Ian Kennedy turned in a fine performance, but the bats were flat and the bullpen imploded in a 7-1 loss to the Angels on a gorgeous Thursday evening in Kansas City. The Royals fall to 3-8 and have averaged just 2.9 runs scored-per-game on the year. But it was Blaine Boyer and Brandon Maurer who continued their disastrous starts to the season by imploding in a costly seventh inning.
The Angels jumped on Kennedy on the first pitch of the game. Ian Kinsler - who has been a thorn in the side of the Royals his entire career - launched a home run to begin the game, his first at-bat since coming off the disabled list. It was his 23rd career home run against the Royals, tied with teammate Albert Pujols for third-most among active players.
Kennedy settled down after that and cruised over six innings, sprinkling seven hits and two walks over six innings, with the Kinsler blast accounting for the only run against him. In three starts this year, Kennedy has an ERA of just 1.00.
The Royals trailed just 1-0 heading into the seventh inning, the perfect time to bring in a 36-year old reliever who can’t strike anyone out and carries a 15.75 ERA going into the game to face the top of the order. Ned Yost brought in the struggling Blaine Boyer, and while the inning started with a few lucky hits, the inning would end with a complete bullpen implosion.
With one out, Boyer got Mike Trout to hit a chopper of the plate, but because it bounced so high, it made for a difficult play that second baseman Ryan Goins was unable to make. Justin Upton followed with a single through the shift. Albert Pujols looked like he might end the inning with a weak dribbler that had “GIDP” written all over it. But because Lucas Duda wasn’t holding the runner at first, Upton was able to get a great jump. And because the ball was hit so weakly, Alcides Escobar was unable to get the out at second in time, instead only retiring Pujols at first.
That opened the floodgates. Kole Calhoun singled to plate the two runners. Andrelton Simmons walked. Luis Valbuena singled to load the bases. To get out of this jam, the most logical decision would be to the pitcher that has given up 23 runs in his 23 innings as a Royals reliever, right? That’s right, Ned Yost turned to Brandon Maurer to extinguish the fire. Instead, Maurer took a jug of gasoline, threw it into the fire, ripped off his uniform and danced around the blaze naked like a madman.
Rookie phenom Shohei Ohtani unloaded the full bases with a three-run triple and the brilliant start by Ian Kennedy was a faint memory. Not quite done with the bullpen dumpster fire masterpiece, an inning later Maurer gave up a solo blast to Trout. The Angels led 7-0, an insurmountable lead for an offense that failed to plate a run against a guy named Nick Tropeano, who I’m pretty sure was in a boy band in the early 2000s. The offense could only scrounge a run together in garbage time, making it a 7-1 final.
That feeling when you know you are getting DFA'd soon pic.twitter.com/K8ficaf89G— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) April 13, 2018
Maurer and Boyer have combined to give up 18 earned runs this year. Greg Holland and Wade Davis combined to give up 18 earned runs in the entire 2014 season. The disaster duo has accounted for 36% of the 49 runs the Royals have allowed as a team this year. Without them, the team ERA would go from 4.39 to 2.89.
Perhaps Ned Yost is in a “Brewster’s Millions”-type competition where he has to get these two relievers released as soon as he can. Maybe he realizes the game is meaningless in a rebuilding season. Maybe he is stealth tanking. Maybe he knows that the apocalypse is soon upon us, or that the time is a cruel mistress that we will all succumb to in the end (eat Arby’s).
All I know is two men took a 1-0 game and turned into a laugher in the blink of an eye. And I would very much not like to see them ever pitch again in a Royals uniform.