The good news: Jackson Kowar survived twice as long into his second start as he did his first. He also got his first career big league strikeout!
The bad news: he only doubled his recorded outs from Monday night and still gave up four runs; the Athletics had scored more than enough runs to win this game before Kansas City got their first runner on.
I think I want to talk about this more, later, but this team feels a lot like the 2013/2014 Royals. To my mind, the biggest difference between those two teams was that the 2014 Royals found a spark to ignite some serious winning and the 2013 Royals just couldn’t ever get things going. Up until today’s game, I have been waiting for the 2021 Royals to find a similar spark. After today’s game, I am fairly well convinced that they are unlikely to do so, this year.
There was some actual good news in this game for that Royals, though. The bullpen made some strong strides following Kowar’s disaster start. Ronald Bolaños pitched 3.1 innings and gave up only a single run while striking out four. He ran out of gas in the fifth inning and gave up both of his hits, one of his two walks, and the aforementioned run. Carlos Hernández came in and struck out a pair - one on a 100 MPH fastball and the other on a big curve - in 1.1 innings of work while allowing a solo home run. Stretch out one for a rotation spot and let the other challenge Greg Holland for the fifth-man-out-of-the-’pen role.
Wade Davis probably, finally, pitched himself out of a job. As a fan of the Royals since before the Wade Davis trade, it brings me no pleasure to see him go but it’s been clear for a while that he is no longer a big-league-caliber pitcher. He came on in the bottom of the eighth and allowed the first six runners to reach, including a pair of home runs. The next two batters hit long flyball outs to push a runner from second home to score Oakland’s fifth run of the inning before he mercifully escaped with the first weakly-hit ball of the inning.
- I know this won’t shock you, but Ted Barrett’s strike zone was not particularly consistent. In fairness to ol’ Ted, it was inconsistent for both teams. In...unfairness?... to Mr. Barrett, it sure as heck feels like whenever a Royals pitcher or hitter gets a ball or strike call in their favor it’s where it can’t hurt the other team. Most of the extra strikes Barrett called for the Royals pitching were for Kowar while he was otherwise getting nowhere near the zone. However, when he called his most egregious extra strikes against Royals hitters, it was inevitably during what appeared to be an incipient rally. You can point to the scoreboard and say it doesn’t matter, but the Royals wouldn’t have used Wade Davis if the game hadn’t already been lost by the bottom of the eighth inning.
- When Kowar struggled in the first inning pitching coach Cal Eldred was not the man who went to try to help, manager Mike Matheny stepped onto the field instead. It probably means nothing but in the context of Eldred taking a lot of heat around the internet, lately, it did strike me as odd.
The Royals have now lost seven of their last eight following the five-game winning streak at home. The Royals have a chance to split the series tomorrow. Kris Bubic (1-1 3.32 ERA,) coming off of two straight poor starts, will take the mound for the Royals. The Athletics will counter with Chris Bassit (6-2 3.44 ERA.)