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Mondesi heroics unable to overcome awful bullpen as Royals lose 5-4 in extras

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Some nice performances...but some bad ones, too.

Whit Merrifield #15 right fielder of the Kansas City Royals can’t catch a ball hit by C.J. Cron of the Minnesota Twins in the sixth inning at Kauffman Stadium on April 02, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Whit Merrifield #15 right fielder of the Kansas City Royals can’t catch a ball hit by C.J. Cron of the Minnesota Twins in the sixth inning at Kauffman Stadium on April 02, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

While Adalberto Mondesi tried his hardest to single-handedly drag the Kansas City Royals to victory, Ian Kennedy and Brad Boxberger blew the game in the last two innings to allow the Minnesota Twins to come from behind to win 5-4.

The game began with promise. Brad Keller, the de facto staff ace, continued the strong momentum from his opening day start through the early innings. Keller looked sharp—albeit not as sharp as his other start, but sharp—and cruised through three innings with minimal resistance. But Keller’s control started to fray in the fourth and fifth innings, when he hit a batter and walked a pair as he struggled to throw stripes. The result would be three Twins runs.

The most bizarre was the first one. Eddie Rosario picked up one of those walks. Then, C.J. Cron smacked a single to left field, and Rosario scooted around the basepaths. Alex Gordon fielded the ball cleanly and threw to Adaberto Mondesi in deep shortstop. However, Rosario just kept running (through the coach’s stop sign), and somehow Mondesi didn’t have enough time to get it home. It seemed like the confluence of a bunch of weird events.

Keller kept his head down, though, and worked his way through it. He wobbled a bit in the sixth inning, but he finished without further damage. His final line: six innings, five hits, three runs, four walks, and five strikeouts. That’s not flashy, but it’ll do.

The Royals offense managed to produce just enough for Keller to avoid the loss. Ryan O’Hearn clubbed a ridiculous no-doubter to right field—the first home run of the year by a Royal—to close the gap. Kansas City scored its first run in the first inning thanks to a Merrifield double and a Mondesi single on the first two pitches of the game. The second run came off the bat of Hunter Dozier as a sacrifice fly, scoring Chris Owings, who had tripled to right field. No, seriously. He did that.

One might think that this would be the spot where the bullpen would have relinquished the lead, especially considering how the seventh inning started. However, you would be wrong—for this inning, at least. Tim Hill ran into some awful luck, inducing a grounder from Max Kepler that bounced right in front of the plate and soared too high for the Royals to make a throw in time. Jorge Polanco then bunted perfectly to third.

Ned Yost brought in Wily Peralta to face the upcoming righties, and when Peralta immediately walked Nelson Cruz, the stadium collectively sighed with frustrated resignation. Except...it didn’t happen. Peralta struck out Rosario. Out one. Cron smashed a liner, but it went right to Dozier. Out two. Peralta then struck out Marwin Gonzalez. Out three. Situation defused.

The tie was broken by—who else—Mondesi in the eighth inning via—what else—an inside the park home run. 4-3, Royals. Mondesi crushed a pitch off new reliever Taylor Rodgers to straightaway center field, his second such hit of the evening. It went over the head of Byron Buxton, who crashed into the wall, leaving a gnarly gash in the padding from his spikes.

And as Buxton fell to the ground, the ball rolling away, everyone just knew what would happen: the Royals bullpen would blow it in the next inning.

Well, maybe not, but it happened anyway. Ian Kennedy took over in the ninth inning and immediately coughed up a double to Polanco and a single to Rosario, gathering his first career blown save in his third career relief appearance.

Indeed, the Royals bullpen continued to wither. In the tenth inning, Brad Boxberger gave up a bloop single to Willians Astudillo, then managed to accrue two outs before the real fire started. Boxberger walked Polanco, and then Nelson Cruz hit a borderline grounder that bounced over third base. After an initial ruling that the ball was fair, the home plate umpire overrided the third base official’s call and deemed it foul. Cruz went back to the plate and, lo, cracked a hit to score Astudillo and send the Twins ahead 5-4.

Tomorrow, the Royals face the Twins again in an afternoon game at the K before the Royals travel to Detroit for the first road series of the year. Kansas City is 2-2.