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Oakland offense, bad breaks too much for Kansas City in 9-8 loss

The baseball gods were not friendly to Cheslor Cuthbert today

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals Peter G. Aiken

Jorge Soler inched closer to the Royals single-season home run record, and Kansas City rallied late, but the Athletics offense was too much for Kansas City in a 9-7 loss Thursday afternoon. Oakland also caught a few big breaks — all at the expense of Cheslor Cuthbert — in the later innings to help secure the win.

Royals starter Glenn Sparkman got himself into trouble early, giving up two singles and hitting two batters, including Jurickson Profar with the bases loaded to put Oakland up 1-0.

Kansas City immediately responded, as Whit Merrifield singled to lead off the bottom half of the first and was driven in on Jorge Soler’s scorching 37th homer of the season. The homer was 112 MPH off the bat, and it gave Kansas City a 2-1 lead. It also means that Soler needs just two more home runs to break Mike Moustakas’ single-season home run record of 38, set back in 2017.

Sparkman looked to be settling in after a rough first, retiring seven straight A’s until Seth Brown led off the 4th with a double to right. It didn’t take long for Profar to take advantage, sending his 17th home run into the Pepsi Porch in right-center to take the lead right back at 3-2. Another double, this time by Chad Pinder, put Sparkman right back in trouble after the Profar homer. Although he was able to retire the next two A’s without incident, Marcus Semien’s two-out RBI single boosted the A’s lead to 4-2. Semien has been a bit of a problem this series.

Sparkman continued to struggle into the 5th, allowing four of the first five A’s to reach, including an RBI single by Brown to increase the Oakland lead to 5-2. After walking Pinder to load the bases with one out, Ned Yost replaced Sparkman with Jacob Barnes.

Barnes immediately walked Corban Joseph and gave up a sac fly to Josh Phegley to make it a 7-2 game. After the dust settled, Sparkman had given up seven earned runs on nine hits in just 4.1 innings.

The Royals weren’t quite done yet, though. Soler tacked on his 96th RBI of the season on a fielder’s choice and was ultimately driven in on a Cheslor Cuthbert double, along with Merrifield, lowering the deficit to 7-5. Cuthbert missed what would have been a game-tying grand slam by about two feet.

Coming into today’s ballgame, Soler was projected to drive in 112 runs, which would be tied for the 5th highest mark in Royals history for a single season. If he can get to 110, he would be just the 9th Royal ever to reach that plateau.

Oakland got one of those runs back in the 7th, putting them up 8-5. They caught a nice break in the 8th from home plate umpire Bill Welke that helped them cling to a one-run lead. Cuthbert led off the inning and took the count to 3-2 against former Royal Jake Diekman. Cuthbert took the 7th pitch of the at-bat for what looked like ball four, but Welke called it strike three. It was not particularly close.

Diekman thanked Welke for his gift by walking the next two Royals to bring up rookie Nick Dini. Instead of having the bases loaded and nobody out, he instead batted with runners at first and second with one out, singling in O’Hearn to make it 8-6.

Diekman was replaced by another former Royal in Liam Hendriks to face Nicky Lopez. Lopez drove in a run with an infield single to make it an 8-7 game with the top of the order coming up. However, Hendrix was able to strikeout both Merrifield and Soler to keep the lead intact.

Oakland led off the 9th with two singles to run Tim Hill before he recorded an out. A sacrifice bunt put runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. The Athletics then caught another huge break. Joseph popped a ball up near the Oakland dugout, with Cuthbert giving chase. He wound up at the edge of the dugout stairs, leaning in and making an extraordinary catch for the 2nd out. However, his momentum carried him into the dugout, allowing all base runners to move up a base, giving the Athletics a 9-7 lead.

The Royals brought the tying run to the plate in the 9th inning thanks to an Alex Gordon one-out double, and it couldn’t have come a moment too soon for Gordon. Coming into the at-bat, Gordon was just four for his last 28.

O’Hearn singled in Gordon to make it a 9-8 game and bring up the winning run. However, Hendrix was able to finish the five-out save.

While all baseball games have bad breaks, today’s were especially painful, and nobody felt that pain more than Cheslor Cuthbert. Seriously. Literally nobody else felt the pain. Cuthbert’s two-RBI double was just a few feet away from being a four-run play, while his backward strikeout on a pitch well out of the zone likely cost the Royals at least one run. The final nail in the coffin was Cuthbert’s tough luck tumble into the dugout on a phenomenal play that negated what would have been a game-tying single by O’Hearn.

That’s (roughly) a four-run swing on bad breaks to Cuthbert alone. Baseball is not friendly, sometimes.

With the loss, the Royals fall to 47-88 while the Athletics improve to 77-56, maintaining at least a one-game lead over the Rays for the second AL Wild Card spot.

Up Next: Royals v. Orioles, Friday, August 20, 2019, 7:15 PM CDT, Kauffman Stadium. LHP Eric Skoglund (0-0, 3.60 ERA) v. TBD