Though the Kansas City Royals crawled back from a four-run deficit against the Los Angeles Angels with a three-run sixth inning capped by Salvador Perez’s 1000th career hit, the Royals bullpen immediately coughed up two three-run innings of their own. Such a deficit proved to be insurmountable, as the Angels beat the Royals in the opening game of their series and Kansas City’s ten-day homestand, 10-3.
For a while, it certainly seemed like Angels starter Alex Cobb was going to be the story of the night. Cobb, perhaps most known among Royals fans as the pitcher whose skull was the recipient of a screaming Eric Hosmer line drive in Tampa Bay in 2013, survived the terrifying event, and to his credit has stuck around in the Major Leagues. To call Cobb’s performance tonight “electric” would have been a disservice to Nikola Tesla.
Through five innings, at least.
Until the sixth inning, Cobb’s trademark splitter decimated the Royals lineup. Of Kansas City’s first 15 outs, 10 of them came by strikeout. Only Perez was immune to Cobb, but his two singles weren’t enough to do any damage. But in the sixth inning, as often happens through the third time of a lineup, Cobb ran into some trouble. Whit Merrifield punished a sinker that didn’t sink to the opposite field for a double, and Andrew Benintendi spit on four splitters—the pitch everyone had been whiffing at—to earn a walk. Then, Perez smacked his 1000th career hit, a beauty of a line drive, to score Merrifield.
After getting a ground out from Carlos Santana, Angels manager Joe Maddon replaced Cobb with veteran righty Steve Cishek. It seemed like the correct move, with Cobb comfortably above 90 pitches and right-handed Jorge Soler, who had struck out in his seven previous plate appearances, coming up to the plate. But because baseball is a beautiful and bizarre game, Soler somehow muscled an inside fastball through to center field for a line drive, two-run single.
Unfortunately, Kansas City’s sixth inning heroism was rather overshadowed by a thoroughly disappointing performance elsewhere. Nowhere was it more obvious than in the second inning, where after a pair of singles, Royals starter Brady Singer got Jose Rojas to fly out harmlessly to center field, and then this happened:
For those of you unable or unwilling to watch that video, it depicts center fielder Michael A. Taylor making a throwing error, choosing to throw to third base rather than second base his throw hitting Jared Walsh along the way. The ball caroomed off to the side, and not to be undone, Singer—who had been dutifully backing up Taylor’s throw—emulated Garret Crochet from yesterday’s game with a spiked ball of his own towards home plate, one that counted as the second error of the play. Two unearned runs, just like that.
Overall, though, Singer was pretty effective. He had movement on his fastball and slider, didn’t walk anyone, and struck out six Angels in five innings. But those two errors, as well as an additional error from Nicky Lopez in the fifth inning, meant that Singer left the game with his team underwater 4-0.
Shohei Ohtani was the Angel to finally put the Royals away. With two outs—both from strikeouts—and men on second and third, Scott Barlow was one out away from ending the seventh inning a little haggard but without any damage. A one-run game, at home, and three innings to go is perfectly doable. Ohtani had other ideas, crushing a mistake sinker up in the zone an honest-to-god 119 MPH for a two-run double.
Afterwards, the rest of the game was simply playing out the string. The Angels continued to score against replacement-level relievers, adding a seventh run against the clearly overwhelmed Carlos Hernandez (technically charged to Barlow) and another three runs against Jake Newberry, who the Royals called up today just to have him face two of the most talented hitters in the league. Newberry performed as poorly as you might expect, and gave up a three-run bomb to Mike Trout. Meanwhile, Perez hit his fourth single of the day to lead off the eight inning, a hit which was followed by Carlos Santana’s walk. But they—you guessed it—were stranded.
Tomorrow, the Royals send Danny Duffy to the mound against the Angels to try to turn the series around. Kansas City is 4-4.