Well that was fun, wasn’t it? The Royals spotted the Rangers a big lead before they even came up to bat. Fans were back in the stands for the first time in over 500 days and the boo birds were out as things looked bleak. But that was back in the 1st, sometime around 3:20 pm. The inning wouldn’t end until after 4* and the game would not end until after 7. A 5-run lead would not be safe. Good pitching would be hard to come by but offensive would be plentiful. It would be a great game if you had a baseball BINGO card as many oddities abounded. Kyle Isbel would have one heck of a debut. Michael A. Taylor for MVP. Every Royal starter would reach base and score (by the 4th). Salvy would walk... with the bases loaded! The Royals would walk 8(!!!!) times on the day. Holland and Davis would come in from the bullpen to end the game. The Royals would delight fans before this one was over, the longest 9 inning game in Royals history. Let’s dig in!
*I think - if not, it was really close, like 3:57 close
Royals ace Brad Keller got off to a disastrous start. He gave up a leadoff double to Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who should have scored when David Dahl doubled off the top of the wall, but read the ball terribly and wound up at third. After a Joey Gallo walk, the bases were loaded with nobody out.
The Rangers responded with four consecutive hits and before Keller had recorded an out, he was at 30 pitches and down 5-0.
New teammate Andrew Benintendi picked Keller up with an unbelievable catch-up against the wall down the left-field line to finally give him an out. Keller gave up another hit that looked like it would drive in another run, but another new teammate in Michael Taylor picked him up again by throwing out Brock Holt at the plate.
After it was all said and done, the Rangers had batted around and gotten a whopping seven hits against Keller. He gave up more than six hits just once last season.
Keller gave up more than six hits in a game once last year. He’s given up seven in the first today.— David Lesky (@DBLesky) April 1, 2021
The Royals responded with a rally of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Whit Merrifield singled to lead off the inning. Benintendi followed that up with a single for his first hit as a Royal. Carlos Santana stayed on-brand with a walk, loading the bases for Salvador Perez with nobody out, who walked in the Royals first run of the season.
This was a wild first inning of baseball, to say the least. Sal walked three times in 150 ABs last season. He’s off to a fast start this season.
Kansas City got their second run of the game on a wild pitch before Jorge Soler gave the Royals their third consecutive walk to load the bases back up, down 5-2. A Hunter Dozier strikeout brought up Kyle Isbel with the bases loaded.
If you will remember, Alex Gordon’s first career PA came on Opening Day with the bases loaded in the first inning. He struck out. Isbel went a different route, singling to right to make it a 5-3 game. Michael Taylor wanted to join the single party and brought the Royals to within one run on the first pitch he saw as a Royal.
Taylor’s ended Gibson’s afternoon with the Royals down 5-4. In total, Gibson gave up four runs on four hits and three walks, recording just a single out. At the 45 minute mark in the game, there had been just four total outs recorded.
Almost 45 minutes and we still haven't completed the first inning. Rob Manfred is gonna shorten this game to five innings.— Royals Review (@royalsreview) April 1, 2021
Taylor Hearn replaced Gibson to face Nicky Lopez. His sac fly tied the game at 5-5, before Merrifield flied out to end the inning.
One inning. Six outs recorded. 50 minutes of game time. 10 combined runs. 11 combined hits and 4 combined walks. What a wild start to 2021.
The Rangers weren’t done either. The first two batters reached in the 2nd before a Nate Lowe single gave the lead back to Texas at 6-5. That would be the end of Keller’s day as well, a dreadful start to the season that saw him surrender six earned runs on nine hits in just 1.1 innings of work.
Kyle Zimmer replaced him and did some nice work to get out of the jam. He struck out two batters to keep the lead where it was. But the Rangers kept coming at Kansas City. Carlos Hernandez replaced Zimmer and immediately loaded up the bases with nobody out. Joey Gallo singled into center field, driving in two runs, and making it an 8-5 ball game. And were it not for another outfield assist from Taylor, it would have been worse.
Through the first 1⁄3 of the game, Kansas City just couldn’t get anybody out. Before Kansas City pitchers recorded their 9th out, they had given up 12 hits (!!!) and eight runs. And three of those outs were very much the responsibility of great outfield defense. It was rough going.
Luckily, the Royals didn’t stop either. And little did they know that they had signed future 2021 AL MVP Michael Taylor. After throwing two batters out in the first three innings, he hit a solo bomb in the bottom of the 3rd to bring the Royals to within two runs. Carlos Santana’s first hit as a Royal later that inning drove in a run to make it 8-7 after three.
After a solo bomb by Soler tied it in the 4th, the AL MVP notched another RBI single to give the Royals their first lead of the day at 9-8 because baseball is drunk today. Not only did they take the lead, but they also had the bases loaded with nobody out and Whit Merrifield at the plate. Whit hit a sacrifice fly and, when Isbel crossed the plate, every Royal in the starting lineup had scored a run. However, the Rangers escaped further damage in the inning. 10-8 Royals after 4.
We've played four innings in 2 hours and 30 minutes. The longest nine-inning game in Royals history went 4 hours and 16 minutes.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) April 1, 2021
Meanwhile, Carlos Hernández settled down. After allowing his first 4 batters to reach, he retired his last 8. The 5th inning was actually scoreless. Manfred’s new de-juiced baseballs must have arrived. Hernández gave way to Jesse Hahn in the 6th and the Rangers clawed a run back with a 2-out RBI single.
After a couple of mostly uneventful innings, the Royals helped fans fill up their baseball BINGO card in the bottom of the 7th against Rangers pitcher Brett de Gaus, making his major league debut. On a combined 14 pitches, Benintendi and Santana walked back-to-back. On a 1-2 count, Salvy was hit by a pitch to load the bases. On the very next pitch, Soler was hit, as well, driving in a run. Dozier hit into a fielder’s choice. So for those keeping score at home: 2 more runs scored without so much as a hit. Isbel got his third hit and 2nd RBI of the game on an infield single where he was flashing the safe sign as he touched the bag ahead of the throw. Taylor added yet another fielder’s choice before Lopez ended the inning with a garden variety out. Royals up 13-9 through 7.
Scott Barlow tried to string together 2 scoreless innings but fell short. He loaded the bases with 2 outs in the 8th. Greg Holland slammed the door shut with 3 straight strikes to send Leody Taveras back to the bench and preserve the lead. Merrifield went yard in the 8th to add to the lead and they almost added another run but it was wiped out by review. Holland labored a bit through the 9th including an AB with both a passed ball and a wild pitch. So Wade Davis came in to end the game.
Wait? Greg Holland and Wade Davis closing out the game? All the feels. What is this? 2014? Well, you know... I guess I’d take that.
Final score: Royals 14 Rangers 10. With this win, the Royals magic number is 161. If Rany’s Tweet is to be believed (and I see no reason not to), this is the longest 9 inning game in Royals history. And it’s one of the the most memorable, up there with 2004.
Injury update for those who did not see:
Hunter Dozier left the game with a right thumb contusion. He's listed as day-to-day. #Royals— Anne Rogers (@anne__rogers) April 1, 2021
That was fun. Let’s do some more of these. Off day tomorrow, back at it Saturday.
Up Next: Royals v. Rangers, Saturday, April 3, 2021, 1:10 PM CDT, Kauffman Stadium. RHP Kohei Arihara (0-0, -.— ERA) v. LHP Mike Minor (0-0, -.— ERA)