For much of the 2021 season, Mike Minor has done peripheral things that other Royals pitchers have failed to do in the past. If the season ended today, his 22.8% K% would be the 6th best mark in Royals history. His K-BB% of 16.2% is the third-highest mark.
However, entering tonight’s matchup, he had given up more home runs than all but seven American League pitchers. The home run ball has stifled his season and it continued tonight, thanks in part to some poor defense and a lackluster offense.
With the offense sputtering, a 5th inning 3-run homer from Owen Miller was all Cleveland needed to take down Minor and the Royals, despite a 9th inning rally, in a 4-2 loss. The loss completed a three-game sweep for Cleveland, but even more jarring is that it represents Kansas City’s 11th consecutive loss to the future Guardians.
You would have to go all the way back to April 5th to find the last Royals win against Cleveland, the first time they played them this season. Let me repeat that. The Royals won their first game against Cleveland in 2021 and have proceeded to lose every single contest since. Kansas City’s record without those games is 58-62.
Besides that astonishing fact, this was a mostly uneventful game by regular standards. Kansas City’s offense just couldn’t get anything going, outside of a Hunter Dozier RBI single in the 2nd. Michael A. Taylor walked, moved to second on a fielder’s choice and to third on a balk before scoring to put the Royals up 1-0.
Aside from those two base runners, Kansas City had just one base runner through the first six innings, courtesy of a Salvador Perez single.
Minor cruised through his first four innings, retiring 12 consecutive Cleveland batters after Myles Straw led off the game with a single.
He finally ran into trouble in the 5th when Harold Ramirez reached on a throwing error by Emmanuel Rivers to lead off the inning. He moved to third on a Yu Chang single before the fateful Miller homer put Cleveland up 3-1.
To Minor’s credit, he escaped another jam in that same inning with runners on 2nd and 3rd and two outs. He finished the evening going five innings and giving up two earned runs. But that was all Cleveland needed with the Royals offense being completely silenced by starting pitcher Triston McKenzie.
McKenzie has been absolutely on fire of late, giving up four runs in his last 27 innings, striking out 30 on the process. Tonight, he gave Cleveland six innings of one-run ball, striking out six Royals and allowing just three base runners. And he only needed 76 pitches to do it.
Kansas City didn’t have much more luck against a bullpen that has the third-lowest ERA in the American League, but they did put together some rallies. A two-out Edward Olivares double slowed the Royals to threaten in the 7th, but he was stranded at second by Dozier.
Cleveland added an insurance run in the 8th, but the Royals were back rallying again in the bottom half, giving Andrew Benintendi an opportunity with runners on the corners and two outs. He grounded into a force out to end the inning.
Kansas City rallied for the third time in as many innings in the 9th against Emmanuel Clase. Carlos Santana led off with a double, just his 5th extra-base hit since July 25. Taylor then appeared to reach on an infield single, giving the Royals runners on the corners with nobody out and bringing the tying run to the plate. However, Cleveland successfully challenged the call.
The challenge turned out to be crucial. Olivares followed the challenge with an RBI single and moved to 2nd on a Dozier single, putting the tying run on 1st base. Mike Matheny pinch-hit Ryan O’Hearn for Rivera, but it proved unfruitful, ending in a flyout to center. Clase retired Merrifield to strand tying run and end the game.
The record stands at 59-74 and it does not appear as though the Royals will be catching Cleveland this season.
Up Next: TBD v. LHP Dallas Keuchel (8-7, 5.00 ERA)