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Royals win a nail-biter, 4-3

The real battle was player versus sun.

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals - Game One
Lorenzo Cain spent a lot of the day staring straight up into the sun.
Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

The Royals’ offense is still missing in action, but against an ace like Yu Darvish they still stuck to their identity as scrappers and scrapers and managed to drag a 4-3 victory into the light of the sun.

Things starts off on the wrong foot when Ian Kennedy labored through the first with 25 pitches though the only base-runner he allowed was a walk. It’s a testament to his pitch count recovery that he eventually ended up pitching into the seventh inning.

In the bottom of the first the Royals offense tried to pay him back for his perseverance. Whit Merrifield led off the game with an infield single thanks to Rangers’ starting pitcher Yu Darvish taking a stab at it and deflecting it into no-person’s-land. Jorge Bonifacio dropped a looper to right and Merrifield raced to third. That proved to be a key play when Darvish uncorked a wild pitch to Lorenzo Cain and Merrifield scored. Bonifacio advanced to second on the play and then to third when Darvish hurled his pickoff attempt into center. Faced with a gift wrapped run the Royals managed only a strikout from Cain alongside a pair of infield flyouts from Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.

The Royals went right back to work in the second inning as Alcides Escobar worked a count pretty well and ended up with a line drive to left for a 1-out single. Alex Gordon then looped a single to left of his own but that was as far as either runner would get.

Ian found trouble again in the top of the third inning, hanging a curveball right down to the middle to rookie Drew Robinson for his third home run and a tie game.

In the bottom of the third Hosmer worked an 0-2 count into a 2-out walk. Mike Moustakas, as Rex and Phys continued to insist that the home run derby had probably messed up his swing, ripped a double into right center to score Hosmer. He was thrown out at third trying (and failing) to draw a throw to ensure the run scored (it did anyway.)

Kennedy struck out the side in the fourth.

Ned Yost decided to leave a cruising pitcher who was nevertheless running low on fuel in the game for the second night in a row. With 2 outs in the seventh inning Kennedy allowed Mike Napoli to blast a a solo shot just over the wall in center off of one of Kennedy’s trademark high fastballs that didn’t quite get high enough. Tie game. Again.

Just to prove that Ned is not the only manager who can leave his starter in too long Darvish stayed in to allow a single to Drew Butera followed by yet another Whit Merrifield double to score him with a little help from a Nomar Mazara error in left. To give the Royals a 3-2 lead.

Joakim Soria was called upon to pitch the eighth inning. As if to prove that even when the manager brings in his reliever the runs can still score he allowed a 2-out double to Elvis Andrus and then Nomar Mazara slipped a groundball through the middle of the infield to make up for his earlier gaffe and re-tie the game for the third time.

Alcides Escobar led off the bottom of the ninth with a doinker into right for his third hit of the game. Gordon took a 4-pitch walk. Salvador Perez, pinch hitting for Drew Butera, hit a slow roller to third that Adrian Beltre booted so his only play was at third. Whit Merrifield was beaned in the back to load the bases. Jorge Bonifacio struck out on a 3-2 pitch, up came Lorenzo Cain. Lorenzo battled the sun all day in making many impressive catches in center. It is perhaps fitting then that his line drive to right was lost in the sun by Shin-Soo Choo who had the ball subsequently clank off his glove. Lorenzo was credited with a walk-off RBI single and the Royals finally got the Ranger monkey off their back.

Ian Kennedy earned his fourth straight quality start, which is good news for the beleaguered Royals rotation. The Royals prevented the both the series and season sweep and ended their losing streak. As of this writing Cleveland is losing, as well, so they might even make up some lost ground in the battle for the division. The Royals will start another important series against the Tigers tomorrow. It will be alleged Cy Young candidate Jason Vargas against Jordan Zimmerman who has not been as good this year as he was for the Nationals.