Fans who sat through last Monday’s absolute nail-biter against the New York Yankees, a game that sadly ended with a loss all the same, would be forgiven for being a little apprehensive when the Houston Astros tied it up in the sixth and eighth innings and came within one run of tying it up in the ninth. But the Kansas City Royals fought back and fought well, coming away with a 7-6 victory over one of the best teams in baseball.
There were three main stories of tonight’s game. If you were interested in, shall we say, excitement on the basepaths, the first main story of the game is for you. I honestly don’t recall the last time a game had this many outs on basepaths. Let’s take a look:
- Whit Merrifield got himself thrown out at home plate off a Salvador Perez grounder to short in the first inning, specifically after being bunted to third by Nicky Lopez.
- Ryan O’Hearn also got himself thrown out at the plate in the very next inning, off a slow comebacker to pitcher Jake Odorizzi from Hunter Dozier.
- Michael Brantley got himself thrown out attempting to get back to first place after going into no man’s land on a ball that did not bounce nearly far enough away from Perez.
- Carlos Santana got himself thrown out at third base after his leadoff double by attempting to advance on a grounder to shortstop from Andrew Benintendi.
- Chas McCormick got himself thrown out at third base on a nifty Nicky Lopez play from a ground ball by Jake Means.
- Aledmys Diaz got himself thrown out at second base trying to stretch a single into a double via the arm of Benintendi.
It was a wild, wild baserunning day, which is to say nothing of the fact that the Royals also stole four bases (one for Merrifield, and a whopping three for Lopez).
The other main story of today is Carlos Hernandez. Through July 24, Hernandez had 21 walks in 28.1 innings, which is simply and clearly unacceptable. But in his previous three starts, Hernandez only walked four in 17.2 innings. And in today’s start against the Astros, who own the 10th best team walk rate in Major League Baseball at 9.2%, Hernandez walked none in his six innings of work. None!
Hernandez didn’t quite come out unscathed. He allowed four runs against the Trash Bangers, and only managed to strike out one along the way. It could have been worse—some aforementioned TOOTBLANs helped him out a bit—and ended the game with back-to-back innings with a home run given up. Still, the Astros strike out less than any team in baseball, and they’ve scored the most runs out of any team in baseball. Sometimes, the Astros are just gonna score. Hernandez stuck with it, ate some innings, and didn’t shoot himself in the foot.
The third story of the game was a truly comprehensive offensive effort. Only Michael A. Taylor didn’t have a hit, and the other eight batters got on base a combined 15 times. O’Hearn and Dozier looked particularly good; O’Hearn drove in two runs with a pair of nice opposite field hits, and Dozier hit his first home run since the invention of the microwave.
The Royals secured the win with four runs scored from the sixth inning on, even though Scott Barlow did his best to push the game into overtime by allowing an inherited runner to score in the eighth and another run entirely of his own doing in the ninth. The most important hit was, as always, off the bat of Perez. With two outs left, Merrifield and Lopez singled to right field, and Lopez put himself in scoring position with his third stolen base of the evening. Perez made it a hat trick with a single of his own to right field, scoring his teammates and pushing the lead to 7-5.
Kansas City secured its 50th win of the year tonight, which seems like a nice milestone except for the small fact that the Astros, an actual good team, have 70. Still, it was a good, fun, and dare I say gritty win that Royals fans deserve to see more of. The Royals and Astros have three more games in this series at Kauffman Stadium, so hold onto your butts.