The Royals, who will do a lot of losing in 2018, played not to lose on Friday afternoon. And shockingly, it came back to bite them in the ass.
Kansas City lost to Cleveland in the Indians’ home opener, 3-2, to drop the team to 1-4 on the season. It was a very winnable contest. Danny Duffy turned a bad day into a decent one. The offense had chances. But ultimately, none of it came to fruition.
I want to talk about how freaking stupid bunting Whit Merrifield in the sixth inning was, but I have to pace myself.
Both pitchers struggled in the first inning.
The Royals jumped to a 2-0 lead when Jon Jay and Whit Merrifield opened the contest with hits. Jay scored on an RBI groundout by Mike Moustakas, and Merrifield came home on a broken-bat RBI single by Lucas Duda. The Royals had the opportunity to do further damage, but Carlos Carrasco settled down to induce an inning-ending double play on Cheslor Cuthbert.
Danny Duffy had a nightmare of a first frame. He walked the first two hitters he faced. Jose Ramirez shot an RBI single back up the middle. Then, after another walk, Michael Brantley dumped a single into right field, plating two more runs. The first five Indians reached, giving Cleveland a lead before the first out was recorded. In a 37-pitch first inning, Duffy had 21 balls against just 16 strikes.
After that, Duffy completely changed his game around. The only two occasions a Cleveland batter reached base for the next five innings came on an error and a strikeout-wild pitch. Duffy was ultimately lifted with two outs in the sixth inning, coming within an out of a quality start when that seemed impossible after the first inning.
Duffy’s final line: 5.2 innings and 3s all around: hits, runs, walks, and strikeouts. He needed 99 pitches to get his 17 outs, though he threw nearly 30 before he recorded his first out. He is 0-2.
The Royals did nothing until the sixth inning, when Drew Butera and Jay opened the frame with consecutive singles. It was at this point that the Royals decided to pull off the stupidest possible way to end a rally: by bunting with their best hitter. Whit Merrifield dropped down a bunt, moving up the runners, but leaving first base open. So, Cleveland promptly intentionally walked Mike Moustakas. Just like that, the Royals turned a 2-on, 0-out with their best two hitters coming up situation into one where the team’s best two hitters didn’t even get to hit.
Shockingly, the Royals did not get any runs out of that debacle. Duda struck out on a borderline, knee-buckling pitch from Carrasco, and Cuthbert lined out to left to end the threat.
Bunting with Alcides Escobar and a two-run lead in the eighth inning is annoying enough as is. Bunting with Whit Merrifield in a one-run deficit? Get that all of the way out of here. Playing for one run is for losers, save for a couple of special circumstances.
Oh yeah, and then they screwed up another two-on, no-out situation in the eighth inning, when Andrew Miller teased the Royals by letting Jay and Merrifield reach, and then made quick work of Moustakas, Duda, and Cuthbert.
They had two different two-on, no-out situations with the heart of their order coming up. They didn’t threaten either time. That’s how you earn an L.
Carrasco, like Duffy settled in to not allow another run after the first inning. He finished with five hits and two runs in 6.0 innings of work, fanning four in the process. He is now 2-0 in two starts this year.
The Royals are 1-4. They continue their series tomorrow against Cleveland when Ian Kennedy takes on Trevor Bauer. Yuck.
Also, Jorge Soler is 0 for 11 on the year. He’s 0 for his lat 34. He has not gotten a hit since July 2017. He’s just 11 more hitless at bats away from the club record (0-for-45). Getting through a full summer of Soler and Gordon’s plate appearances seems impossible without heavy drinking.
ALSO, Steve Physioc had this great quote: “In Duffy’s first start of the year, he had that great 1-2-3 inning with 5 strikeouts.” I would try to bring you one Physioc quote from each game I recap, but it’s going to make my brain explode by mid-May if I try.