If the Kansas City Royals front office and coaching staff closed their eyes and visualized what an ideal win would be in the 2019 season, it would look exactly like tonight’s 12-2 drumming of the Houston Astros.
It began at the top of the lineup. Whit Merrifield had himself a day, in one swoop of the fell variety nearly fulfilling his end of the contract extension he inked in the offseason. While Merrifield didn’t get on base his first time up, he would the next four plate appearances. Merrifield started the five-run fifth inning by tripling, coming around to score on a very nice opposite field double by Adalberto Mondesi.
That was only a small taste of the extra base scrumptiousness that was to come in that inning. Alex Gordon walked. Hunter Dozier almost hit into a double play, but sneaky speed and nice footwork on his part secured his safety at first base. Jorge Soler, who had absolutely murdered the hell out of a baseball in the first inning for a solo home run, walked on five pitches. Astros starter Collin McHugh wanted nothing to do with him. But McHugh didn’t quite get inside enough with his first-pitch cutter to Ryan O’Hearn, and that was a mistake he dearly paid for:
The Royals quickly added two more runs in the following frame. Billy Hamilton and Merrifield set the plate with a pair of hits, and with two on no out and Houston staring at a six-run deficit, AJ Hinch pulled McHugh. It mattered not. Dozier punished the third pitch he saw from reliever Chris Devinski, scoring Hamilton and Merrifield on a stand-up triple and pushing the Royals’ lead to eight.
On the mound, Danny Duffy wasn’t his best self. He sure wasn’t helped out by an, um, miniscule at times strike zone.
Still, the veteran Duffy was able to get key outs when he needed to, many times via strikeouts, despite his three free passes over 6.2 innings. Duffy gave up two runs and lowered his ERA to 3.06 on the year.
And the second run wasn’t even Duffy’s fault—at least not entirely. With runners on the corners and only one out, Duffy got one of those key strikeouts to set up an inning-ending double play. Ned Yost pulled the fraying Duffy for the right-righty matchup, going with Glenn Sparkman. Sparkman promptly grooved a fastball down the center of the plate to George Springer, only one of the league’s best and most consistent hitters. Thankfully, it was only a single, scoring only Aledmys Diaz, and Sparkman was able to coax a ground ball out of Jose Altuve for the third out of the inning.
With a large lead, surely the Royals would be fine and coast through to pick up their victory and coast through to the end of the night. They did not. They, as Rex Hudler is so fond of saying, “stepped on their opponent’s neck.” In the half inning immediately before Sparkman’s insertion into the game, Merrifield clobbered the Royals’ second grand slam of the evening with Soler, Chris Owings, and Martin Maldonado on base. Merrifield’s slam practically left the building:
Per statcast, all three Royals home run exit velocities were north of 100 MPH, with Soler’s mighty dong the longest and fastest, at 109.8 MPH and 435 feet. Here it is, too, for good measure:
The 12-2 score would close out the game, as the Astros were unable to tag the Royals for more runs. Just like they couldn’t in the 2015 ALCS. Zing!
If you’ll allow me to editorialize a bit here: it seems like the Royals have their position players squared away pretty well here. Merrifield has proven over and over again that he’s legit. You don’t run a 190 wRC+ for six weeks if you don’t have immense talent like Dozier. Mondesi is one of the rarest blends of power and speed in baseball today. Soler is a solid bat and a worthy DH. O’Hearn crushes right-handed pitching more than should be physically allowed. If the Royals can get some pitching in the next year or two, they could get really interesting really quickly.
For now, though, we must bask only in a two-grand slam night. Not a bad consolation prize until the arms get here.