind 3-1 to Xander Bogaerts before grooving another fastball down the heart of the plate. Dong hung. Again.

Kennedy followed with interminable plate appearances against Mitch Moreland and Chris Young, walking the former and striking out the latter but needing 17 pitches to do both. Jackie Bradley Jr. flew out to his counterpart in center for the second Boston out of the inning. Josh Rutledge finally, mercifully struck out but not before Kennedy had thrown his 37th pitch of the inning.

This type of inning has now become a signature characteristic of the Ian Kennedy start. Fortunately, just two runs scored this time around, but for a guy who is supposed to throw a lot of innings, this clearly cuts a start short by an inning or two per turn in the rotation.

Mike Moustakas stranded Pérez after the All-Star catcher achieved the unimaginable and drew a walk with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. In his first two plate appearances, Moustakas subjected all to the ignominy of making three outs on two pitches seen.

After putting Christian Vázquez aboard with a lead-off single, Ian Kennedy airmailed the throw to Torres covering first after fielding a Deven Marrero bunt, sending Vázquez to third and Marrero to second with no outs and the top of the order coming up. Can you spell “trouble,” kids?

Mookie Betts drove one to left, which Merrifield was able to get back under, an attempt to build up momentum for a throw home, but Moustakas wisely cut the throw off, holding Marrero at second and ceding what looked to be a likely run as the throw seemed like it was off-line enough to be unlikely to lead to an out at home. Benintendi flew out to the warning track, moving Marrero up a station but resulting in the second out of the inning. Ned Yost opted to intentionally walk Xander Bogaerts to get to the lefty Mitch Moreland and fingered to southpaw Mike Minor with Kennedy’s pitch count at 89 with two straight rocky innings weighing heavily on that count.

Inheriting a disaster of Kennedy’s making, Minor attempted a pick-off throw at first, after jumping ahead of Moreland—owner of a 79 wRC+ against LHP in his career—1-2 in the count. With Cheslor Cuthbert playing at first base to try to show just how much utility he possesses, he whiffed on catching an entirely catchable pick-off attempt, this just a few plays after being out of position and not fielding the bunt attempt. Somewhat fortunately, Minor’s throw hit Boston’s first base coach in the chest, meaning Bogaerts didn’t advance, but Cuthbert’s throw home after the carom back off Ruben Amaro Jr.’s chest was not in time to prevent the fourth run of the game from scoring. Moreland eventually flew out routinely, but Boston had added two unearned runs to their total, those runs representing the difference between the two teams on the scoreboard.

Boston leading 4-2, Cuthbert went down swinging, Escobar spiked a first-pitch grounder to third, and Torres lined out to Moreland for an easy 1-2-3 inning for Pomeranz. Minor followed with his own quick inning featuring eight pitches, all for strikes, and three quick outs.

Merrifield led off with a single in the sixth, but Jorge Bonifacio popped up in foul territory, Cain grounded into a fielder’s choice that seemed destined for a double play were it not for an initial bobble, and Hosmer struck out to strand the sixth Royal baserunner of the afternoon. That could have just been one sentence, but such a wanton waste of a lead-off baserunner does not deserve to be broken up into multiple sentences.

Minor came back out to start the seventh and struck out Vázquez and Marrero for the first two outs of the frame before Betts lined a double past a diving Mike Moustakas at third. Minor spent just one more pitch in the frame, getting Benintendi to pop out harmlessly to Escobar in the grass in shallow left center. For the afternoon, Minor tossed 2.1 innings, striking out three, and allowing just the one baserunner, Betts.

Salvador Pérez led off the home half of the seventh with a ground-ball single up the middle, putting the lead-off hitter aboard for the fourth time on the day and marking his third time on base in as many plate appearances. If it wasn’t clear already, Pérez was doing his damnedest to put the Royals’ offense on his shoulders.

Moustakas struck out, but Cuthbert punched one to right to put the tying run aboard and ending Pomeranz’s outing. On the day, Pomeranz threw 6.1 innings, struck out five, walked one, and allowed six hits. While he was in the game, just two runs had scored, but he was responsible for the two runners that flame-throwing reliever Joe Kelly inherited.

