The Kansas City Royals are on pace for comfortably over 100 losses. As a result, sometimes you just hope they can make a game interesting even if they don’t end up winning. Tonight, they did both with an 8-6 victory over the Cleveland Indians on the back of a glorious Hunter Dozier grand slam in the ninth inning.
Coming into the ninth, the Royals were down 6-3. Until that point, it had been a more or less standard issue Royals game. Mediocre starting pitching? Check—Glenn Sparkman carried the game into the sixth inning, but gave up five runs and dealt with a blizzard of baserunners along the way. At least one questionable bullpen outing? You bet—Scott Barlow struck out two in 1.1 innings of work, but gave up four baserunners and another run along the way. Somebody in the core of the order sucking it up? Jorge Soler went 0-5 with three strikeouts.
The Royals scraped together three runs primarily on the back of some surprising production in the lower four spots in the order. Kansas City struck first in the fifth inning off a two-run Whit Merrifield double that scored Humberto Arteaga and Martin Maldonado, and again in the eighth inning off a double by Lucas Duda that scored Cheslor Cuthbert. All in all, spots five through nine were on base nine times.
But you’re here for the ninth inning, and what a glorious inning it was. Against Indians closer Brad Hand, who until tonight had been a perfect 22 for 22 in save opportunities, Maldonado doubled. Consecutive singles by Merrifield and Nicky Lopez plated Maldonado. Gordon, who had been hit by a pitch in the knee earlier, took revenge on Cleveland by hitting a shallow single to load the bases.
Then, Hunter Dozier strode to the plate. With the bases loaded and the Royals’ best hitter facing a struggling opposite-handed pitcher, you could just tell that something was gonna go down. And go down it did—Dozier hit a no-doubt blast to left field, a 406-foot shot that very much excited one of the Royals’ social media managers.
Beautiful. 8-6, Royals. It was Dozier’s first career grand salami.
Despite no outs on the board, Kansas City was unable to tack on extra runs, which for one batter in the bottom of the ninth inning seemed like a giant miscue. Ian Kennedy came out for his 10th save attempt and proceeded to notch two quick outs before Oscar Mercado singled. That single brought the tying run to the plate, and that tying run was none other than Carlos Santana. But Kennedy was able to strike him out, thus ending the game.
The Royals play Cleveland again tomorrow afternoon in search of their second winning road series of the year. They’ll then have Thursday off before going to Toronto to face the Blue Jays.