When you win only 58 games, well, let’s just say there were fewer candidates for “Royals Game of the Year” than there were in 2017. Still, there were a few contests that stood out and provided us some of those familiar Royals thrills. Here are the top games of the year.
May 1 - Comeback at Fenway
By the end of April, it was pretty clear this Royals season would be a dud. But the team didn’t roll over and call it quits. Trailing 3-2 heading into the ninth-inning in Fenway Park against the high-flying Red Sox, Alex Gordon faced closer Craig Kimbrel. While the importance of the moment didn’t match his iconic ninth inning home run off Jeury Familia in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series, the result was the same - tie game.
The Royals took the lead in the 12th when Drew Butera doubled and scored on a sac fly from Jon Jay, but Kelvin Herrera coughed up the lead in the bottom of the inning on a home run by Eduardo Nunez. Still, the Royals continued to battle, and the folllowing inning they put together a rally when Alex Gordon and Whit Merrifield hit back-to-back singles.
Jorge Soler destroyed a hanging breaking ball from Brian Johnson and sent it over the Green Monster for a three-run home run. The Royals would need every one of those runs, as they gave up two in the bottom of the inning, and Nunez came within a few feet of winning the game with a walk-off home run, but the Royals held on for the 7-6 victory.
May 8 - Four dongs in the first in Baltimore
The Royals were a terrible team in 2018, but if there was one team that out-sucked them, it was the Orioles. The Royals went into their March 8 game in Baltimore with four more wins than the lowly O’s. Then they went out and hit like they were league champs.
Facing Orioles starter Dylan Bundy, Jon Jay led the game off with a single. Jorge Soler put the Royals on the board with a two-run home run. Mike Moustakas followed with a home run. Salvador Perez made it back-to-back-to-back. After two walks, Alex Gordon slammed a three-run home run, the fourth of the inning. Bundy exited, becoming the first pitcher to give up that many home runs in a start without getting an out.
And the Royals weren’t done. Four of the next five hitters singled, scoring two more runs against reliever Mike Wright. In all, the Royals tallied ten runs in the opening frame, en rout to an easy 15-7 victory.
September 1 - Whit walk off
Most of the rest of the season was forgettable, but the Royals put together some magic moments in September. With five rookies in the lineup, they led 3-2 going into the eighth inning. But reliever Jason Hammel immediately surrendered the lead, giving up a home run in the eighth to Trey Mancini, then a go-ahead RBI double by Tim Beckham.
Not to be deterred, Brett Phillips drew a walk against closer Mychal Givens in the ninth. The Royals played small-ball, with Cam Gallagher advancing him to second on a sacrifice bunt. All they needed was hit-leader Whit Merrifield to pull a single to tie the game. But Whit had other plans, instead ending the game with a walk-off two-run blast into the seats in left-field, leading to the best post-game interview of the season.
September 8 - Jorge’s near-perfecto
The Royals have long prided themselves on pitching, but no Royals pitcher has thrown a no-hitter since 1991, and no one in club history has ever tossed a perfect game. Perhaps the last person you would expect to end those droughts was Jorge Lopez, the 25-year old Puerto Rican with two career big league starts to his name before the Royals acquired him this summer.
But for one night, Jorge Lopez was near perfect. Facing the Twins on September 8, he mowed through a 1-2-3 first inning. And second inning. And third. Before very long, Royals fans that weren’t tuning in, wanted to get to the TV to watch Lopez try something unprecedented.
There were a few scares, but the Royals defense was up to the challenge. Jorge Bonifacio caught a difficult fly in the fourth from Jorge Polanco. Alex Gordon stole a potential gap shot from Ehire Adrianza. Lopez relied on his defense, not even recording a strikeout til the fifth, but the defense was up to the challenge. Lopez remarked, “I didn’t have my best stuff, but they were there in back of me and it was awesome to watch them.”
Lopez came into the ninth with the perfecto still intact, but walked the leadoff hitter, Max Kepler, on five pitches. Robbie Grossman ended the no-hit bid in the very next at-bat and the Twins would even end the shutout, although the Royals held on for the 4-1 victory. While he fell one frame short, Lopez gave Royals fans a start they would not forget.
September 10 - The walk-off bunt
The Royals have tormented the White Sox in recent years with bizarre comeback victories, and they had a little bit Royals Devil Magic left for their September 10 contest. Jake Junis and Lucas Giolito battled each other to a 3-3 draw after six frames, with Ryan O’Hearn tying the game that inning with a solo home run.
Brian Goodwin led off the tenth with a double off reliever Jeanmar Gomez. Light-hitting Alcides Escobar stepped in, merely looking to advance Goodwin to third, to give Whit Merrifield a chance to win the game. Esky tapped a beautiful bunt down the third base line, and Gomez, with his momentum headed to third, decided to try to get Goodwin there for the out. The throw went down the left field line, easily allowing Goodwin to score the game-winning run, giving White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson even more heartburn.
September 14 - Salvy walk-off grand slam
The Royals could have been looking to pack it in for the year by September, but instead they found renewed energy, playing their most inspired ball of the year. On September 14 against the Twins, they lost starter Jorge Lopez to injury, forcing them to try to hold the Twins with a motley crew of relievers like Jake Newberry, Ben Lively, Kevin McCarthy, Jerry Vasto, and Jason Hammel.
They did their best, but the Royals still trailed 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh. Adalberto Mondesi launched a long home run into the water spectacular at Kauffman Stadium to cut the lead to one, but Ryan O’Hearn was thrown out at home in the eighth trying to score the game-tying run.
With one out in the ninth, Rosell Herrera doubled off closer Trevor Hildenberger to give the Royals hope. Whit Merrifield came through with an RBI single to tie the game. Mondesi singled to right, and Alex Gordon was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out.
Salvador Perez had struggled with the bat much of he year, but he did tie a career high in home runs with 27, perhaps none bigger than the blast he had off Hildenberger, a walk-off grand slam to win the game.
What was the Royals game of the year?
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Comeback at Fenway
Four first inning dongs in Baltimore
Whit walk off
Jorge’s near perfecto
Salvy’s walk-off grand slam