The pitching staff struggled in two of three games and the air was sucked out of the Royals dugout multiple times this week in Oakland, but somehow Kansas City escaped with a series win.
They did so with a 7-6 win this afternoon at The Colliseum, but not after blowing yet another three-run lead.
For the third straight game, the Royals opened up their scoring effort in the first inning on a two-out RBI single from Mike Moustakas off the glove of A’s third baseman Matt Chapman. The ball trickled into left field, driving in Eric Hosmer, and putting the Royals up 1-0.
A Brandon Moss walk would load the bases, but Alcides Escobar grounded into a force out to end the inning.
Danny Duffy ran into a bit of his own trouble in the bottom half of the inning, with two one-out singles bringing up the ever dangerous Khris Davis. Duffy, however, was able to strikeout Davis and caught a break when Ryon Healy’s two-out line drive found the glove of Moustakas.
The Royals offense was in attack mode again in the 3rd, with the first three batters of the inning reaching on two singles and a walk to load the bases and bring up Mike Moustakas. Moose was sitting on 35 home runs and looking to tie Steve Balboni’s record. Royals twitter noticed.
Unfortunately for the future 30 for 30 on Mike Moustakas, Moose struck out on a pitch up around his eye balls for the first out of the inning. Moss would run the count full and hit Paul Blackburn's 3-2 pitch 107 MPH off the bat and right at second baseman Jed Lowrie for an inning-ending double play.
As baseball would have it, the A’s led off their half of the inning with a walk before Marcus Semien blasted a hanging Duffy slider over the left-center field wall to Oakland up 2-1.
Semien was a thorn in the Royals side all week, going 6-14 with a home run, a triple and three RBI during the three-game set.
As has been a theme of the last two games, the Royals saw the A’s new lead and raised them a lead of their own, tying the game on a Drew Butera RBI single and taking a 4-2 lead two batters later on a Lorenzo Cain nuclear bomb to center field.
The home run was Lorenzo’s 10th away from Kauffman Stadium this season and his 13th overall.
It took Blackburn 97 pitches to get through the 4th inning and was replaced by Simon Castro after the 4th, the first start of his career in which he hadn’t pitched at least five innings. It took Blackburn nine starts before failing to get through five innings, which tied a Athletics record.
Castro didn’t look much better, giving up a leadoff single to Moustakas to begin the 5th inning and walking Alcides Escobar to put runners on first and second. Alex Gordon followed Escobar’s walk with an RBI single to right field to extend the Royals lead to 5-2.
Gordon moved to second on the throw to the plate, giving the Royals runners on second and third with just one out. However, Kansas City was once again unable to capitalize on the opportunity, with Castro getting Butera to ground out and Whit Merrifield to fly out to center to end the inning.
Keeping with the aforementioned theme, the A’s immediately responded. Dustin Garneau led off the inning with a walk and moved to third on Rajai Davis’ double to right.
After striking out Semien, Lowrie singled in Garneau and Davis to bring the A’s to within one run at 5-4.
This was the third consecutive start in which Duffy labored, giving up 12 earned runs over his last 17 innings. It is also the third consecutive start in which he struck out exactly eight hitters, registering 24 punch outs over those 17 innings. I didn’t need a calculator for that math.
With Duffy giving the Royals just five innings, he left the game in the hands of a very beaten up bullpen, without Joakim Soria.
And it didn’t start well.
Scott Alexander started the 6th with a leadoff walk and a single. He responded with a big strikeout of Matt Joyce, before being removed in favor of Peter Moylan.
A’s Bob Melvin countered by replacing Garneau with left-hander Matt Olsen. Moylan got Olsen to tap a ground ball in front of the mound for the second out and struck out Davis three sliders to escape the jam.
The Royals added an insurance run in the 8th on a Hosmer RBI single to put the Royals up 6-4.
The run proved to be critical, as Chapman would hit a two-run homer the very next inning to knot things at 6-6. The homer came at the hands of Brandon Maurer, with Soria being unavailable.
The Royals once again were unimpressed. They took the lead back just a few pitches into the following inning, without Escobar leading off with a double and being driven in on another Gordon single.
The Royals wouldn't blow this lead, but it wasn't without drama. The A's got the tying run into scoring position with two outs, but Kelvin Herrera struck out Chad Pinder to end the game.
The Royals leave Oakland with a 61-59 record, and pending tonight's contests, just 0.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot.
Up Next: Cleveland Indians v. Kansas City Royals, Friday, August 18, 2017, 7:15 PM CDT, Kauffman Stadium. RHP Corey Kluber (11-3, 2.71 ERA) v. Ian Kennedy (4-8, 4.80 ERA)