It took a two hour rain delay and a near 9th inning collapse, but thanks to Brad Keller’s arm and some of that tantalizing Royals speed, Kansas City hung on to defeat the White Sox 5-3 on Opening Day.
The Royals entered the 9th inning up 5-0 and were in control for most of the game but needed four pitchers to get three outs in a stressful 9th inning.
The first three innings weren’t nearly exciting. As both teams entered the 4th inning, neither had collected a hit and there had been just two base runners.
The Royals finally grabbed their first hit in the 4th when Adalberto Mondesi turned what should have been a double into a triple. He was initially called out at third base for coming off the bag and being tagged by White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada.
After a lengthy replay, Mondesi was finally called safe and scored on an Alex Gordon sac that missed being a homer by about four inches. The sac fly put the Royals up 1-0.
Meanwhile, Keller was back to throwing bowling balls, shoving his way through the first seven innings and at one point striking out four consecutive batters. In his seven innings of work, Keller gave up just two hits and a walk while striking out five White Sox.
The Royals took over in the 6th inning, starting with a Whit Merrifield single and two stolen bases to put himself on third with one out. After Gordon took a scary hit-by-pitch to his upper back, Soler roped an 84-MPH Carlos Rodon slider into left field to put the Royals up 2-0.
For most of the offseason, we have heard about the Royals speed and how the organization thought it would impact games in a big way. We saw that in the 6th inning as Rodon, who had been cruising for the most part through five innings, really began laboring as Merrifield harassed him on the bases.
Chicago helped extend Kansas City’s lead when Yolmer Sanchez let a potential inning-ending double play ball get under his glove, allowing Gordon to score, and putting the Royals up 3-0. Nate Jones relieved Rodon at that point and was able to escape a bases-loaded jam by getting Hunter Dozier to strike out looking and inducing a Martin Maldonado ground out to end the inning.
However, the Royals were right back at it in the 7th, triggered again by Merrifield, who walked with one out in the inning. A left-handed Mondesi then tripled for the second time, this time into the right-center field gap to put Kansas City up 4-0. Soler followed up a Gordon fielder’s choice with a double over Eloy Jimenez’s head to boost the lead to 5-0.
The Royals followed up the excitement of the 7th inning with something even more exciting: Ian Kennedy’s third career relief appearance. It started out rough with what appeared to be a Mondesi throwing error, only to be saved by yet another instance of Bill Duplissea replay devil magic. After the dust settled, Kennedy’s first relief appearance in nearly a decade ended after just seven pitches and three quick outs.
Things got a bit harrier in the 9th. Wily Peralta labored, giving up a lead off single and a walk to begin the inning. He got Jose Abreu to pop out before being relieved by Jake Diekman, who labored in his own right, allowing a run to score on a hit by pitch to make it 5-1.
After a fielder’s choice made it a 5-2 game, Ned Yost was forced to bring in Kevin McCarthy with the tying run at the plate. He proceeded to give up an RBI single and walk without recording an out, making it a 5-3 game with the tying run on 2nd. The walk forced Yost into his third pitching change of the inning, electing to go with Brad Boxberger, who was able to get Sanchez to fly out to right field to end the game.
The 9th inning wasn’t super fun, but it got the job done.
The win was the Royals first on Opening Day since 2016 when they celebrated their 2015 World Series title with a 4-3 win over the Mets on Sunday Night Baseball. This will also be the first time since 2016 that the Royals didn’t begin the season with three consecutive losses, so here’s to not getting swept!
Up Next: Kansas City Royals v. Chicago White Sox. Saturday, March 30, 1:15 PM CDT, Kauffman Stadium. RHP Jakob Junis (0-0, -.-- ERA) v. RHP Reynaldo Lopez (0-0, -.-- ERA)