Tonight, the Kansas City Royals defeated the Seattle Mariners 7-3, keeping pace with the Minnesota Twins as well as their shared Wild Card spot.
Whit Merrifield led the newest Battle for Grass Creek off with a bang. Merrifield crushed a first pitch fastball into the left field bleachers, giving the Royals a 1-0 lead and making the first dent of many into Felix Hernandez, lovingly nicknamed ‘King Felix’ by the Mariners faithful.
King Felix used to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. From 2005 to 2014, Hernandez made 303 starts. During that time, Hernandez won the 2010 Cy Young Award, struck out 1951 hapless hitters, and worked a 3.07 ERA. Coming into tonight’s contest, only three Royals had hit a home run against the King: Mitch Maier, David DeJesus, and Billy Butler. Merrifield became the fourth.
In the fourth inning, Mike Moustakas became the fifth ever Royal to hit a home run against Felix. Moose’s line drive shot to right field was his 24th home run of the year. It was a two-run blast that scored Eric Hosmer and gave them a 3-2 lead. Brandon Moss then doubled, scoring on an error by Robinson Cano on what should have been a simple groundout by Alex Gordon. 4-2, Kansas City.
Since 2015, King Felix has been stunningly mortal. He’s only started 63 games over that span, tonight’s start only his eighth this year, and his ERA over that span has ballooned to 4.22. In the fifth inning of tonight’s game, Hernandez continued the unfortunate and inevitable decline that Father Time forces on us all. Jorge Bonifacio walked, and so did Eric Hosmer, and then Felix uncorked a wild pitch, and then Salvador Perez cracked a double to score Bonifacio and Hosmer. 6-2, Kansas City. Hernandez closed out the fifth inning as well as the sixth.
As for the Royals’ starter: Danny Duffy made his first start in over a month missed due to an oblique injury, and for one inning, it was extremely obvious. Jean Segura and Danny Valencia, The Guy From College Who Started Arguments With ‘No Offense But’, knocked two easy singles to lead off the game. After a Cano groundout, Nelson Cruz smashed a line drive to the wall that scored Segura and Valencia. A good bounce and nice positioning by Jorge Bonifacio limited Cruz to a single, and then Duffy was able to wriggle out of the inning without any further damage.
Then, in the sixth inning, Duffy ran into more trouble again. He failed to find the strike zone whilst facing Valencia, Grandma’s Least Favorite Grandson, and a Cruz single would place runners on first and second with only one out. Duffy’s day was finished after he coaxed a groundout from Kyle Seager. Peter Moylan covered Duffy by striking out Mitch Haniger, ending the inning and closing the door on a successful first start back from an injury.
But if you could tell Duffy was making his first MLB start in over a month in the first and sixth innings, you would think the exact opposite between them.
Indeed, Duffy’s second through fifth innings were rather immaculate. In those four innings, the Mariners only scraped a combined three baserunners against the Royals’ de facto ace, never more than one at once. Duffy’s final line belied how good he was: Duffy tossed 5.2 innings pitched, two walks, two strikeouts, and five hits (all singles).
As has been Ned Yost’s tendency this year, Moylan was asked to do a little too much and stay in the game a little too long. Moylan, a nice bullpen arm with slippery pitches, is nonetheless a 38-year-old who was signed on a minor league contract for the second consecutive year.
After a Jarrod Dyson pinch-hit fly out, Moylan walked Carlos Ruiz, and Eric Hosmer made a throwing error on a Boog Powell ground ball to place runners at second and third with only one out. Segura knocked in a single to left field, only scoring one run due to the natural deterrence known as Alex Gordon’s Biceps. With Segura on first base, Valencia, That Slow Prius Driver in the Left Lane with his Turn Signal On, poked a grounder to the second base hole. Merrifield adeptly flipped the ball to Escobar, whose laser to Hosmer completed the double play and ended the inning.
The Royals grabbed a bonus run in the top of the ninth through a Bonifacio triple and a wild pitch. Kevin McCarthy closed out the game with assistance from some nice defense by Gordon, who dived to catch a sinking liner from Valencia, Roomate Who Leaves Leftovers in the Fridge Until It Grows Mold.
Kansas City is 43-40 this year. They will close out the series against Seattle tomorrow before remaining on the West Coast for a trip to play the Los Angeles Dodgers.