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Lowe’s 9th inning homer keeps Royals from series win in 3-1 loss

School Day at the K is, yet again, a dud of a baseball game

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

School Day at the K has not been friendly to the Royals in years past. There was the epic 17-3 drubbing in 2007 at the hands of the A’s. Then there was 2016, when the Nationals beat down the defending world champs 13-2. This year, the crowd of 23,343 (mostly school-aged) fans weren’t treated to a blowout, but they were treated to 3-1 loss thanks to a 9th inning Brandon Lowe two-run home run.

The loss allowed the Rays to split the four-game set after being swept by the Royals in yesterday’s doubleheader.

While there were a few notable moments from this afternoon’s action, it was mostly a snooze fest.

Rays starter Charlie Morton, making just his 4th start against the Royals in his 12th season, mowed down the Royals early, striking out three hitters through his first two innings. The biggest of those strikeouts being a three pitch punch out of Chris Owings to strand Hunter Dozier at third after a lead-off double.

The Royals would draw first blood in the 3rd, thanks to noted speed demon Martin Maldonado. The Royals catcher led off the inning by legging out an infield single and eventually scored from 1st on a Whit Merrifield triple, giving the Royals a 1-0 lead.

Morton would find himself in trouble again in the 5th, surrendering his second lead-off double to Hunter Dozier in three innings. However, the Royals would once again strand him, ending with an Owings pop out. Through four innings, Kansas City hitters were 0-8 with runners in scoring position.

Royals starter Danny Duffy cruised through is first three innings, keeping his pitch count under 15 for each frame, but labored a bit in the 4th before running into real trouble in the 5th. Back-to-back singles put runners on first and second with nobody out. Then, a missed strike three call from home plate umpire Kerwin Danley extended Guillermo Heredia’s at-bat, allowing him to bloop the next pitch into center field for a third consecutive single. The ball was misplayed by Billy Hamilton, allowing Willy Adames to score and tying the game at 1-1.

Duffy, however, would retire the next two batters, including a strikeout of Tommy Pham, to keep the game tied. Merrifield’s second triple of the game brought Adalberto Mondesi to the plate with two outs, but Morton got Mondesi to swing over the top of three straight curveballs in pretty much the exact same spot. It was a loud strikeout as well, with a frustrated Mondesi immediately destroying his bat on the batter’s circle dirt.

Merrifield’s two triples brought the Royals league-leading total to 17. The Rays are the next closest team with 12.

After struggling through the 5th, Duffy responded in the 6th a 1-2-3 inning that included two strikeouts, one of which came after a nine-pitch battle with Mike Zunino. His put away pitch to Zunino put him over 100 for the first time all season and proved to be his last of the afternoon. Overall, Duffy gave up just one run on six hits while striking out six Rays.

Morton’s line didn’t look a whole lot different, finishing his afternoon giving up just one run on five hits and striking out nine across 6.2 innings of work. He also retired 11 of his last 13 batters and kept the Royals hitless with runners in scoring position.

It then became a battle of the bullpens. Jake Diekman and Scott Barlow dominated the 7th and 8th, lowering their season ERA’s down to 3.21 and 2.77, respectively. In fact, since April 7, Diekman has given up just two runs over 9.1 innings with 11 strikeouts during that span.

The 9th inning would not be as friendly. Ned Yost questionably replaced Scott Barlow with Wily Peralta to start the inning, despite Barlow being one of the hottest pitchers in the bullpen and having thrown just seven pitches in the 8th. He could have also went with Richard Lovelady, who has given up just one run over his last five appearances.

Instead, Daniel Robertson drew a lead-off walk against Peralta and eventually scored on Brandon Lowe’s 7th home run of the season to put the Rays up 3-1.

Given that the Royals don’t have a prototypical closer, deciding which pitcher should pitch the 9th inning in a tie game at home is a bit more complicated than for teams with that solidified closer. He could have stuck with Barlow Regardless, Diego Castillo got the Royals in order in the bottom half of the inning to end the game, dropping the Royals to 11-21.

Up Next: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers. Friday, May 3, 2019, 6:10 PM CDT, Comerica Park. RHP Jorge Lopez (0-2, 5.08 ERA) v. LHP Matthew Boyd (2-2, 3.13 ERA)