That was one helluva win for the good guys tonight.
Down by as many as five in the middle innings, the Royals fought back to snag a really nice 10-9 victory over the Indians on Friday night. It was a throwback to 2015 for Kansas City, who put together an amazing comeback behind a clutch offense and a shutdown bullpen.
The result was a much-needed victory against the team everybody is going to spend the summer chasing in the AL Central.
After immediately being in a 3-0 hole, the Royals fired off four straight runs in the second and third innings in their Royals-of-old ways. Alcides Escobar got Kansas City on the board with an RBI single to center to trim Cleveland’s lead to 3-1, and Jon Jay tied the game with a two-out, two-run double. It was just the fourth extra base hit of the year for Jay, who picked a nice time to come through with a two-bagger.
In the third, Escobar drew a bases-loaded walk to give Kansas City a 4-3 lead. Coming off his worst series of the year in Baltimore, Escobar was really productive, driving in four runs in all and collecting two hits. As a team, the Royals had 15 hits, with their No. 8 and 9 hitters (Escobar and Abraham Almonte) each collecting a pair.
Jason Hammel was absolutely awful, becoming the second straight Royals starter to allow nine runs in a game. This is really, really hard to do. Not only is it rare for starting pitchers to be that poor on consecutive nights, but accomplishing this low feat requires a very, very conservative manager. Ned Yost watched as Hammel, who was a textbook example of a pitcher “pitching scared”, gave back the lead and loaded the bases as his pitch count neared 90. Everybody except Ned knew what was about to happen, and sure enough, Michael Brantley launched a grand slam to cap a six-run fourth inning. 9-4, Indians, after four.
Here’s my beef with Ned: after Hammel gave up the grand slam, he trots out there and takes him out. If you weren’t going to take him out after walking three guys in the frame and loading the bases, why take him out when all of the runners are off base? If you’re going to let him stay out there that long, taking him out after the grand slam is just one final kick to the crotch. Ned has always been known as a “one batter too late” manager, and he did exactly that.
But from there, the Royals rallied with a steady and consistent comeback to eat into Cleveland’s 9-4 lead. Escobar drove in a run with a fielder’s choice in the fifth to make it 9-5. Kansas City got within a run with a three-run sixth, as Mike Moustakas and Lucas Duda hit RBI doubles, and Escobar came through again with an RBI single with two outs. 9-8, Indians.
In the top of the seventh, vaunted reliever Andrew Miller entered from the Cleveland bullpen after being activated from the DL earlier in the day. He was riding an incredible streak: Miller had never allowed a run to an AL Central opponent since joining the Indians in 2016. Never. Ever. Not one.
Enter Salvador Perez.
Perez launched a two-run, lead-grabbing home run to left field, vaulting the Royals from down 9-8 to up 10-9. It was an absolutely stunning and positive twist in the midst of a thrilling game, and the clutch knock was Perez’ fifth of the year already despite only being active for two weeks.
The Kansas City bullpen drove it home after that. Tim Hill and Burch Smith combined for 1.1 hitless innings in relief of Hammel. Brad Keller was the real MVP, as he worked three scoreless frames through the sixth, seventh, and eighth frames. And then Kelvin Herrera continued his masterful year by retiring the Indians in order to earn his eighth save.
I know I said this earlier in the recap, but it was a very 2015-y game from Kansas City. Let’s hope there’s more of them to come.
Hammel’s final line: 3.2 innings, six hits, three walks, and nine runs. He was awful. His ERA jumped to 6.13. Thanks to the offense picking him up, he didn’t drop to 0-5 on the season. He’ll look to get things right against the Rays on Wednesday.
Trevor Bauer wasn’t much better, as he gave up 11 hits and only got 14 outs. Only four earned runs were charged to him, though. It was ultimately Miller who was charged with the loss (1-1). Brad Keller earned the win for the Royals, improving him to 1-1.
Up next for the Royals: they’ll look to take their first series in Cleveland since 2015 on Saturday when staff ace Jake Junis opposes Mike Clevinger. It is a 3:10 CDT first pitch.