There are lots of ways to lose a baseball game. In the top of the fourth inning tonight, the Royals tried to cram as many of them as possible into a single frame just to see how bad it could get.
It turns out a 1-1 game can turn into a 7-1 game and hope sucks out of a room faster than Daniel Plainview drinks up your milkshake.
As six-run innings tend to, the problems began with a pitcher. This time it was Ian Kennedy. His own worst enemy virtually every time he steps on the mound, Kennedy issued two walks in the frame, one coming with the bases juiced where he walked number nine hitter Greg Garcia for the second time in two trips to the plate.
Walking is virtually the only thing Garcia does well. He sports a sub-.100 ISO and hits grounders more than 50% of the time over his 251-game major-league career. Fear of Garcia doing much of anything would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic. But Kennedy peppered the non-strike zone with pitches with the bases loaded, issuing a five-pitch walk to plate a run.
But that Garcia walk was the second run Kennedy plated in the inning and is just a microcosm of the utter disaster that was the top of the fourth. Let’s go back to the top of the frame.
Former Royals’ farmhand José Martínez started the frame innocently enough with a leadoff single to center. Yadier Molina followed with a ground-ball double up the line past a diving Mike Moustakas at third to Alex Gordon in left, putting runners at second and third with no outs. Not ideal, sure, but the lug nuts were only loosening. In theory, those nuts could be tightened. In theoretical scenarios, however, Ian Kennedy isn’t necessarily on the mound. There would be no tightening of said lug nuts.
With Dexter Fowler already having tripled off Kennedy in their first showdown, Kennedy walked Fowler on five pitches. One called ball was arguably a strike, but he still missed on three others and didn’t really do anything to earn the benefit of the doubt.
With Kennedy already giving a full-blown implosion the old college try, Alcides Escobar tagged in on the fun in the ring. With Kolten Wong batting, Escobar was served up a tailor-made double-play ball only to completely boot the grounder. He almost recovered in time to flip the ball to Whit Merrifield at second. Everyone moved up 90 feet, including Martínez, who scored the go-ahead run, putting the Cardinals up 2-1.
Kennedy struck out Randal Grichuk on a foul tip for the first out of the frame, but the strikeout really didn’t matter because Kennedy Kennedyed up the joint on the aforementioned Garcia walk. 3-1, Cardinals. As if walking in a run with the number nine hitter in the batter’s box wasn’t dishing out enough ignominy to fans of good baseball, Drew Butera got in on the Keystone Kops action, pelting Fowler in the ass with an attempted pick-off throw to third. The ball skittered into shallow left, Fowler trotted across home, and the Cardinals enjoyed a 4-1 lead.
Don’t worry. It got worse. With two runners still in scoring position for Matt Carpenter, Kennedy actually got ahead in the count before getting Carpenter to swing at a decent slider that looked to be diving out of the zone. Because this is Ian Kennedy, however, Carpenter golfed the slider into the stands for a three-run shot. 7-1, St. Louis.
Thanks to the rally-killing three-run dong, Kennedy was able to escape the inning without allowing any further runs.
St. Louis added two runs in the eighth and ninth innings. It’s bad enough knowing they happened. Ryan Buchter fell on the grenade and ate two innings of blow-out duty. The blowout got worse on his watch, but the four runs on two dongs were just sprinkles and exploding candles on a cake fished out of the dumpster of a homeless shelter with used needles and bloody bandages rendering it toxic, medical waste.
The Royals scored three runs. Mike Moustakas hung his 32nd dong of the season to tie the game up when it could still be referred to as a game. Eric Hosmer and Brandon Moss added inconsequential dongs themselves in the bottoms of the fourth and ninth innings respectively.
Kennedy earned his eighth loss of the season with a little help from his defense. He walked four and allowed six hits, one dong, and seven runs, six of which were earned. His five strikeouts happened, but did they really?
St. Louis starter Carlos Martinez cruised through eight innings. The seventh and eighth were signature innings for the Royals, who needed just 18 pitches to make Martinez’s night easy for him. He struck out seven and allowed seven hits and two earned runs.
Stattage courtesy of FanGraphs.