The Royals took two games from the Rays on Wednesday afternoon, sweeping a doubleheader with a pair of wins.
Game 1: Royals 3, Rays 2
All of the action in this one took place in the first 30 minutes. In front of maybe 1,000 fans (not even an exaggeration), the Royals got three first-inning runs against Ryan Stanek, who was Tampa Bay’s “opener.” The first four Royals reached. Adalberto Mondesi hit a two-run bomb. Kelvin Gutierrez drove in another run on a groundout. 3-0.
Tampa Bay got two runs back in the second against Jake Junis on a two-run double by Willy Adames, and that was it for the scoring. The only time it got close for the rest of the way was when the Rays put a man on third with one out in the seventh, but Jake Diekman pitched around the jam to escape. Ian Kennedy pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth inning to earn his second save.
Junis: 6.1 innings, six hits, two runs. It was a great outing for him. He earned the win to get to 3-2. Even though he only struck out two, he had good command, and he got a little bit of BABIP positive regression.
Also, the opener strategy is stupid. I’m well aware that the statistics show that it gives teams a marginal advantage. It doesn’t make up for how unbelievably lame teams look doing it. I’m glad the Royals made it look foolish.
Game 2: Royals 8, Rays 2
Apparently, the only pitcher they can hit is Blake Snell, who is the defending AL Cy Young winner. After knocking him around last week in Tampa, they handed him the worst start of his career. Snell was tagged for a career-worst seven runs in 3.0 innings. It’s kind of hilarious how they can’t hit Tyler freaking Skaggs, but the defending Cy Young winner is no problem.
The Royals scored three in the first on an RBI hit by Jorge Soler and the first major league home run for Gutierrez. He has seven RBI already in his brief career. Chris Owings has eight all year. Let’s not overthink this.
Kansas City buried Snell in the third and fourth innings after taxing his pitch count. Soler doubled home a fourth run in the third. After that, Cam Gallagher, Terrance Gore, Billy Hamilton, Whit Merrifield, and Adalberto Mondesi all reached in a row, blowing the game open to 7-0 and knocking Snell out. Gutierrez hit into a fielder’s choice to bring home the eighth run. Tampa hit two runs in the last inning to make it 8-2.
The other storyline from the second game is the work of Glenn Sparkman, who surprised all of us with seven scoreless innings. He was fabulous, striking out six and needing just 86 pitches to get through the game. Jake Newberry gave up a couple of solo homers before closing out the contest.
Also: Billy Hamilton made an unbelievable diving catch later in this game. It was a flat-out, full-on dive that showed exactly what the Royals saw when they signed him.
Just for today, it felt like the 2015 Royals were back. It was a good day.
The Royals are 11-20. They’ll attempt to win three out of four tomorrow in another afternoon start behind the left arm of Danny Duffy.