2018 has not been a good season for the Royals. They’ve lost 91 games and we’re just now entering September. They haven’t given enough playing time to the men who figure to be the next wave of young talent. They took too long to realize that it was time to get the young guys up here and let them play.
But now that they’ve done it, it makes for some really fun occasional evenings, and that’s what we had on Friday night.
The Royals beat the Orioles, the only team with a worse record than they have, 9-2 on Friday evening. It was one of the most fun games of the season to attend. The “Let’s Go Royals” chant was alive and well in the ninth inning. The cheers were just a little bit louder. The optimism was a little bit stronger. It felt like the Royals we’ve fallen in love with, and they were doing it with players that we could be soon to fall in love with.
Let’s start with Brad Keller, who was marvelous en route to earning his third straight decision. Keller’s second pitch of the game was smashed by Cedric Mullins onto the party porch for a leadoff home run. After that, he locked down the Orioles. Keller yielded just two runs and four hits on the night while cruising through a career-best 8.0 innings. He only struck out four, but he pitched to contact and used Kauffman Stadium to his advantage to the tune of 12 fly ball outs. The 114 pitches he threw were a career-high. He continues to be the brightest spot in the Royals season, and being just 23 years old, he looks the part of a potential top-of-the-line starter for years to come. Pending a September collapse, he should absolutely start Opening Day next year.
The offense squandered some early scoring opportunities, but they broke through after awhile with one of their biggest performances of the year. As a team, the Royals had 14 hits and a total of 19 baserunners. Whit Merrifield was 2-for-2 with two walks to move his slash up to .310/.377/.443. Ryan O’Hearn had three hits and four RBI. Everybody besides Brian Goodwin had at least one hit, and all nine Royals reached base.
Hunter Dozier hit into a double play that scored a run in the first, tying Baltimore 1-1. Merrifield gave Kansas City a lead on a deep sacrifice fly in the fourth. Hunter Dozier blasted a homer into the shrubbery by the stairs near the Royals Hall of Fame in the fifth. But after the Orioles manufactured a run in the sixth, the Royals led just 3-2.
That’s when the offense took off. Cam Gallagher, getting the start at catcher with Sal Perez nursing a sore thumb and Drew Butera finally out of his way, hit a homer that snuck inside the left-field foul pole. Later in the inning, O’Hearn came through with two outs by sneaking a two-run single through the 5.5 hole. 6-2, Royals.
They added three more runs in the eighth on a sac fly by Dozier and a two-run bomb by O’Hearn, which was to the opposite field. It was a three dong night for the Royals. 9-2.
Gallagher will finally get the chance to log an occasional start at catcher with Butera out of his way. O’Hearn is going to be the everyday first baseman in September. Dozier has heated up a bit and shown a bit of power recently. And Adalberto Mondesi is FINALLY - F I N A L L Y - getting nearly every start at shortstop.
The Royals are 43-91. They are 3.5 games behind Baltimore in the race for the first pick. But if winning a few games down the stretch sets the table for another fun era of baseball (and this team has a lot of holes to fill before we can act like that’s super realistic), it might just be worth it.