Hey, the Kansas City Royals lost another game! This is their ninth loss in a row. Today’s loss was a 3-2 walkoff loss against the Detroit Tigers, thanks to a JaCoby Jones home run against rookie Brad Keller. Whooo!
Regardless of what else happened in this game, it would be inappropriate to begin with anything other than a discussion of how great Jason Hammel was. Hammel, in the second year of a two-year deal, has been a quiet workhorse for the Royals rotation since his very first game in blue and gold. And today, Hammel was nothing short of excellent in a season that has been anything but.
The lanky righty cruised through the first four innings, allowing only two baserunners. He wasn’t striking out a bunch of dudes, but nevertheless was focused, efficient, and effective. Detroit finally mustered some offense in the fifth inning, as back-to-back doubles by James McCann and JaCoby Jones to open the frame put Hammel in a rough spot. While both came around to score, Hammel managed to clamp down and extricate himself and the Royals from the situation with minimal damage. Those two runs would be the only ones Hammel allowed all game. No, literally, all game: Hammel pitched nine innings and would have had a complete game if not for the woeful Royals offense.
Kansas City looked like they were going to compete offensively. After Hammel allowed his two runs, the Royals bounced back quickly in the sixth inning. That is to say, Mike Moustakas decided to bounce back for the rest of the team. Moose clubbed a solo home run off Tigers starter Michael Fulmer, who like Hammel had been rolling to that point. It was Moustakas’ fifth of the season, and if that seems like a lot at this point, it is: Moose is on pace for an eye-popping 47 home runs.
And the Royals had a golden opportunity to seize the lead from the Tigers in the seventh inning, as singles by Ryan Goins and Cam Gallagher of all people started the fire, a Jon Jay single keeping the line moving and scoring Alcides Escobar. But two bad plays doomed the inning. Escobar was on base because of a bunt attempt gone awry, as he bunted it too hard into a fielder’s choice that instead eliminated the lead runner. Merrifield’s unfortunate ground ball double play ended the inning and snuffed out the fire before it could really get going.
The Royals then had a second golden opportunity to grab the lead in the eighth inning, but a series of dumb managerial decisions on both sides worked about as well as you’d think.
SITUATION ONE: Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire replaced the faltering Fulmer with lefty reliever Daniel Stumpf to face lefties Moustakas and Lucas Duda. EXPECTED RESULT: Lefty reliever does his job and gets the lefties out. ACTUAL RESULT: Lefty reliever does his job and gets the lefties out.
SITUATION TWO: Gardenhire leaves Stumpf, career .675 OPS allowed against lefties but career .895 OPS allowed against righties, in to face righty Cheslor Cuthbert and right-handed hitting Abraham Almonte. EXPECTED RESULT: righties succeed against the LOOGY. ACTUAL RESULT: Cuthbert and Almonte get back-to-back hits.
SITUATION THREE: Royals manager Ned Yost leaves Goins, career .538 OPS against lefties, in to face left-handed specialist Stumpf. EXPECTED RESULT: Stumpf gets Goins for the third out. ACTUAL RESULT: Stumpf gets Goins for the third out.
Gardenhire’s decision to leave in Stumpf against both and Cuthbert and Almonte was pretty dumb. Even if you aren’t particularly scared of Cuthbert or Almonte, both hit lefties better than righties, and you’ve got to consider Stumpf’s badness against righties in the first place.
But even more dumb than that is letting RYAN GOINS face a left-handed specialist when you have JORGE SOLER ON YOUR BENCH READY TO PINCH-HIT AND WHIT MERRIFIELD AVAILABLE TO SLIDE IN TO HIS MOST COMFORTABLE DEFENSIVE POSITION. Pinch-hitting Soler for Goins with Merrifield already playing right field should be the easiest decision Yost had to make today. If Gardenhire decides to swap out someone for Stumpf, that’s totally fine, as Soler doesn’t have a big righty/lefty split and, well, don’t you want a significantly better hitter in place of a significantly worse hitter in a high-leverage situation?
The Royals again had an opportunity in the 10th inning, with Merrifield and Cuthbert on base and two outs, but Yost declined to go to Soler again, instead sticking with the afterthought addition to the team who has an OPS of .394 this year because hahahaha why not. I don’t need to tell you what happened.
And, for another cherry on top of the ‘whoopsie’ managerial decisions cake, the Royals bullpen lost yet another game with their best reliever (Kelvin Herrera) never leaving the pen.
Losing is fine and all, but there is a significant difference between watching replacement level veterans like Alcides Escobar, Ryan Goins, and Abraham Almonte continue to rack up plate appearances while more interesting players who could actually be good (Soler, Hunter Dozier, literally any other young shortstop) just sort of rot in a corner.
See you around for tonight’s game. Don’t say it can’t get worse.