When a baseball game ends with a 10-6 score, the assumption that some messy baseball was played is usually a safe one. Tonight’s mess of a game in the rain at Fenway between the Boston Red Sox and the miserable Kansas City Royals was no exception.
Taking advantage of a first inning in which Eduardo Rodriguez’s command was entirely absent, the Royals sent eight men to the plate in a three-run frame that only saw them record two base-hits. Whit Merrifield led the game off with a single on the sixth pitch of his at-bat, poking an outside changeup into right after getting into a two-strike hole against the Venezuelan southpaw. Rodriguez and Jorge Soler became embroiled in a ten-pitch stalemate that finally broke with a walk, and on the next pitch, Rodriguez plunked Mike Moustakas—DHing in the rain—in the forearm, a hit-by-pitch that eventually precipitated the exit of the stoic Grecian, sending him to the clubhouse for X-rays, but not before he trotted across home plate.
The bases juiced almost entirely of Rodriguez’s own making, the lefty missed on four straight pitches to the swing-happy Salvador Pérez, missing inside on each offering, pretty much the only way to walk the Royals’ backstop. 1-0, Royals via maybe the least likely method possible, a Pérez RBI-walk.
Cheslor Cuthbert stood in the box and magically had four straight pitches actually hit the strike zone—one called a ball on account of C.B. Bucknor being behind the plate—and Cuthbert struck out for the first out of the frame.
But Rodriguez had not suddenly become reacquainted with the abstract notion of control, and Lucas Duda was excused from an 0-2 hole with four straight misses from the lefty. Though Cuthbert had been retired in the previous plate appearance, the gnarly little bit about the bases being loaded was still very much a reality for Rodriguez, and these misses to Duda meant that the walk was of the most embarrassing bases-loaded variety for the second time in the frame, pushing another Royal run across the plate without any woodwork being required.
Jon Jay “singled” to second—a single owing mostly to the flubbed glovework of Eduardo Núñez—driving in the third run of the frame before Alex Gordon sent a tailor-made double-play ball to Núñez, letting Boston and Rodriguez off the hook.
The Royals’ 3-0 lead held for an inning before Mitch Moreland crushed a grooved fastball to the seats in right-center leading off the second for Boston. Hammel retired the next three Red Sox he faced to the preserve the 3-1 Royals lead, but three outs and no Royals runs later, Hammel was tasked with facing the absurdly patient Red Sox crew again.
For every bit as bad as the first was for Eduardo Rodriguez—and it was bad—the third was an unmitigated disaster for Jason Hammel, a James Shieldsian slog that seemed to arrest the passage of time, sending all watching into existential crisis, wondering whether or not they were stuck in purgatory.
Not Luke Hochevar had no troubles getting the first two outs of the inning, coaxing routine groundouts from Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Vásquez. Andrew Benintendi ripped another grounder just to the right side of the keystone, but Whit Merrifield was unable to get Benintendi, who raced up the line to beat an errant throw that wouldn’t have gotten there in time anyway. The ball caromed back into play off the dugout netting, and Benintendi was unable to advance on the near-error.
With Benintendi at first but two down, Hammel still looked to be in OK shape when Hanley Ramirez sent the second pitch he saw into the corner in right. A double sure to plate the fleet-footed Benintendi turned into a ground-rule double for Ramirez and Boston as the ball got wedged between the padding on the wall and the ground, Jorge Soler beckoning the umpiring crew to invoke the grounds’ rules and limiting Benintendi to advance just two stations to third base.
Now faced with two runners in scoring position and the dangerous J.D. Martinez at the plate, Hammel jumped ahead 1-2 before losing Martinez to a base on balls in an arduous eight-pitch standoff, loading the bases for Mitch Moreland, the same Mitch Moreland who had hung dong off Hammel just an inning earlier. Like Martinez before him, Moreland worked the count full and eventually finagled a second consecutive walk for the Red Sox. If you’re keeping track at home, that walk pushed Benintendi across the plate and the bases were still loaded for Xander Bogaerts. Like Moreland before him, Bogaerts battled his way to a full count in another eight pitch plate appearance, but this one ended decidedly more emphatically than Moreland’s with the Aruban Dreamboat hanging a massive dong off Hammel, sending the ball screaming over the Green Monster and well out of the park, a projected distance of 430 feet.
Four more Red Sox crossed the plate, Hammel watching as the fifth run of the inning charged to him seemed to have buried the Royals chances on this rainy night. Hammel eventually escaped the inning, getting Rafael Devers to strike out (but not before he, too, ran the count full). 44 pitches and five runs after it started, Hammel was out of the inning.
Behind an Alex Gordon hit-by-pitch and back-to-back doubles from Alcides Escobar and Whit Merrifield, the Royals clawed back to a one-run deficit at 6-5, but Hammel went right back to digging himself a hole in the bottom of the fourth. After getting Eduardo Núñez to pop out to second, he walked Bradley on five pitches. With another Sock on, Hammel hung a slider to Vásquez, who shot it back up the middle for a single that moved Bradley up to third. Benintendi flew out to Jon Jay in the gap in left-center, but it being Jay and not Gordon on the catch, Bradley was able to score easily on a ball that wasn’t hit deep enough to concede the run exactly. Hammel retired Ramirez using just two pitches to finish up the inning but—thanks to that brutal third inning—had run his pitch count to 89 through four.
With life as a Royal in 2018 being devoid of meaning, Ned Yost called upon Hammel to fall on his sword for another inning. Honor-bound, Hammel drew his blade across his gut, committing seppuku in the fifth, but the sluicing of his innards across the dirt on the mound wasn’t enough to satisfy the baseball gods, and the plodding righty’s lifeless corpse was dragged from the mound with just two outs recorded, another Boston run having scored, and two more crimson-stockinged bullies standing on bases. Tim Hill recorded the third out of the inning, stranding Hammel’s last baserunners.
Hammel’s line on the night: 4.2 innings, two strikeouts, three walks, eight hits, two dongs, and eight extremely earned runs.
After getting LearJetted around for the past two weeks as the 26th-man every time the Royals had a double-header, Scott Barlow finally made his major-league debut, pitching the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. The sixth went without a hitch, but in the seventh, he got Cheslored.
Mitch Moreland led the frame off with a double to left, and Xander Bogaerts went back to left with a single that Moreland wisely held up on as Gordon gunned the throw back to the infield for what would likely have been an out at the plate. With runners at the corners, Devers grounded into a forceout—Duda to Escobar at second—that plated Moreland. Núñez nubbed a grounder just in front of the plate, and Pérez gunned him down at first for the second out of the frame. Barlow then induced an infield fly ball to the left side of the infield. They say an infield fly ball is as good as a strikeout. Well, it is unless Cheslor Cuthbert is involved. Calling off Escobar for reasons that aren’t fully understandable, Cuthbert “ranged” to his left, back onto the grass, and completely blew the play. With two outs, Devers was able to come around to score. 10-5, Boston.
Barlow finished out things for the Royals’ pitching staff with a scoreless eighth. Escobar and Merrifield added a run for respect in the ninth, but the Royals were obviously unable to overcome the five-run deficit in its totality.
In a night with garbage starting pitching, the team with the markedly better offense won out. Not a shocker. The Red Sox run their record to 21-7 with the victory over the 7-21 Royals. Their inverse records will continue through the series, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that this inverse relationship is shared again when the season draws to a close. The very good team beat the very bad team. C’est la vie.