During the All-Star break, the Royals posted the 2nd worst record in all of baseball. Behind only the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City looked positioned to hold the second overall pick for next years’ 2020 MLB draft. But showcasing a 10-6 record since the break and the Royals have found themselves teetering between the third and fourth overall selection. Entering Monday night, Kansas City and Toronto shared identical records. However, the inability to hold the Blue Jays offense inside the ballpark led to a Royals’ 7-3 loss in game one.
Tossing out their hottest pitcher in Brad Keller, who posted a 1.27 ERA in his last three starts, Kansas City hoped the right-hander could continue his trend against a young and powerful Toronto lineup. Recording four strikeouts on his first four hitters while touching 96-98 mph on the radar gun consistently, the 24-year-old looked utterly untouchable against the top of the lineup. On the other side, Thomas Pannone and his 6.39 ERA didn’t struggle against the Royals’ lineup either. Although slinging it at a much lower velocity, the young lefty managed to keep the Kansas City hitters guessing with a mixture of off-speed pitches down in the zone. In the midst of the early pitchers’ duel, both offenses were silent for the first 2 1⁄2 innings. Aside from the first major league hit of 21-year-old, Bo Bichette, not much action was seen in the run or hit column.
In the bottom half of the third, the scoreless tie was snapped on a two-out, two-strike, single to right center-field by Whit Merrifield. Bringing home Cam Gallagher, who recorded the first Royals’ hit on his seventh double of the season, Kansas City jumped out to a 1-0 lead. Taking the slim cushion, Keller continued to stifle the Blue Jays. Throwing up zeroes through his first four innings, the right-hander finally saw his 11-inning scoreless streak come to an end with two outs in the fifth. Serving up a 450-foot blast off the bat of Teoscar Hernández, Toronto knotted things back up the best way it knew how. Utilizing the long ball.
Unable to relcaim the lead in the bottom the fifth, the Blue Jays wasted no time in building off their momentum in the sixth. Following a lead-off single, Randal Grichuk rocked a pitch to the bullpen in left field, giving Toronto its first lead of the evening at 3-1. But just as quickly as their lead disappeared, the Royals’ wouldn’t let Pannone work with an advantage for long. With one out, Hunter Dozier walked and Jorge Soler doubled, bringing Cheslor Cuthbert to the plate. Given the opportunity to tie or take the lead, Cuthbert squibbed a chopper to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at third base. Misplaying the second hop, the ball ricocheted into left field, bringing home both runs to tie the game.
After a breezy top of the seventh from Keller, Ned Yost decided to stick with him for the eighth. Facing the order for the fourth time on the night, Keller was immediately ambushed by Cavan Biggio. Cranking a solo shot over the wall in right-center, the Blue Jays’ broke the tie again to make it 4-3. Grichuk piggybacked with a triple into the gap, effectively ending Keller’s night with seven-plus innings of work. Scott Barlow came on and proceeded to strikeout the side and keep the deficit to just one.
Unfortunately, three runs would be all the Royals could surmount. Allowing a trio of runs in the ninth, Toronto managed to claim game one and hand Kansas City its 68th loss of 2019. On Tuesday, Mike Montgomery will go for the Royals and Sean Reid-Foley will counter for the Blue Jays. First pitch is set for 7:15 CT.