Before I talk about the game let me just ask a question. Who invented time zones? Can someone lend me their time machine so I can have a conversation with that person? This is just way too late to be awake for the end of an 8.5 inning baseball game.
Jakob Junis, you may have heard, has a terrific slider. That was in full view tonight. Angels hitters flailed at it helplessly all night long. When Junis could throw a slider, things were good. But Junis can’t only throw sliders. He also has to throw some fastballs. His fastball isn’t particularly fast by modern standards. It sat around 92 MPH, tonight. You can work with that if it’s got some nasty movement on it and/or you have pinpoint accuracy with it. Neither thing is true of Junis’ fastball. It’s about as straight as they come and he has the worst kind of inaccuracy with it. His fastballs aimed at the corners seemed to miss in one of two ways - just enough outside that the umpire, who definitely did not have a generous strike zone, called a ball or catching way too much of the plate. He gave up only six hits on the night but two were doubles and two were home runs. That’s just not going to cut it. Ultimately Junis gave up five runs; the two homers were a solo blast by Mike Trout in the first and two-run moon shot by Shohei Ohtani in the sixth.
As I’m sure many of you expected Griffin Canning had a significantly better night in this, his fourth major league start. As noted in the game thread, he had never pitched more than 5.1 innings and never allowed fewer than two runs. So of course he went seven scoreless innings; the first four were perfect. He finally walked Alex Gordon to lead off the fifth inning and Hunter Dozier followed that with a single to break up the no-hitter. Canning escaped the inning unscathed and that was really the last time he was in any danger.
As I was starting to doze off in the eighth inning the Royals bats finally woke up when Angels reliever Taylor Cole entered the game. Martín Maldonado led off the inning with a swing and hit reminiscent of Salvador Perez, looping a pitch a foot outside into right field. Billy Hamilton followed that up with a sinking line drive to center that landed just in front of a charging Mike Trout. Whit finally came through the Royals first base hit with runners in scoring position of the night. Nicky Lopez earned his second major league strikeout (as compared to three walks) and Adalberto Mondesi had to come up with a flare into left-center to drive in Whit.
Unfortunately, that’s where the gravy train ended. The Angels brought in a new reliever, Ty Buttrey, and Mondesi attempted to steal second but Jonathon Lucroy gunned him down with an absolutely perfect throw on a pitch that was very close to being a pitchout. Gordon lined a single to right and Dozier walked but Jorge Soler struck out to end the threat.
Jake Diekman pitched the eighth for the Royals and allowed a single run to set up the final score. After his first two at-bats, I wanted to tell you how Ryan O’Hearn impressed me by really looking like he had a plan at the plate even though he was hitting it hard right at people. But he looked pretty helpless in the following two at-bats, striking out in both. Perhaps he was pressing in frustration after not coming up with anything earlier.
The Royals will attempt to avoid a series sweep tomorrow. Danny Duffy will face off against Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs. The Royals have lost four in a row, six of their last seven, and more than two-thirds of their games so far this season in total. But sure, guys. Keep telling us that you think the second wild-card is still a possibility.