A fastball pitcher, Kelly faced Alcides Escobar. Escobar ambushed the first pitch, doing his best Lorenzo Cain impression, leaning back and watching as the ball died short of the warning track. This just in: Alcides Escobar is not Lorenzo Cain.

With two outs and two on, Ramón Torres seemed like he might be the Royals’ last, best hope. Fouling off fastballs like he was trying to fill up a punch card for a free sandwich, he endured a ten-pitch war of attrition in which the count wasn’t full until the eighth pitch of the plate appearance before finally working a walk on the tenth pitch of the duel. Bases loaded for Merrifield, he lined a 99.0-MPH two-seamer to shallow right. Inconveniently, Betts was playing Merrifield in shallow right and ripped the liner from the air, ending the first serious Royal threat for multiple runs since the Royals had two on in the second.

Joakim Soria worked an effortless 1-2-3 top of the eighth, and the Royals went back to the well again, hoping to get anything but another empty bucket.

Jorge Bonifacio became the fifth Royal lead-off hitter to get aboard, drawing a walk from new Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes. Lorenzo Cain watched, bat on shoulder, as Matt Barnes missed high on four straight pitches. So soon after it started, Barnes’s afternoon was done after walking the first two batters he faced.

Robby Scott, a teammate of Hosmer’s as a 12-year-old, entered to set up the lefty-lefty matchup with Eric Hosmer. But Hosmer doesn’t really have a platoon split, and Pérez—who follows Hosmer in the lineup—CRUSHES lefties. Having just seen Scott on Monday and drawing a walk, Hosmer watched as Scott missed well away on four straight offerings.

Bases juiced for Pérez, the Royals’ backstop took a mighty swing at a 1-0 four-seamer just a bit outside and took a feebler stab at another one away to turn a 3-0 count into a 1-2 disadvantage because that’s what Salvador Pérez does. Still wanting for an actual strike thrown, Scott threw two more pitches outside of the strike zone, running the count full, and the lefty finally threw a strike down the heart of the plate, but Pérez fouled it back out of play. Scott painted the corner, and Pérez sent another one back out of play, foul.

With Scott missing the strike zone for the sixth time in the plate appearance, Pérez fouled another would-be ball off to run the at-bat to its ninth pitch. Number nine was a beaut.

With the chance for his first career grand slam staring him in the face for nine straight pitches, Salvador Pérez OBLITERATED a belt-high fastball in the middle of the zone, sending it screaming into the stands, 412 feet into left.

Sal. Va. DONG.

When Pérez’s trot was over, he had persevered through a seven-plus minute at-bat and had his 15th dong-hanging of the year to show for it. There might not have been a bigger one for him in 2017, as this one turned a two-run Kansas City deficit into a two-run Kansas City lead.

Moustakas nubbed a grounder to where they weren’t on the left side of the pull-shifted infield to become the fifth straight Royal to get aboard, and Heath Hembree was called upon to become the third Red Sox reliever of the frame. Hembree did what Barnes and Scott had been unable to do—record outs—getting pinch-hitting Alex Gordon to pop out before inducing an Escobar ground-ball double play and ending the inning, but the damage had been done.

The Royals defense shifted to get Hosmer at first, Gordon in left, and Merrifield over to right, and Kelvin Herrera worked around a lead-off Jackie Bradley Jr. double to record the save.

The win brings the Royals back to within a game of .500, and if one subscribed to the concept of signature wins and momentum and such pop-sports psychology, this victory would be big for the Royals. The Red Sox pen had yet to cede a win when inheriting a lead after the seventh inning (per the Royals’ broadcast), but the Royals ended that streak, thanks to an improbable three straight walks to start the eighth.

This marked the ninth time in their last eleven games in which the Royals won. It was arguably the sweetest of those wins, and it ensured the series win against first-place Boston. The Royals get a day off before hosting the Toronto Blue Jays for a three-game series.