Though it took a little longer than on Friday, the result ended up being the same for both the Kansas City Royals and the Los Angeles Dodgers, though perhaps in a manner slightly more demoralizing than the last time.
It didn’t take long for the Royals to state a case for their not deserving to win. After two exceedingly brief frames in which his teammates saw a total of 15 pitches through the first seven batters, Ian Kennedy decided that the bottom of the second was as good a time as any to deliver his patented meltdown inning and emulate the man in this video:
What better time to walk the leadoff batter—rookie slugger Cody Bellinger, mired in a dong-less nine-game slump in which he’d been slashing .161/.278/.194—than when the offense behind you decides to swing at everything (three of them producing extremely routine outs while seeing two or fewer pitches)?
While walks have been more of an issue for him this year than any season since his days as a Yankee [then also under Dave Eiland’s tutelage], letting dudes hang dong left and right is a tool that Kennedy owns. Would it surprise you to learn that Ian Kennedy has served up 28 more dongs than any other pitcher in baseball since 2010? It’s not true, but you thought it might be. No, he’s only second—second is still really bad—on the list, trailing James Shields by 15 (211 to 196) but “leading” the next closest [read: worst] pitcher by 12.
With a lineup so potent that unexplained pregnancies at Dodger Stadium are an epidemic, what followed was preordained. After a Chris Taylor line-out to second baseman Whit Merrifield, Joc Pederson stepped to the plate. Kennedy jumped up 0-2 and kept pumping the zone with strikes despite not needing to, ultimately leaving a knuckle-curve down but in the middle of the plate. Pederson sized it up and unleashed a furious stroke of his lumber. Dong hung.
Just like that, the Dodgers led 2-0.
The Dodgers added another run in the third, with Chase Utley and Corey Seager starting the frame off with back-to-back singles, Seager’s sending Utley to third. Justin Turner sent a fly deep enough to center fielder Lorenzo Cain that Utley scored with ease, the throw going to second to hold Seager at first. Bellinger shot a one-out double to left-center, but Taylor and Pederson stranded Seager and Bellinger in scoring position.
Trailing 3-0 and facing McCarthy for the second time through the order, Jorge Bonifacio, Lorenzo Cain, and Eric Hosmer each reached safely to start the inning, singling, walking, and singling, respectively. Unfortunately the eternally second-guessed Mike Jirschele sent Jorge Bonifacio on Hosmer’s line drive single to Joc Pederson. Pederson has a strong arm. Bonifacio isn’t particularly fast. Rather than moving up a base and loading them up for Salvador Pérez, Bonifacio made the first out of the inning at home.
Pérez punched a blooper into no man’s land in shallow left center, and Lorenzo Cain raced home from second—seeming to have either preternaturally known that the ball was going to touch the turf despite Seager being very close to making the play or psychically controlled the ball’s destiny with previously undisclosed telekinetic powers—without looking back to see if the play had been made, scoring the first Kansas City run of the hot afternoon. Unfortunately for the Royals, Mike Moustakas popped out on the first pitch for the second time in as many trips to the plate against Brandon McCarthy, and Alcides Escobar continued his march toward oblivion with a routine fly-out to Yasiel Puig in right.
Kennedy worked around a lead-off double from Yasmani Grandal in the bottom of the fourth, and the Royals went back to work chipping away at the Dodgers’ lead in the top of the fifth. Whit Merrifield slashed a liner to right for a two-out double and then took advantage of Yasmani Grandal’s sudden inability to corral McCarthy’s offerings. Merrifield advanced to third on a “wild pitch” and then raced home as Grandal completely whiffed on a passed ball with Jorge Bonifacio batting. Bonifacio eventually walked, but Lorenzo Cain became the fourth Royal to be retired by McCarthy via the infield-fly-ball in the first five innings.
