The Kansas City Royals won a virtual must-win game against the Minnesota Twins in comeback fashion tonight, recovering from a late 2-1 deficit with a three-run eighth inning in which they churned through five Twins relievers. The Royals also witnessed a home run by one Gordon, Alex.
However, it starts with pitching, as it usually does. Jake Junis, tonight’s starter for the Boys in Blue, has been pretty good lately. Since the start of August, Junis has pitched 38.2 innings, doing so with a 3.25 ERA and a nice 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
Junis is the rare pitcher who has succeeded without a solid third pitch, and though the jury is still out whether or not he can continue doing so for a full season, he has succeeded so far. His calling card is a wipeout slider that he can use to finish batters off with a strikeout or tuck in the corner of the zone for a called strike. He complements that with a fastball that does its job and keeps batters on their toes.
Junis’ only two issues this evening were mistake pitches that Twins batters crushed. In the third inning, Eduardo Escobar crushed his 17th home run of the year, and then Byron Buxton clocked his 14th of the season in the sixth inning.
But other than those two pitches, Junis skipped through Minnesota’s lineup with little resistance, other than a close-call bases loaded jam in the fourth.
The Royals offense struck quickly in the first inning, getting a run off a Melky Cabrera groundout, Lorenzo Cain scoring from third base after a triple. But after that, the offense floundered flaccidly until the seventh inning, when our favorite event happened:
Alex Gordon hit a home run! “Alex Gordon” hit a home run! Alex Gordon hit a home run! Alex Gordon hit a home run! Alex Gordon hit. A home run! (Alex Gordon hit a home run!) Alex Gordon hit a home run! Alex Gordon hit a home run! Alex Gordon hit a home run! Alex Gordon hit a home run! Alex Gordon hit a home run! Alex (Gordon) hit a (home run)!
Alex Gordon hit a home run! “Alex Gordon” hit a home run! Alex Gordon hit a home run! Alex Gordon hit a home run! Alex Gordon hit. A home run! (Alex Gordon hit a home run!) Alex Gordon hit a home run! Alex Gordon hit a home run! Alex Gordon hit a home run! Alex (Gordon) hit a (home run)!
Alex Gordon hit a home run:
Alex Gordon hit a home run! His last homer came on July 3, 169 at bats ago, when the world was more pure and the lions and the lambs napped together.
After Gordon’s HOME RUN to tie the game, the Royals mounted their offensive comeback in the eighth inning. After Cain’s quick line drive single, Ned Yost inexplicably replaced Cain with Terrance Gore as pinch runner.
Cain has 125 career stolen bases, and his success rate is an excellent 83% clip. Considering all the other slow guys Yost could have replaced Gore for—you know, Mike ‘One Good Knee’ Moustakas, Melky Cabrera, Salvador Perez—putting Gore in for Cain in a tied game in the eighth inning makes no sense unless there is some sort of Cain injury that we don’t know about it.
Thankfully, the bizareness didn’t matter. Cabrera walked on four pitches, and then Hosmer hit a grounder up the middle that would have been a double play had Minnesota positioned their infield slightly differently, but it wasn’t. Gore scored to make it 3-2, Royals. Perez then knocked his first hit of the series to score Cabrera, and suddenly the Royals were up 4-2 with no outs. Alcides Escobar hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score Hosmer, and with that the Royals claimed their 5-2 lead, which they would not relinquish because of closer Brandon Maurer.
No, seriously. You can look up the stats. Maurer got the save.
With tonight’s win, the Royals are now 70-71 and have a fourth game against Minnesota tomorrow afternoon. They are 3.5 games back from the Twins in the Wild Card race and can be 2.5 games back if they also win tomorrow.