Kansas City entered the top of the 4th with a 3-0 lead, looking to sweep the best offense in the American League. That 3-0 lead was thanks, in large part, to a sacrifice bunt from Nicky Lopez in the first and a two-run bomb in the 3rd. It was all going so well in this new world under Lopez’s rule.
Unfortunately for the Royals and sac bunt fans everywhere, three runs wasn’t enough against the best offense in the AL, as the Astros scratched back to win in extras and avoid the sweep in a 6-3 win.
The Royals got on the board first, albeit in a very dumb and self-defeating way. Whit Merrifield singled to right to lead off the game and was bunted over to second by Lopez in the first inning of a baseball game that features an opponent who leagues all of Major League Baseball in runs.
Generally speaking, bunting in the first inning doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Philisophically, bunting after a leadoff single to begin the game is pretty nonsensical. There isn’t a single moment in a baseball game that a team has less to lose than after a leadoff single. Every other single that follows will be with either 26 or 25 or 17 or 3 or 2 outs remaining. Having a base runner before recording an out is playing with house money. None the less, the Royals did it.
Merrifield then stole third and scored on a Salvador Perez sac fly to go up 1-0. We’ll check back in later to see if this worked. Lopez made up for it two innings later, hitting his first homer of the season to put the Royals up 3-0. It was a majestic shot into the right-field bullpen.
Some were happy.
respect to Nicky Lopez but RIP to the Why Haven't You Homered Yet king— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) August 19, 2021
Magneuris Sierra, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you
The right fielder got his cardio in.
Pretty hilarious how far the right fielder ends up running towards the wall. https://t.co/M8QZRJgM5h— Mike Engel (@michaelengel) August 19, 2021
It also brought to a close Nicky’s pursuit of being the most valuable player to ever go a full season without a homer.
Best season by rWAR with 0 home runs, since 1995:— Royals Review (@royalsreview) August 11, 2021
1. Rey Sanchez 2001 - 3.4
2. Ben Revere 2012 - 2.8
3. Walt Weiss 1998 - 2.8
4. Nicky Lopez 2021 - 2.6
5. Jamey Carroll 2010 - 2.5
6. Jason Kendall 2005 - 2.5
Lopez is on pace to finish with 3.8 rWAR.
It was a truly beautiful moment.
In all the commotion, the Astros began the next inning with a double from Carlos Correa and a by Aledmys Diaz, giving Mike Minor his first troubles of the day. Chas McCormick drove in Correa on a fielder’s choice, which made it a 3-1 game, but also killed the rally.
After that brief interruption, it was back to the Nicky Lopez Show, beginning the 5th inning with this gem.
Minor mostly cruised through five, but then ran into trouble in the 6th. Correa reached with a one-out single before back-to-back doubles from Diaz and McCormick tied the game up at 3-3. Checking back in from earlier: playing for one run in the 1st inning against the best offense in baseball didn’t work.
We have no way of knowing whether or not Nicky would have done anything with his 1st inning at-bat, so I’m not trying to say that Kansas City lost the game because of it. They might well have not scored that run without the bunt. With that said, from a philosophical standpoint, playing for one run against the Astros just ain’t it.
After the McCormick double, manager Mike Matheny called on Domingo Tapia, who was able to get out of the jam and keep the game tied. From there, the Royals bullpen performed admirably against the vaunted Astros lineup, with Tapia, Joel Payamps, Richard Lovelady, and Josh Staumont allowing just three base runners to reach in 3.2 innings of work.
Kansas City had an opportunity to win the game with runners on 2nd and 3rd and two outs, but Hanser Alberto grounded out to end the inning. It proved to be their best shot, as the wheels fell off in the 10th.
Wade Davis entered the game to pitch, inheriting a runner at 2nd with the start of extra innings. After a quick single from Yordan Alvarez and a Correa walk, he was staring down a bases loaded jam.
Diaz broke the tie with a single to center, putting the Astros up 4-3 with the bases still loaded and nobody out. Matheny then turned to Ervin Santana to get Kansas City out of trouble, but he could not. He walked in another run and allowed one more on a double play, putting Houston up 6-3.
Kansas City went quietly in the bottom of the 10th to end the game. The loss drops the Royals to 52-68 on the season.
Up Next: Royals at Cubs, Friday, August 20, 1:20 PM CDT, Wrigley Field. RHP Brad Keller (7-12, 5.62 ERA) v. Zach Davies (6-9, 5.00 ERA)