We’ll talk about the pitching in a bit, but I wanted to focus on the offense first. If you watched the bottom of the first inning, you’d be forgiven for walking away from the game believing the Royals were just going to keep up their usual 2021 offensive shenanigans. Whit Merrifield led off the inning with a full-count walk and stole second easily. Jorge Soler and Carlos Santana followed by also working full counts but hit into outs before Salvador Perez also hit into an out without working the count full. Merrifield never moved off of second, much less scored.
After that, rookie Griffin Jax seemed to settle in with easy second and third innings. However, as perhaps should have been expected from someone who had been pitching in relief when pitching in the big leagues, he hit a wall in the bottom of the fourth inning. With the Royals trailing 2-0, Carlos Santana led off the inning with a walk. Hanser Alberto caught third baseman Luis Arraez napping and bunted for a single which saw both runners advance when Arraez threw the ball away. With one out Hunter Dozier hit a sinking liner into centerfield, and Nick Gordon made a diving attempt but missed the ball which turned what might have been an RBI single into a two-RBI double. A hit! With runners in scoring position!
That wasn’t the end of it, either! Michael Taylor hit a line-drive single to rightfield. Unfortunately, Dozier was thrown out at home. Then came the real shocker of the inning. Edward Olivares picked up his teammates! He belted a homer into left to give the Royals their first lead of the game.
The Royals scored two more runs in the fifth inning on a Salvador Perez double and a Hunter Dozier sacrifice fly to shallow left thanks to a poor throw from Alex Kirilloff as Salvy chugged home. In all, the team was 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position, which isn’t great but definitely feels better than what we’ve seen most recently from this team.
As for the pitching, Danny Duffy was both good and pitch-efficient for the first three innings of this game. Unfortunately, like Jax, he hit a wall in the fourth inning. Half of his six hits and two walks were allowed in that inning. The Royals went to Kyle Zimmer, Josh Staumont, Jake Brentz, Greg Holland, and Scott Barlow for an inning each to close out the game. Royals pitching did not achieve a single inning without allowing a base runner. It was an incredibly unremarkable performance.
- After allowing their relievers to pitch more innings than their starters on the road trip, the Royals have used relievers for 11 innings as compared to only 7 innings from the starters to start this homestand. It’s hard to imagine that leading to good things.
- Scott Barlow became the first reliever to pitch three games in a row. He earned his fourth save and appears to have taken over the closer’s duties.
- Josh Donaldson left the game after reinjuring his hamstring while running out a double in the third inning.
- This marks the first time the Royals have won consecutive games since June 22 - coincidentally, the last time the Royals won a game before last night. It is the first time they have won a series since they took the rubber match from the Red Sox on June 20.
The Royals will aim for their first sweep since they took two from the Pirates May 31 through June 1 when they take the field tomorrow. Brad Keller (6-8 6.67 ERA) will take the mound for Kansas City, looking for someone to figure out why he’s suddenly allowing home runs after successfully avoiding them while the ball was hopping for the past few years. The Twins will counter with Kenta Maeda (3-3 5.56 ERA.) Maeda has allowed twice as many runs in 10 fewer innings while making one more start than he had in 2020 for the Twins.
Regardless of what this game does or does not mean for the Royals 2021 season (hint: not much,) it absolutely feels better to watch a Royals win than a loss. Here’s hoping they do some more of those.