Alcides Escobar is a bad hitter. Even if you love the guy, you’ve got to admit that much.
And putting a bad hitter second in the lineup...yeesh. Unforced error. And doing that whilst also resting the very good Whit Merrifield for the decidedly not Ryan Goins, and doing that while also playing the offensively-challenged Abraham Almonte? Well, that’s a recipe for offensive disaster.
I mentioned as much in the pregame:
Anyway, the Royals are going to score zero runs or 400,000,000 tonight, give or take some. That’s what I’m getting at.
The Kansas City Royals, thankfully, and of course, happened to do the latter. All nine members of the starting lineup scored in the first two innings of the game, the lion’s share coming from a seven-run second inning. That, plus Hunter Dozier’s first career home run, propelled the Royals to an 11-8 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
It’s worth examining that second inning a little more. The Royals already led 2-0, a bad omen for Minnesota. In the first, Twins starter Fernando Romero walked Jon Jay on four pitches, and then Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez knocked three successive hits. But in the second, everything went wrong for Romero. Here’s what happened:
- Ryan Goins singled on a clean line drive to center field
- Abraham Almonte pokes a ground ball to right field for a single; Goins goes to third base
- Jon Jay lofted a fly ball for an easy sacrifice; Goins scores (first run)
- Almonte steals second base
- Escobar grounds out, and Almonte stays at second base
- Moustakas homers on a heckin’ moonshot that just barely clears the wall by the right field foul pole; Almonte, Moustakas score (second and third runs)
- With the bases clear, Perez singles on a bouncing grounder up the middle
- Jorge Soler, seeing Moustakas hit a moonshot, attempts to replicate it but his shot to left-center bounces off the top of the wall and is deemed a double; Perez scores (fourth run)
- Alex Gordon cracks a line drive single up the middle; Soler scores (fifth run)
- Mound visit, lol; giant righty Aaron Slegers replaces Romero
- Gordon, not intimidated by the 6’10” Slegers, steals second base
- Hunter Dozier, also not intimidated by the 6’10” Slegers, patiently works the count and draws a walk
- Goins, up for the second time in the inning, triples; Gordon and Dozier score (sixth and seventh runs)
- Almonte, also up for the second time in the inning, strikes out to end Minnesota’s nightmare
At this point, with a nine-run lead, you’d think that the Royals would be safe and in the clear. Right? Right?
In his first Major League start, Rule 5 selection Brad Keller was sharp. He was throwing 95 MPH cutters that had serious movement on them, which is not a thing you see pretty much ever.
But Keller hasn’t been stretched out so much and was on a pitch limit. He churned through three innings quickly, striking out three, and allowing only four baserunners and one run. Ned Yost was forced to lift him in favor of Trevor Oaks at the start of the fourth inning, functionally making the rest of the game a bullpen game.
Those are not pleasant words to hear for Royals fans this year, because the Royals bullpen has been about as bad as you could possibly imagine. Since 2000, there have been 570 individual team-seasons, and the 2018 Royals currently rank 30th-worst in bullpen ERA. Just before the sixth inning, after Trevor Oaks gave up three runs in barely over an inning, my fellow Royals Review editor Josh Duggan fired off this tweet:
Doesn't it just seem like the Royals pen can blow this one?— Laird Josh Duggan (@oldmanduggan) May 31, 2018
Old Man Duggan was, ah, just a little prescient there. In the top of the sixth inning, with a 9-4 lead, the Twins grabbed a fifth run off an Ehire Adrianza solo home run. 9-5. Two batters later, Brian Dozier walked. Then, um, Eddie Rosario walked. Then, noted Royals killer Miguel Sano slapped a grounder just past Moustakas down the third base line, a double that would score Dozier and Rosario. 9-7. All over the stadium, seats in Kauffman Stadium creaked as attendees nervously adjusted themselves. Ned Yost walked out to replace Burch Smith with Brian Flynn. Flynn promptly walked Logan Morrison, and then immediately afterward coughed up a single to Eduardo Escobar. And just like that, the Royals nine-run lead had evaporated down to one. 9-8, Royals.
Thankfully, Yost did not have Blaine Boyer available, nor Justin Grimm. His only available relievers were his good ones. Kevin McCarthy, who has quietly been very good over the last two years, and Tim Hill, whose funky delivery has led to some good results, did their jobs.
But the Royals offense wasn’t finished. In the seventh inning, Hunter Dozier absolutely crushed his first home run, a line drive shot to left field that came off the bat at 112 MPH. And in the eighth inning, not to be outdone, Jorge Soler cracked an equally impressive shot to left-center field. Those two solo home runs gave the Royals a little more breathing room for Kelvin Herrera—though he hardly needed it. Herrera has been fire this year.
The Royals have an off day tomorrow, and will take on the Oakland Athletics this weekend in a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium. They are 20-36.