Despite a decent offensive night for the Royals, the Royals bullpen did its best impersonation of the April/May bullpen, serving up three runs in their final two innings and allowing another inherited runner to score, including watching as their opponents notched a walk-off win.
The Royals bats were actually pretty solid. Alex Gordon continued his torrid late season surge, getting on base three times in five trips to the plate, singling, doubling, and getting plunked while driving in two and scoring once. Ryan O’Hearn also collected two hits, both for extra bases and the latter warranting discussion down below. Every other Royals starter but Jorge Bonifacio got at least one hit, and Bonifacio had a sacrifice fly that drove in a run in the fifth.
Unfortunately, the Royals spotted their starter a lead, and the bullpen let them down.
Brad Keller looked decent for the first six innings, striking out seven and walking just one, but the Pirates notched ten hits against the rookie right-hander. They also plated four runs against him, though only three occurred while he was actually in the game.
Spared some mileage due to his opening the season in the bullpen, Keller was making his 40th appearance and 19th start of the season. At a month past his 23rd birthday, he’s also within ten innings of matching his previous season high at any level in the minors. With his pitch count at 99 at the end of the sixth, Ned Yost decided it was a good idea to bring the rookie back out to face the order a fourth time. Keller threw ten more pitches, ceding back-to back singles to end his night two mystifying batters later than it should have, precipitating a trip to the mound from Ned Yost in which he threw his left hand skyward and fingered the southpaw side-armer, Tim Hill.
Hill induced a grounder from Corey Dickerson that moved Keller’s runners up a station but got an out that was confirmed upon review. He followed with another grounder that would have been an out in a perfect world, but Josh Bell legged out an infield single, plating Pablo Reyes, and precipitating yet another trip to the mound from Yost. Ned shuffled hillward and fingered Jake “Debi Radio” Newberry, and Newberry gleamed the cube, getting two liners to extricate the Royals from the inning without allowing further damage. That ran the score to 5-4, Royals.
In the top of the eighth, Ryan O’Hearn did what Ryan O’Hearn does and hung a massive dong to right-center, crushing a Steven Brault curve to put the Royals back up by two runs.
Unfortunately that lead was not built to last. Kevin McCarthy pitched a rough eighth, serving up two more runs after retiring the first two batters to tie the game at six apiece. The rough eighth wasn’t helped at all by some rough defense in his support, as he uncorked a wild pitch and gave up a game-tying “triple” thanks to a poor cut-off route courtesy of Jorge Bonifacio in the right field corner.
After McCarthy and the Royals’ defense knotted the game up at a half-dozen runs per club, Ben “Blake” Lively got two outs thanks to a double play turned by Hunter Dozier, Whit Merrifield, and Ryan O’Hearn to put the game on the verge of extra innings before the wheels fell off in classic Royals fashion. After his lead-off walk of Josh Bell was erased by his defense, he barfed up a five-pitch walk to Kevin Kramer, who was in such a funk heading into action that the score of Superfly was following him around without any sign of how or from whence it was coming. Kevin Newman—also not hitting particularly well of late—singled to left, and Jacob Stallings drove Newman in with a liner to left that Alex Gordon wasn’t quite able to uncork a throw from in time to get Newman at home, walking this one off in a way that would have been demoralizing if either club was playing for anything.
The win puts the Pirates back over .500 for at least a day. The loss was the Royals’ 98th. The inevitable is almost here. Bask in its sickly glow.