The big question coming into today was whether Jason Vargas would be able to find a useful form again or if he was doomed to be terrible for the rest of the season. That question was quickly put on the back burner; for the fourth time in five games on this road-trip the Royals took an early 3-0 lead. Fortunately they decided not to relax the offensive onslaught, this time.
In the bottom of the second with one out Cheslor Cuthbert worked a full count walk. Alcides Escobar provided an #Ambush single on the next pitch. Drew Butera tacked on an RBI single with a throwing error from Leury Garcia - bad defense would continue to be a theme for both teams all day long. The error put men at first and second. After a Whit Merrifield strike out featuring staring at three fastballs down the middle Lorenzo Cain smacked a line drive 2-RBI single. Cain advanced to second on a wild pitch before stealing third, after review, during a Hosmer walk. This is where things began to differ from earlier games in the road trip: Melky Cabrera hit a line drive RBI single to center to put the Royals up 4-0.
Jorge Bonifacio led off the third inning with a home run, Cheslor Cuthbert lined a ball to left field that was misplayed into a double, and Esky walked (!!!) That was enough from Derek Holland for the White Sox. If there were any play in baseball that should be an immediate hook for the pitcher it would be an Alcides Escobar walk. Whit Merrifield made them pay when he belted a 3-run home run off of recently-demoted-to-reliever Mike Pelfrey to really blow the game open.
In the bottom of the fifth the White Sox finally got to Jason Vargas. Yoan Moncada lead off with a double and two outs later Tim Anderson walloped a home run to center field to cut the Royals’ lead to six. They weren’t quite done there, though. Tyler Saladino doubled to center and Jose Abreu brought him home with a single.
In the top of the sixth the Royals resumed their bombardment against new White Sox reliever Chris Beck, getting the runs back and then some. Melky and Mike Moustakas led off with 2 walks on 9 pitches before Boni singled into the gap, scoring Melky and sending Moose to third. That was the end of Beck. Gregory Infante was summoned to stop the bleeding. Cuthbert immediately greeted him with a sac fly to center field. Alcides Escobar struck out but Butera hit a single and Whit Merrifield followed up with a 2-RBI triple to right center. Those were the third hits by both men and left Whit only a double shy of the cycle on the day.
Kevin McCarthy relieved Jason Vargas in the seventh inning. He got the first two outs just fine but then the defense fell apart around him. Escobar fielded a groundball but didn’t realize it so he dropped and kicked it, putting the first runner on. Whit attempted to field a ground ball at second and booted it, too. Avisail Garcia then lined a double just inside the left field line to score two runs. Nicky Delmonico hit his own double into right center to cut the Royals lead back down to 6.
In the eighth the White Sox called upon Brad Goldberg to just get some outs and let everybody go home. Brad promptly walked Cuthbert on a full-count and then, the most shocking thing Royals fans have seen all season, Alcides Escobar walked A SECOND TIME IN THE SAME GAME.
Mr. Goldberg was not immediately yanked from the game because the White Sox wanted to stop using their relievers more than they wanted to punish him, but he did earn a very brief meeting with his pitching coach. Rex Hudler assured TV viewers that what was said was likely not very nice.
Drew Butera immediately singled to left - his fourth hit of the game, the first time in his career he has reached that mark. Whit came to plate but popped out into foul territory rather than complete his cycle. Alex Gordon, in center for Lorenzo Cain for mop-up duty, hit a slow roller to the left side and beat out the double play to get an RBI ground out. Brandon Moss, mopping up for Eric Hosmer, took a walk to reload the bases. That was Goldberg’s third walk of the inning and eighth issued this year in 8.1 innings for him.
Goldberg then fired off a wild pitch and Escobar attempted to score. Goldberg and Escobar slid into the plate at about the same time, with Goldberg’s cleats coming down on Escobar’s ankle, causing him to limp back to the dugout. Escobar was ruled safe but the White Sox challenged. Upon video review it appeared Escobar may have missed the plate but there was not a definitive angle and the call stood. Merciful Melky lined out to center to end the inning. But the Royals had their entire eight run lead back.
Ryan Buchter and Neftali Feliz each pitched scoreless innings to finish off the victory. Feliz did get a little help from center fielder Alex Gordon who robbed a home run from Delmonico to record the final out. Jason Vargas’ final line, by the way, was 6 innings and 3 runs allowed. He struck out 7 and only walked 2. A very nice bounce back performance for the Royals who had back-to-back wins and won a series for the first time since they were in Boston. They are also back above .500 and will be no more than a game out of a playoff spot when all of today’s action is finished.
I remarked on twitter and in the recap last night that the last time the Royals blew a late 1-run lead and then came back to win it they started a nine-game winning streak. The comparison continues today as the second game of that streak featured a number of four-run innings in a blow out victory. The similarities are starting to pile up. Look for the Royals to win by a single run in extra innings, tomorrow night.