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Stranded runners and a doomed 7th inning costs Royals in 7-5 loss

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Kansas City left 10 runners on base

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Kansas City Royals Peter G. Aiken

The Royals are not playing good baseball right now, and it shows. Kansas City stranded a small fleet on the bases and played some bad defense in a 7-5 loss to the Red Sox Thursday afternoon. The loss completed a three-game sweep for the Red Sox and marked the 6th consecutive defeat for the Royals.

If you wanted a game where Kansas City had it’s struggles offensively, defensively, and on the mound, this was your game. And it started early.

The Royals jumped out to a lead first, with Cheslor Cuthbert staying hot. After homering twice in his first five games, he hit his third of the season in the bottom of the 2nd, this one a 426-foot shot to dead center. Cuthbert only managed three homers across 30 games last season.

Cuthbert’s homer was the first of four consecutive hits by the Royals in the 2nd, ending with Billy Hamilton’s RBI double to put the Royals up 2-0. Hamilton’s double prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora to replace starter Ryan Weber with Colten Brewer after recording just four outs.

However, with runners on 2nd and 3rd with just one out, Brewer was able to strike out Whit Merrifield and induced a fly out from Adalberto Mondesi to prevent any further damage. This would become a theme.

Those runners left on base would prove costly in the 3rd. Through 1.2 innings, everything was going according to plan for Royals starter Danny Duffy. Two Red Sox had reached base via walks, but they hadn’t yet gotten a hit.

Then, with two outs in the 2nd, Eduardo Nunez sent a ground ball back up the middle at 110 MPH off the bat that struck Duffy on the side of his right knee. The ball ricocheted over to Ryan O’Hearn, who stepped on first base to record the third out of the inning, but Duffy remained on the ground in pain.

The impact of the ball with Duffy’s knee was loud enough to be heard as a sharp crack on the television broadcast, and he would eventually limp off the field, barely able to put any weight on his right leg.

Somehow, Duffy made his way out to the mound for the 3rd but was not the same. He began the inning by immediately plunking Jackie Bradley Jr., bringing Mookie Betts to the plate. Betts had walked in his first appearance, but not to the displeasure of Duffy. In 2018, Duffy faced Mookie Betts just three times and all three times, Betts took Duffy deep. It just so happened that those three plate appearances all occurred in the same game.

Duffy got the count to 0-2 before throwing a middle-middle changeup that Betts hammered over the fence in left field to tie the game at 2-2. For those counting at home, Betts is 4-4 with four homers and a walk against Duffy in their last five matchups.

Following an Andrew Benintendi single and a J.D. Martinez double, Rafael Devers made it a 4-2 game with an RBI single of his own. At that point, Ned Yost had seen enough. After being struck with Nunez’s ground ball, Duffy retired just one batter while giving up four hits and a walk.

Meanwhile, the Royals continued stranding runners. After leaving two runners in scoring position in the 2nd, they had another rally brewing in the 4th when Cuthbert led off with yet another hit, this time a single. After a Nicky Lopez ground out, Cam Gallagher walked to bring up Hamilton, who nubbed a squeaker down the 3rd base line for an infield single.

With the bases loaded and just one out, Cora decided to make another change with the top of the order due up for Kansas City. Marcus Walden was called on to retire Merrifield, who was hitting .370 on the season with runners in scoring position, and promptly got him to fly out to right field.

With Betts and his 42 outfield assists since 2015, good for the 4th most in all of baseball, in right field, Cuthbert was unable to tag up and score on the fly ball. Mondesi would strike out on three pitches to end the inning. Through the first four innings, the Royals had stranded six runners, and all but one of those runners were left on base by Merrifield and Mondesi.

The Royals would get one of those runs back when Jorge Soler hit an absolute moonshot to left center in the 5th. The homer was Soler’s 16th of the season, which puts him on a pace for 42.

In light of Duffy’s short outing, Brian Flynn gave the Royals some needed relief, working through the 4th and the 5th with ease. He got into a bit of trouble with two outs in the 6th, but Scott Barlow was able to bail him out by getting Betts to fly out to left.

After Barlow was able to strand Betts, the Royals rallied in the bottom half of the inning with singles from Gallagher and Merrifield. A wild pitch moved those runners to 2nd and 3rd, the third time Mondesi had been at the plate with two runners in scoring position and two outs. However, Mondesi would again strikeout to end the inning, leaving his 7th runner stranded on the afternoon. It was not his day today.

The Red Sox made the Royals pay, again, in the 7th. Xander Bogaerts walked with one out and just missed a strike-him-out-throw-him-out end to the inning when Bogaerts took second on a Sam Travis strikeout. Then, somewhat questionably, the Royals opted to intentionally walk Devers and put another runner on with two outs, wanting to face Christian Vazquez.

Barlow went up 0-2 on Vazquez, who then lifted a ball into right-center field. Hamilton badly misread the ball and wound up diving well short of the ball and Merrifield had cut in front of him, allowing the ball to nearly reach the warning track with two runs scoring. Vazquez would then score on a wild pitch to make it a 7-3 game.

The defensive miscue hurt worse when Alex Gordon led off the Royals half of the inning with a screaming solo home run to right, bringing the Royals to within three.

The home run was Gordon’s 10th on the season, and June 6 is the earliest he has reached double-digit homers in his career. His career high for home runs is 23, set back in 2011. That season, he hit his 10th homer on July 2.

Nicky Lopez led off the 8th with a double and stole third, but tell me if you’ve heard this before, the Royals stranded him at third.

The Royals were able to bring the tying run to the plate in the 9th when Gordon singled and scored on a Soler double to make it a 7-5 game. However, Cuthbert was unable to continue his magic, striking out to end the game.

The Red Sox scored 23 runs over the three-game set and have now won seven consecutive games against Kansas City. The Royals drop to 19-43 on the season.

Up Next: Kansas City Royals v. Chicago White Sox; Friday, June 7, 2019, 7:15 PM CDT, Kauffman Stadium. RHP Homer Bailey (4-6, 6.05 ERA) v. RHP Ivan Nova (3-5, 6.24 ERA)