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The offense is stifled again, Royals lose 9-4

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At least it was competitive until the seventh!

Brad Keller throws a pitch Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

If you’re the kind of person who just checks the box score there’s important context about Brad Keller’s start tonight; he ultimately allowed four runs, three earned, but I put two runs on the defense and two more on Manager Mike Matheny.

Keller had a bumpy first inning which included a pair of two-out walks but settled in pretty well until the fifth inning. Yadier Molina reached on a throwing error by Emmanuel Rivera - Rivera appeared to be negatively affected by the fact that he had just ended a Royals scoring opportunity by hitting into his second double play of the night. Lars Nootbar reached on a single and then Brad Keller struck out Harrison Bader, a double play would have gotten them out of the inning. Keller managed to get Edmundo Sosa to hit a groundball to short that seemed likely to end the inning; unfortunately, Nicky Lopez couldn’t field it cleanly. Tommy Edman made sure the Royals paid with a two-RBI single.

By the end of the sixth inning, Keller had thrown more than 90 pitches but Matheny inexplicably sent him back out. Keller got the first out on one pitch but the next batter singled but was caught stealing. Now over 100 pitches, Keller remained on the mound to allow singles to Sosa and Edman before finally being pulled. Josh Staumont came on to attempt to escape the jam but allowed a two-RBI single to Paul Goldschmidt and then a two-run home run to Nolan Arenado to ensure the game was out of reach.

Those two walks in the first inning ended up being the only ones allowed by Keller all night. He also struck out eight; if he’d gotten a bit more help from his defense and/or bullpen this could easily have been his second-best start of the season. Instead, it is merely another quality start that doesn’t feel so quality.

The Royals offense had an...unorthodox strategy all night. They appeared to be trying to hit Cardinals starter Jon Lester. At least three batted balls connected with the Cardinals starter while multiple others whizzed past him to be collected by an often sliding and diving Edman. It looked like the strategy was going to pay off in the fourth. Salvador Perez led off with a single to right before Andrew Benintendi hit a grounder up the middle that turned into a fielder’s choice. Hunter Dozier singled on a groundball up the middle and then Michael A. Taylor hit the third straight ball up the middle on the ground to drive in Benintendi with another single. Unfortunately, this is where Emmanuel Rivera’s previously mentioned second double-play ball came in.

They scored three more in the ninth off of Andrew Miller when Whit Merrifield hit a two-RBI double and Carlos Santana finally snapped his streak of 21 plate appearances without reaching base safely by driving Whit in with a groundball single into right. Unfortunately, the Cardinals went to the bullpen again and brought out Genesis Cabrera who retired the only two batters he faced to end the Royals' last gasp.

Notes

  • Whit Merrifield broke Alcides Escobar’s consecutive games-played streak tonight. Much like Escobar by the time he earned that achievement, it seems Merrifield may be past being an above-average baseball player.
  • According to Rex Hudler, Rex made a playful jibe at Whit about how Whit was unlikely to ever match Cal Ripken Jr.’s league record for consecutive games played. Whit allegedly replied immediately and heatedly, “He didn’t have to deal with analytics or COVID!” Of course, COVID only cost Whit about 100 games and analytics alone do not make up the difference. Ripken was a two-time MVP with enough talent to break into the league at age 20. At age 35, Ripken was still having very productive seasons. Merrifield should probably be content with the record he has and stop trying to blame outside factors.
  • tl;dr Whit seems like he’d be fun at parties.
  • Lars Nootbaar struck out looking twice tonight but if you were watching homeplate umpire Ryan Additon, you might have thought it happened four times. Additon mistakenly attempted to ring up Nootbaar on strike two in each of his first two at-bats.
  • Greg Holland continued his complete implosion; he allowed three runs to the first five batters he faced in the ninth inning. This is the third time in his last four appearances that he has allowed multiple runs in an outing.
  • After my complaining about the Cardinals always getting other teams’ stars earlier today Goldschmidt drove in three and Arenado smashed a two-RBI double in addition to his earlier home run for a total of four RBIs.

The Royals not only lost the game but simultaneously lost both the current series and the season series to the Cardinals. They will attempt to avoid the series sweep and earn their fiftieth win of the season, tomorrow. Kris Bubic (3-5, 4.43 ERA) will face off against fellow lefty J.A. Happ (6-6 6.34 ERA.) Happ faced the Royals three times while pitching for the Twins earlier this season and made two bad starts and one mediocre one.