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Epic bullpen explosion dooms Royal comeback; A’s eke out 10-8 victory

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This one will sting

Kansas City Royals v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

A six-run, eighth inning collapse by Kansas City Royals relievers Joakim Soria and Mike Minor ruined what was going to be a perfectly enjoyable come-from-behind victory against the Oakland Athletics. Instead, the A’s trumped the Royals 10-8.

Kansas City struck first. Whit Merrifield led off the game with a walk, usually a good sign for that evening’s offense. Merrifield then proceeded to steal second base, and then A’s starter Chris Smith continued to struggle with the strike zone location and clocked Lorenzo Cain with a pitch. Just like that, Kansas City had runners on first and second with no outs. Eric Hosmer followed with a double to right field, and the speedy Merrifield and Cain scored easily. Hosmer then scored on a Melky Cabrera single.

After one half of an inning: Kansas City 3, Oakland 0.

But Oakland only had no points because they had yet to bat. They soon rectified that problem. Against Royals starter Luke Hochevar Jason Hammel, Matt Joyce led off with a solo home run, a recurring theme in his start. In the second inning, Matt Olson led off with another solo home run. Suddenly, Oakland had cut the three-run lead down to two.

Hammel avoided a leadoff home run in the third inning! Unfortunately, that was bad, because the home run in that inning was a two-run shot. After giving up a single to Jed Lowrie, Khris Davis crushed his 33rd home run of the season to give Oakland a 4-3 lead.

There the score would remain until the eighth inning and, wow, what an inning.

Let’s start with the good: in the top of the eighth, Kansas City had a Dong Parade. Alex Gordon would walk, setting the stage for Drew Butera to come to the plate with none out. For the second straight night, a Royals backup catcher crushed a go-ahead home run to place the Royals in the lead in the second half of the game. Score: 5-4, Royals.

Merrifield would fly out, but a Lorenzo Cain single dislodged A’s reliever Santiago Castillo. Arriving was Blake Treinen, a righty who has given up a .836 OPS against lefties in his career. Stepping to the plate was Hosmer, a lefty having a career year. You can probably do the math there. Hosmer launched a two-run homer to left center field. Score: 7-4, Royals.

Then, Mike Moustakas, he of Chasing Balboni fame, smashed his 35th home run on the year. Score: 8-4, Royals. Moustakas’ next homer will tie Steve Balboni for the most home runs hit in a single Royals season.

With a four-run lead and the eighth inning coming up, you’d think the Royals would be safe. But you’d be wrong. Joakim Soria began the eighth inning and a cacophony of truly awful events transpired, seemingly all at once. I’ll just list them here for effect.

  • Jed Lowrie double
  • Davis single
  • Ryon Healy single; Lowrie scores and Davis to second base
  • (coaching visit to mound)
  • Olson single; Davis scores and Healy to second base
  • Matt Chapman strikeout
  • Mike Minor replaces Soria
  • Wild pitch; Healy to third base and Olson to second base
  • Chad Pinder strikeout swinging
  • Rajai Davis intentional walk
  • Joyce double; Healy, Olson, Davis score
  • Semien single; Joyce scores
  • Lowrie strikeout

After all of that, the Athletics led 10-8. It was a six-run eighth inning, a total collapse shared equally between two bullpen arms who didn’t have their stuff. The Royals did not come back in the ninth.

If you’ll allow me a few words to editorialize here: both Soria and Minor were free agent acquisitions by Moore in the 2015/2016 offseason. Neither are particularly great. And, in trying to rectify it, Moore made a trade before this year’s trade deadline that included Ryan Buchter and Brandon Maurer. Neither of them have been trustworthy, either. Furthermore, Travis Wood, brought in during the 2016/2017 offseason, was very bad before being traded within a handful of months, and Nathan Karns, brought in during the same offseason, pitched in nine games before suffering a season-ending injury.

Moore’s moves have not gone particularly well for a while.

The Royals will face the Athletics once more tomorrow before facing the Cleveland Indians in a weekend series at the K.