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Merrifield walks off White Sox, 7-6

The Royals are back over .500.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

I got back from the K. That’s why this recap is late. I am still very excited.

What wasn’t late, though, was Alcides Escobar, who trotted home on Whit Merrifield’s 10th inning sacrifice fly to lift the Royals past the Chicago White Sox, 7-6, on Friday night. As they always seem to be, the victory was fueled a comeback against a former friend.

Facing former Kansas City staff ace James Shields, who was making his first start at Kauffman Stadium since he was with the Royals in game one of the 2014 World Series, the Royals fell behind 5-1 in the third inning. Ian Kennedy was completely flat. Yoan Moncada, who entered with zero big-league hits, hit a three-run triple. Things were not going well.

Kansas City got solid at-bats against Shields in the first three innings, mustering five baserunners, but just one scored on an Alex Gordon RBI single in the second.

In the fourth and down 5-1, the Royals came to life. Mike Moustakas hit a homer, his first in two weeks and his 26th of the year, to open the frame. After a walk by Gordon and a single by Butera, Whit Merrifield drove in both runs on an RBI double into the left-field corner. 5-4, White Sox.

Chicago grabbed a run in the top of the fifth to make it 6-4, but the Royals came right after Shields in the home half. Brandon Moss singled. Salvador Perez doubled. Moustakas was walked intentionally. Then, Gordon brought in two runs on an RBI double, knocking Shields out of the game and tying the score at 6-6.

After five innings of offense, the two bullpens locked things down over the next four innings. Both teams wasted chances, but it was the efforts of eight relievers that took the 6-6 score into extra innings.

In the home half of the 10th, the Royals put it all together against Tyler Clippard. Once again, it began with the bottom of the order. Escobar and Gordon opened with singles. Pinch hitter Jorge Bonifacio walked to load the bases with none out, and after about 16 different stupid delays by the White Sox, Whit Merrifield ripped a walk-off sacrifice fly to center. Escobar scored. 7-6, Royals. Game over.

It was a brilliant Friday night at the K. The only thing that was missing was quality starting pitching.

Ian Kennedy’s ERA ballooned back over the 4.60 mark with this line: 4.0 innings, six hits, six runs (five earned), two walks, and four strikeouts. He needed 94 pitches to get 12 outs. Fortunately for him, Scott Alexander, Mike Minor, Peter Moylan, Joakim Soria, Kelvin Herrera, and Neftali Feliz all combined to throw six shutout frames.

As for James Shields, well, it’s just hard to watch at this point. Look, anybody who follows me on Twitter knows how much I love James Shields. I consider him to be arguably the most influential Royal of all-time. He played as big of a role as anyone in turning that franchise around and getting them back to glory. He was their leader, and he had two brilliant seasons in Kansas City that the fans should always remember.

But man, Shields just doesn’t have it anymore. 4.1 innings, 10 hits, six runs, three walks... that’s 13 baserunners and 13 outs. He blew a 5-1 lead. His ERA is 5.79. The hardest pitch he threw was 90 mph (though the eephus pitches were cool). I guess that’s what happens when you have over 2,300 innings and 360 starts on your resume.

The winning pitcher was Feliz (1-0), who worked a seven-pitch 10th inning. The losing pitcher was Clippard (1-6).

Tomorrow: the Royals go for the series against the White Sox, who are the worst team in the AL, with a promising matchup: Jason Vargas against Mike Pelfrey. Go early and get yourself an Eric Hosmer bobblehead.