In a rare interleague game against the Colorado Rockies, the Kansas City Royals survived a rather crazy contest involving one of the worst umpiring of recent memory, a no-hitter taken into the sixth inning, and a pitcher injury in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and a 2-0 count. Despite all of this, the Royals pulled off the 3-2 victory.
Kansas City struck first in the very first inning—well, maybe ‘struck’ is a bit of a harsh word—as a simple passed ball by Rockies catcher Jonathan Lucroy allowed Whit Merrifield (on third thanks to a single, a stolen base, and a Lorenzo Cain groundout) to gallop into home plate for a quick 1-0 lead.
Kansas City struck second, too, and in this case there was some striking involved. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Melky Cabrera tripled on a low line drive to right field and was brought home by an Eric Hosmer high-bouncing infield single. Salvador Perez, in his first game since coming back from the disabled list, then knocked a perfect line drive double to the right-center outfield gap to score Hosmer. That would place the score at 3-0 Royals, who felt very confident.
That’s because tonight was a Danny Duffy night at the K, and it was one of those nights that you knew he had it. The it is different for each pitcher, but for Duffy it meant good speed and location on his fastball and pure filth on anything offspeed or breaking.
We tend not to really comprehend how good some of the National League teams are that the Royals don’t face routinely, but the Rockies are loaded with good hitting. Mike Moustakas’ .885 OPS leads the Royals, and the Rockies have four guys at that level or higher.
So Duffy’s dominance was a welcome sight. Though he walked a few guys, Duffy had a no-hitter going through five innings in only 61 pitches. His slider was harsh and his changeup deceptive. No Colorado player made good contact in those five innings.
The sixth inning finally broke Duffy’s no-hitter, but not in a good way (if there ever is a good way to lose a no-no). Home plate umpire Dan Iassogna’s zone had teetered a little bit in previous innings, but in the two out plate appearance against DJ Lemahieu, it seemed like Iassogna had indeed suffered eye damage from staring directly at Monday’s solar eclipse. Duffy and Lemahieu battled, and on the sixth pitch of the plate appearance, it looked like Duffy might have gotten Lemahieu on a strikeout looking. The ball was indeed off the plate, despite the muttering of the Fox Sports Kansas City announcers.
But on the eighth pitch of the plate apparance, Duffy pumped a perfectly-placed changeup in the corner of the zone, the type of beautiful pitch that makes elite pitchers elite. Iassogna called it a ball.
It was not a ball.
“That’s ridiculous.” “That’s off the plate.” “I don’t understand.” Those were words uttered by Rex Hudler, the man so jolly that Jolly Ranchers feel self-conscious about themselves in his presence, about Iassogna’s zone in a span of about five minutes.
Now, it’s clear that umpires aren’t perfect. They are people. No person is perfect. Plus, sometimes, the imperfectness represents itself positively.
What if I told you that pitchers get calls both for and against them... pic.twitter.com/VHh954QxmA— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) August 23, 2017
And Shaun fired that tweet before the eighth inning, when Iassogna called a ‘strike three’ against Charlie Blackmon that was in a Kansas City, Kansas zip code. Blackmon was understandably furious.
But the big damage was already done—it’s profoundly unfortunate when a single, egregious missed call can alter the game so much. Because immediately after what should have been an inning-ending strikeout to Lemahieu, Nolan Arenado stepped to the plate and cracked a no-doubt homer to center field and cut the Royals lead from 3-0 to 3-2 with one swing of the bat.
Thanks to Iassogna’s eclipse eyes, Arenado’s dong, and an Alcides ‘BUT HIS FIELDING’ Escobar error, Duffy ended up making another 12 pitches in the frame, and the sixth would end up as his last. Thus, after being screwed over by a teammate and an umpire, Duffy’s final line ended at six innings pitched, seven strikeouts, three walks, and two runs despite bringing a 61-pitch no-hitter into the inning.
Thankfully, the confluence of sadness that was the sixth inning did not cause quite enough grief. Mike Minor pitched 1.2 perfect innings, and Peter Moylan closed out the eighth by inducing Lemaihieu to hit a squibbling ground ball past a diving Moylan that Merrifield scooped and fired to Hosmer for the out.
The ninth inning began easily enough, as Kelvin Herrera easily scooped up two quick outs. But Lucroy would poke a bloop triple (yes, bloop triple), with significant assistance from the lead-footed Melky. Herrera then issued a four-pitch walk to Carlos Gomez, and after another walk to Gerardo Parra to load the bases manager Ned Yost decided to let Herrera stay in the game to face Pat Valaika.
In the second pitch of the plate appearance, Herrera corked a 91-MPH fastball, and then Herrera and Perez immediately signaled for the trainer to come onto the field. Yost, along with pitching coach Dave Eiland and head trainer Nick Kenney, collectively trotted onto the field. They decided to remove him.
ln a situation like this, the incoming pitcher gets as much time as needed to warm up and then inherits the same count and batter as the previous pitcher left. Yost selected Scott Alexander.
Alexander fired two strikes to Valaika, and after everything that happened tonight, Valaika weakly grounded to Escobar, who threw the ball to Merrifield to end the game.
The Royals improve to 63-61 after tonight’s contest, maintaining their 1.5 games back from the second Wild Card spot. They will play two more games against Colorado.