Kennedy cruised through the heart of the Dodgers’ order in the fifth because nothing about his starts make sense, and the aggressive Royal offense went back to their impatient ways. On the fifth(!) pitch of his lead-off at-bat, Hosmer shot a grounder up the middle for a single, but Pérez grounded into a double-play, erasing Hosmer and giving Moustakas a chance to get McCarthy out of the inning with ten or fewer pitches spent. Two pitches later, McCarthy was walking to the dugout having added ten pitches to his total on the afternoon, the third of his six frames that saw him throw ten or fewer pitches. McCarthy’s pitch count through six? A modest 75.
Kennedy worked around a one-out Pederson single to complete the quality start, and the Royals went to the top of the seventh with three frames left to even the score. Alcides Escobar shot an 0-1 four-seamer from reliever Brandon Morrow to left-center to lead off the seventh. Gordon worked a seven-pitch at-bat against the hard-throwing righty but ultimately got blown away by a high heater. Brandon Moss entered to pinch-hit for the pitcher Ian Kennedy and earned a walk in a six-pitch trip to the plate to put runners at first and second with one out. Merrifield shot a grounder into left, and Escobar raced home, beating an off-line throw home from left fielder Chris Taylor. Jorge Bonifacio followed with a single of his own, sending a screaming grounder to left but getting it there too quickly to justify sending Moss and risking a second out at home in a tight game.
With the game tied and the bases juiced with just one out, Dave Roberts executed a double-switch, sending Kiké Hernández into the game in right for Puig and Pedro Báez into the fire. But after pulling the trigger on the double-switch, Roberts found himself having to replace catcher Yasmani Grandal with a presumed in-game injury, pulling Austin Barnes into the game as well.
Báez got Lorenzo Cain looking—on a pitch that looked to be outside per Gameday and a call with which Cain took umbrage—and a shot at the first multi-run inning of the afternoon rested on Eric Hosmer’s broad shoulders. Hosmer got himself into a 3-1 count and watched as Báez grooved a 99-MPH fastball down the heart of the plate before turning over on a broken-bat grounder to his Dodger counterpart, who stumbled to the bag for the third out of the inning.
Between innings, Lorenzo Cain buzzed by home plate umpire Bill Miller on his way back onto the field, returning to the scene of the slight to have words with the man Cain felt was responsible for an injustice. Cain was unceremoniously and uncharacteristically ejected, and Mike Minor and the rest of the Royals bullpen would be forced to finish out the game without their best defensive player.
Having been forced into center in the fallout, Alex Gordon slid to convert the first out of the home half of the seventh, and Whit Merrifield watched as an Utley liner found its way to him in his new spot in left before Minor got Seager swinging to make quick work of the Dodgers.
His seventh-inning firefighting having earned him the trust of Dave Roberts, Báez went back to work in the top of the eighth. Facing the juiciest part of the Royals’ lineup, the right-handed fastball pumper watched as Salvador Pérez hung wall-scraping dong to center, eluding the leaping glove of Joc Pederson in center, putting the Royals up 4-3.
Mike Moustakas followed with his third pop-up in three at-bats, but heat freak Alcides Escobar lined a single to center, spelling the end of Báez’s day. Roberts fingered Luis Avilán, and Alex Gordon stepped to the dish. It is possible that no one has mentioned this, but Gordon is not enjoying the best of seasons. Facing a hard-throwing lefty, Gordon somewhat predictably struck out. Ned Yost summoned right-handed hitting Jorge Soler to hit for the pitcher’s spot in the lineup. Roberts fingered another guy (Sergio Romo).
Lineup juggling and pitcher fingering was getting out of control. National League baseball!
Romo got two borderline calls to jump ahead 1-2 on Soler, and the Cuban slugger watched again as Bill Miller rung up a Royal on another called third strike, though this one was closer than Cain’s called third strike.
Pitching with a one-run lead, Joakim Soria got Justin Turner to send his first pitch to right-center where Alex Gordon tracked the fly down for the first out of the inning. Soria then fell behind 3-1 to Cody Bellinger. Forced to throw a strike, Soria left a changeup out and and in the middle of the strike zone. Bellinger fully extended his bat and shot the ball the other way into the stands in left.
