I just have one question.
What the hell was that?
What in the HELL was that?
Look, I love Ned. You have to love Ned. It’s almost a rule for being a Royals fan. I remember the day that they hired Ned. I remember every single dumb thing that Ned does, like refusing to pitch his good relievers in key situations in middle innings or leading Alcides freaking Escobar off every single day for what felt like eternity. Through all those dumb things, you still love Ned because he’s Ned.
But on Friday night, Ned Yost pulled off one of the single stupidest things he’s ever been a part of: he batted Abraham Almonte first. And man oh man, did it bite the Royals in the ass. It will forever be immortalized as “The Abraham Almonte Game.”
The Angels overcame a late deficit to beat the Royals, 5-4, on Friday night. Kansas City fell to 3-9 on the year and is now 1-5 at Kauffman Stadium. It was, perhaps, the most gut-wrenching defeat of the nine thus far, and there have already been some doozies. But the fashion in which it happened, and watching the entire thing play out on a cold, rainy night that took three and a half hours to play nine innings, will forever be burned in my brain as I sat helplessly from my seat, watching the entire disaster play out.
Los Angeles struck first when Albert Pujols hit a milestone home run: his 500th career home run at Kauffman Stadium. It’s been awhile since Pujols kicked the Royals in the buttocks, so I can confirm that it definitely felt like 2011 as I watched from section 215. The two-run blast gave the Angels a 2-0 lead against Jason Hammel.
But that would be the only blemish in an otherwise fabulous night of pitching from Hammel. He was in and out of trouble all night, but for the most part, he made the pitches he needed to make when he needed to make them. The Royals eventually fought back to give Hammel a lead, and he protected it. He finished with eight scattered hits in 5.1 innings, throwing 95 pitches and fanning four batters. His ERA through three starts is a respectable 3.86.
You could just tell that Ned /really/ didn’t want to take him out of the game, too. He got every ounce of energy he could out of Hammel. Because when the door to the bullpen opens with this team, well it’s not going to end well.
By that point, the Royals had dinked and dunked their way to a lead. Trailing 2-0, Alcides Escobar led off the third inning with a double. Cam Gallagher walked to put two on with none out, and then Abraham Almonte promptly bounced into a double play. Whit Merrifield singled in the next at-bat to scratch one across, cutting the lead to 2-1.
Kansas City did the bulk of its damage in the fourth. Jorge Soler missed a homer by an inch when he banged a double off the left field fence. Lucas Duda singled. Paulo Orlando lined a game-tying, RBI single into right. Gallagher then singled, scoring Duda and eventually Orlando after a throwing error. The Royals led 4-2, and they had the opportunity to bust the game open with one more hit. Of course, the next man to bat was Father Abraham Almonte, who chopped out to third to end the threat.
The 4-2 score held until the bullpen got involved. Ian Kinsler, who continues to be an absolute pain in the ass, scored on a Pujols single in the seventh off Brad Keller. Still, Keller stranded the tying run at third with a strike out to end the inning.
Justin Grimm took over in the eighth and gave up three singles to ultimately gag away the lead. Of course Kinsler broke the tie with a sacrifice fly. 5-4, Angels.
That’s when the bottom of the ninth happened. Jon Jay, who is the Royals’ best OBP guy yet didn’t start on Friday night, pinch hit in the ninth and singled to kick things off. Up came mighty Abraham Almonte, who showed bunt on the first pitch, but pulled it back when the pitch was low. At this particular moment, Abe Almonte had a vision. “Forget the bunt, I shall win this game with my bat,” channeled a voice inside of him. In came the pitch, and a mighty swing was unleashed from the center fielder. He rolled a ground ball right to second base for a game-sealing double play.
It was so, so predictable.
Abe the Great (or Big Game Abraham, whichever you prefer) somehow made 7 of his team’s 27 outs. That seems absolutely impossible, but whoever said “never say never” never met Abraham Almonte. He hit into two double plays, struck out in a five-pitch at bat in which he never swung once, and grounded out twice. 0-for-5. He’s hitting .091 on the year. Ned Yost batted him leadoff. Possibly the worst hitter on the roster batted first. What good was ever going to come from Abraham Almonte leading off? Ned couldn’t have thought it was an actual good idea, right? Was he distracted from the heavy rain that was pouring down on the field when he was filling out his lineup card? There must be an excuse. There just simply must be a reason.
And I get it. There are plenty of problems with this team. Abraham Almonte wasn’t the ONLY reason they lost. But the man shouldn’t be on this roster. This season is about seeing what the youth can do. You have Hunter Dozier in triple-A, and you’re not giving him MLB at-bats because of freaking Abraham Almonte? I have no patience for utter nonsense like that.
Grimm took the loss, dropping him to 0-2. He has been the losing pitcher in two of the last three games, which is hard to do for a reliever. Former Royal Blake Wood got the win after pitching a scoreless seventh. Kenyan Middleton got his third save of the year.
I will never forget April 13, 2018: The Abraham Almonte Game. How will you remember the night that will surely live in Royals history?