The lumber for the St. Petersburg Devil Rays and the Kansas City Royals was kept mostly quiet on this warm, overcast evening at Kauffman Stadium, much to Vladimir Putin’s chagrin. Before tonight’s tilt, the Russian President called the visitors clubhouse at the K, believing himself to be on a secure line and issued the following edict:
You will crush these feeble Americans. Just as their nation has gone, so have these Royals of Kansas City. Once the freshest of loaves in the breadline, they have amassed growths of mold and dried out. Once moist and rich in rye, they now are no better than trash. Human garbage. If you do not dispose of them, exerting Mother Russia’s might, my justice will be swift. Destroy them.
The Devil Rays wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. After Adeiny Hechavarria scorched a 108-MPH liner to center on Eric Skoglund’s first pitch of the game but hit it right at Alex Gordon, first baseman C.J. Cron poked a liner to right for a double, and third baseman Matt Duffy stroked a single to right to drive in his comrade.
With these hungry hacks from the St. Petersburg nine it looked as though Skoglund could be in for a long night—these long nights becoming commonplace with this Royals rotation. Fortunately for the young Royals’ southpaw, he coaxed a double-play groundball from catcher Wilson Ramos on the next pitch and exfiltrated himself from the inning.
Skoglund worked around a pair of two-out singles in a 14-pitch second inning, and then from the final out of the second through the end of the fifth, the Sarasota Kid didn’t allow a batsman to reach base, retiring ten straight Devil Rays.
The Royals offense stranded two runners—Whit Merrifield and Salvador Pérez, who walked?!—in the first and another in the second (Alcides Escobar, who also walked?!) before evening the score in the top of the third. Batting for the second time to lead off the third, Merrifield hit a lazy fly to left field that did not look even remotely like a dong off the bat, but his ball scraped over the wall into the left-field bullpen for a juiced-ball aided dong.
Mike Moustakas got aboard with a one-out single to continue the attack against rookie Russkie Ryan Yarbrough, but Comrade Complex Yarbohydrate employed state-taught subterfuge and chicanery to induce a tailor-made double-play ball from Salvador Pérez. Yarby sent down the Royals in order in the fourth but loaded the bases in the fifth with just one out after walking Jorge “The Treadmill” Soler on four straight pitches to push Escobar and Merrifield to third and second. With the bases juiced for the Royals’ dong-leader Mike Moustakas, Yarbbird put a cutter right across the heart of the plate. Moustakas ripped a grounder right back to the pitcher, grounding into an inning-ending double-play. This was the last serious Royal threat until the ninth.
In the top of the next inning, Hechavarria led off with a double. After Cron swung at a pitch that bounced before he put it in play only to line out to left in a classic instance of karma striking down a player for bad process despite almost dumblucking his way into a hit, Matt Duffy took advantage of his second RBI opportunity of the night, singling in Hechavarria—who ran through a stop sign at third and then evaded a tag from a throw received at home in plenty of time to get him were it not for dirty Russian tricks—in what proved to be the final run of the Devil Rays’ night.
The Devil Rays’ bullpen kept the Royals in check through the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings while Skoglund worked his way into the eighth before Ned Yost fingered Blue Springs boy Jason Adam to gather the final four outs.
Facing closer Alex Colomé in the ninth, Salvador Pérez gave the Soviets their antepenultimate out with a first-pitch fly-out to right, but Jon Jay followed with a screeching liner to left that fell just out of the reach of a diving Johnny Field—surely a computer-generated name for the Russian spy—and ended up at third with an easy triple. Unfortunately for America, the Royals, and frankly all of mankind, Ryan Goins still plays for the Royals and Ned Yost still plays him. A defensive replacement at third for the butcher Cheslor Cuthbert, Goins came to the plate with a chance to tie things up.
Goins struck out as was etched into stone. Alex Gordon—then 0-for-3—stepped to the plated and facing the shift, hit one into the teeth of it. Then the improbable happened. Adeiny Hechavarria, who hasn’t had an error since last July, bobbled the routine grounder. Gordon raced up the line and then mystifyingly dived headfirst for the bag. He nearly beat the throw after Hechavarria recovered to make the play, but the Devil Rays’ shortstop’s errorless streak stayed alive, and the Royals night was over, the loss recorded into the annals of history.
Though the St. Petersburg Devil Rays fell short of “exert[ing] Mother Russia’s might,” the victory likely grants them a stay of execution, though “Johnny Field” should probably be careful what he eats.
Skoglund took the loss but pitched 7.2 innings, recording four strikeouts, allowing two walks, and yielded seven hits en route to allowing two earned runs. Jason Adam struck out three Russians, doing Kansas City proud. After Whit Merrifield’s three hits, the rest of the Royals managed a scant three hits and three walks, which shockingly wasn’t enough to plate more than one run.
The loss brings the Royals record to—eh, who cares? It’s bad. They’re bad. And now America has to suffer for it.