Soria jumped ahead 1-2 on Chris Taylor but ran the count full before getting a jam-liner shot straight back at him for the second out of the inning. Pederson tricked the hometown crowd with a fly ball to center, but Alex Gordon settled in under it to close out the frame for Soria, but the damage was done.
At home with the score tied, Roberts turned to the man who is arguably the best closer in the game, Kenley Jansen to face the top of the Royals’ order. Merrifield? Strikeout. Bonifacio sent a charge into one, but Pederson made a basket catch on the warning track for the second out of the inning. Slap-hitting Ramón Torres hitting in Cain’s spot? Valiant eight-pitch battle but lazy fly the other way to left.
With the score tied at fours as the manager of the road team, Ned Yost turned to Aussie sidearmer Peter Moylan to face the trio of Austin Barnes, Logan Forsythe, and Kiké Hernández. While The Moyl’s ERA may be an unsightly 5.46, his 3.63 FIP, 3.90 xFIP, and 3.93 SIERA all suggest that perhaps the vagaries of luck have more to do with his ERA than how he’s actually pitched. Facing three straight righties—exactly who The Moyl needs to be facing, the trio of Dodger substitutes grounded out to short, grounded out to second, and pop flied out to left, validating Yost’s decision to use the should-be ROOGY.
As the sun’s light began to fade and the tilt rolled over into free baseball, the revisionist lying deep within the fractured psyche of every Royals fan began to run amok. There’s no way to say for certain that holding Bonifacio at third would have led to an extra Kansas City run, but it’s hard not to look at a needless out at the plate for the first out of an inning in which a there were subsequent balls put in play and not wonder what might have been.
With the Royals playing in an inning that might not have needed to happen, they were tasked to face Ross Stripling. Hosmer shot a routine grounder to Corey Seager at short. As routine as it might have been—and it was routine—Seager gazed down at the ball as it went under his glove and into the outfield. Hosmer, busting ass out of the box, raced around the bag at first and took second on what should have been an out. Despite the lead-off Little-League double, Hosmer advanced no further than second, as Pérez chased a ball low and away to strike out, Moustakas flew out to left, and Escobar grounded out to second to squander the opportunity to jump ahead on the road in extras.
Scott Alexander, who’s pitched well thus far this season, ran the count full and walked the lead-off man and object of Mac’s desire Chase Utley. Having seen Salvador Pérez cede backstop duties to Drew Butera as the game went to the bottom of the tenth, Utley took a shot and stole second on Butera. Alexander ran the count full again and sent Corey Seager trotting down the line to first with the second straight walk of the inning. Next up? Justin Turner. He was only slashing .375/.470/.558 heading into this plate appearance. Three batters? Three full-count walks.
If Kennedy’s second-inning shenanigans weren’t already worthy of the afore-embedded video, Alexander’s complete meltdown surely would have warranted it here.
Oozing resignation, Ned Yost trudged to the mound. Bases loaded. No outs. Enter Kelvin Herrera to traverse the most harrowing of tightrope walks with Cody Bellinger the first man to step into the box.
Herrera has not been the Herrera to which the world has grown accustomed, but if there were any situation in which a loss would not be able to be pinned on the man on the mound, this was it. Bellinger worked the count full because that’s apparently what has to happen in tenth innings, and a miss outside spelled the end of the game for both teams.
The Royals dropped their second straight to the National League’s best team, though this one was one that they arguably gave away. Between Bonifacio’s out at home for the first out of the fourth, stranding Hosmer at second with no outs in the top of the tenth, and four straight walks in the bottom of the tenth, the outcome hinged as much upon the Royals’ failure to execute as it did on the Dodgers imposing their will on a lesser team.
Of course, that’s the recipe that fueled a lot of the Royals’ 2014-’15 success.
Karmic retribution stings.