Not much has gone right for the Royals this year. After beating the Yankees on Friday night, they are 14-30 on the season. They’ve struggled to string together any sort of success in any aspect. But there has been a bright spot: Jake Junis. And against the Yankees, he put forth another impressive performance.
Junis left after 5.1 innings having allowed no runs. He should have worked six scoreless, but the home plate ump missed an obvious strike three call on Aaron Hicks, an at-bat in which he later singled, thus leading to Junis’ departure and two runs later scoring. But he was fabulous in his shutdown of baseball’s best team. They threw him into the fire when nothing was going right, and Junis went out there like a seasoned veteran ace to right the ship.
The offense did enough against CC Sabathia, too. Sabathia never quite had full command, as he walked three batters on Friday after walking just five all season thus far. The Yankees’ defense also played a part in the Royals getting some early offensive success, but the real story was Whit Merrifield.
Merrifield led off the game with a double off the center-field wall. He stole third base and later scored on an RBI groundout by Sal Perez. 1-0, Royals.
Two innings later, Abraham Almonte walked and Merrifield singled to put the Royals in business. Merrifield stole second to put two men in scoring position, but after Sabathia retired Jorge Soler and Mike Moustakas, it appeared that the Royals were going to blow another golden scoring chance. Perez walked to load the bases, and then the Yankees’ defense struck. Jon Jay hit a lame roller to second base, but Gleyber Torres bobbled the throw, allowing all runners to be safe. Then Hunter Dozier drew a walk with the bases still loaded, extending the Royals’ lead to 3-0.
Salvador Perez hit his sixth home run off Sabathia in the fifth inning to make it 4-0. It was a towering shot that cleared the visiting bullpen in left field.
The top of the sixth was when the Yankees scored two runs and finally knocked Junis out, but the Royals’ bullpen took over and did a great job overall. Tim Hill put out the fire in the sixth. Kevin McCarthy worked a 1-2-3 seventh. Brad Keller continued his hot streak by breezing through a 1-2-3 eighth. And then Kelvin Herrera matched them with a perfect inning of his own to earn his ninth save of the year. He still has not walked a batter this year (16:0 K:BB ratio).
Junis’ line: 5.1 innings, seven hits, two runs, and three strikeouts. He needed 101 pitches to get his 16 outs. He earned the win, improving him to 5-3. Of the 14 games the Royals have won, Junis has been the winning pitcher in nearly 40% of them.
Merrifield was the offensive star of the game. He had three hits and three stolen bases, moving him into second place in the AL with 12 steals. His cold start seems like ages ago, as he’s riding an 11-game hitting streak and has gotten his batting average back to an even .300.
Over 26,000 fans were there to watch the Royals victory. It was the third biggest crowd of the year, after Opening Day and School Day at the K. Oh yeah, and Patrick Mahomes threw out the first pitch!
Okay, okay. I can’t help myself. When Steve Physioc was reading the Royals’ lineup, he said “Jon May, who is hitting .392 in the month of... uhm.... uh, May...” and it was absolutely painful. Later in the first inning when Mike Moustakas got thrown out on Salvador Perez’ weird, RBI bloop groundout, he didn’t even recognize it. He didn’t acknowledge it at all. He also called Aaron Judge “Jared Judge.” It was just... ugh. I legitimately cannot believe that this billion-dollar organization pays that man actual money to announce baseball games.
The Royals are 14-30. They can win the series tomorrow night if Danny Duffy beats Luis Severino. Go early and get yourself a George Brett bobblehead, because it’s Legends Night.