In some baseball leagues, the playoff teams are determined by who wins the division in the first half and who wins it in the second half. If Major League Baseball worked that way the Royals would be well on their way to a fight for the second-half title. Unfortunately, it does not and so all they’re doing is wrecking their draft position for next year. It is a heck of a lot more fun to watch, though.
Is it a coincidence that they’re doing this after jettisoning several of Moore’s off-season veteran acquisitions like a spent rocket booster? The departures of Terrance Gore, Martín Maldonado, and Homer Bailey - to say nothing of reduced playing time of Lucas Duda and Billy Hamilton - seems to have benefited the entire team. The 2018 squad seemed to improve last year after the veterans departed, too. I can’t help but wonder how the team would look if Moore would stop signing free agents, especially relievers. Maybe it wouldn’t be any better but it seems like it could hardly be worse.
On the fiftieth anniversary of the lunar landing Jakob Junis was on another, some might say beautiful, planet. He had some control issues in the first two innings but after that, he combined very good fastball control with an even-deadlier-than-normal slider. I’m not kidding. It was filthier than moon dirt - which smelled like burned ashes, according to the astronauts. He did get some help from Billy Hamilton’s speed and defense in the sixth inning, but he only allowed two hits while striking out seven in his six innings of shutout work. Junis has dropped his ERA half a run from 5.33 to 4.83 over his last two starts. That’s what I call shooting for the moon.
For his part, man-who-looks-like-he-was-pitching-the-night-Neil-Armstrong-set-foot-on-the-moon Adam Plutko also pitched exceptionally well. He also only allowed two hits over his seven innings but he did give up a single run. Hunter Dozier wanted to celebrate the Apollo landing anniversary in his own way with a powerful lift-off. The landing was less fraught, though; no errors, 1202 or otherwise, could be found as the ball found it’s designated landing area.
The Royals wasted multiple scoring opportunities in the final two innings. They had a double and a pair of singles in the eighth inning but didn’t score. Billy Hamilton couldn’t get the bunt down and Cam Gallagher, who had led off the inning with a double, was picked off of second. In the ninth inning with runners at first and second with no outs. Humberto Arteaga was the one to fail his bunt this time; he popped it up just as you might have expected in a low gravity environment. Cleveland reliever Nick Wittgren made a very smart and sneaky play by allowing the ball to drop so that he could start a double play. Just a guess, but bunting may be a point of emphasis during batting practice, tomorrow.
Scott Barlow, Jake Diekman, and Ian Kennedy relieved Junis. They each struck out a pair. Only Barlow allowed a baserunner. The Royals will have a chance to win their third series in a row tomorrow afternoon. Glenn Sparkman, who was last seen pitching a complete-game shutout against the White Sox, faces off against Zach Plesac, nephew of former big league reliever Dan Plesac.