When a slumping baseball team travels on the road to play one of the hottest clubs in the league, the outlook never looks promising. For the Royals, they limped up to Washington, D.C., to finish out the first half against the Nationals, who had won eight of their previous nine contests. Despite the prediction on paper, Kansas City took game one from the surging Nationals in extra innings, 7-4.
Coming off an outing in which he allowed six runs but collected a win, Brad Keller’s next matchup would come against a red-hot offense. In the top of the first, that offense was put on full display. Ahead in the count 2-0, shortstop Trea Turner blasted a solo shot minutes into the bottom half. Not known for surrendering the long ball, the Royals’ right-hander allowed his fifth home run in his last four starts. Washington managed to net two more singles and a walk in the frame, but couldn’t inflict any further damage.
Facing Austin Voth for the first time ever, Kansas City struggled to string together a few hits in the early going. However in the top of third, Voth’s rhythm was stunted. After Whit Merrifield reached on a single, Adalberto Mondesi poked his league-leading ninth triple into the gap in left-center field. With Merrifield moving on the pitch, he managed to score easily while Mondesi zoomed into third, helmet flying off his head before reaching the bag. Alex Gordon drove him home on the next at-bat to give the Royals their first lead of the night, 2-1.
Two innings later in the top half of the fifth, Kansas City began threatening again. With one out, Mondesi knocked a double to right field. Voth proceeded to walk Gordon next, effectively ending his evening. Bringing on reliever Javy Guerra, the Royals wasted no time in tacking on insurance. Hunter Dozier ripped a 3-2 pitch to left field to drive in Mondesi and Jorge Soler followed up by peppering that same hole between short and third to bring home Gordon. Extending the lead to 4-1, Kansas City rewarded their starter with some breathing room.
On the mound, Keller worked his best “bend-don’t-break” strategy. Fighting his command for the majority of the night, the 23-year-old still held down the fort, limiting the Nationals to one run through his first five innings.
But trouble came in the sixth inning. Over 110 pitches, Keller was just one pitch away from six complete frames but walked his fifth hitter of the night, forcing Ned Yost to make a call to the bullpen. Deciding the hand the ball to Kevin McCarthy, the ground-ball specialist would be asked to escape the jam. Giving up a single to load the bases, McCarthy dodged a major bullet in Turner next, who grounded out softly back the mound, stranding all three runners.
Preserving the lead into the seventh inning stretch, the Royals found themselves in another sticky situation. Following an RBI-double by Ryan Zimmerman, Yost pulled McCarthy for Tim Hill to face the upcoming lefty. To counter, Washington went to their bench for a right-handed bat in Victor Robles. Plunking him on the first pitch he spun in, Hill was yanked for Jake Newberry. Facing another pinch hitter in Matt Adams, Newberry fell behind 2-0 with the bases loaded and two out. Receiving a borderline call in his favor to avoid a 3-0 count, Newberry threw two nasty sliders to strike out Adams. Screaming to the skies while smacking his glove, Newberry notched the biggest out of his career to keep the score at 4-2.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Royals turned to their most consistent bullpen arm in Ian Kennedy. But three batters into the inning, the Nationals managed to tie the game back up at four (Juan Soto single, Zimmerman double, Brian Dozier single). Able to keep it tied, the game made its way into extra innings.
After Brian Flynn stranded the winning run at third by producing a pop up and a groundout, the Royals wanted the night to end in the 11th. Leading the top of the inning off with an infield single by Nicky Lopez, Martín Maldonado came up and punched another single to left, bringing Terrance Gore to the plate. Looking to put a bunt down, Gore was hit on his foot, loading the bases with nobody out. Merrifield struck out but Mondesi picked him up, singling past the drawn in infield. Two more runs came across on an errant throw home later, padding the lead to 7-4. One of the last men standing in the bullpen, Wily Peralta, came on for the save.
Recording the final three outs without much trouble, Peralta did what Kennedy could not and tallied the save. Tomorrow, Kansas City will look to take down “Mad Max” Scherzer in game two. Glenn Sparkman will get the nod for the Royals. First pitch is slated for 3:05 CT