In the latest Battle for Grass Creek, the Royals were unable to come up with clutch hits and fell 5-4 in 12 innings, completing the sweep. This was just the 23rd game to go at least 12 innings since the extra inning runner rule was implemented in 2020. It was also the longest played by the Royals since a 12-inning win over Seattle last year on August 27th.
This had the potential to be a great matchup for the Royals offense. Robbie Ray, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, had been struggling in his first season in Seattle. In his first three starts, he pitched to a 5.67 FIP, and his fastball velocity was down from 94.8 mph last year to 92.1 in 2022.
Early on, Carlos Hernandez continued a worrying trend of giving up a ton of hard contact. After allowing 10 hard hit balls in his last start against Minnesota (defined by Statcast as batted balls with 95+ mph exit velocity), he allowed a hard line drive on his first pitch to Adam Frazier for a leadoff single in the 1st. Two pitches later, he hung a breaking ball to the red hot Ty France and he crushed it over the fence in left to give Seattle a 2-0 lead. That was France’s second consecutive homer and sixth consecutive hit after his 5-5 effort in Saturday’s game. Hernandez managed to settle in after the dinger, setting down the next seven Mariners batters with three of them going down on strikes.
Ray retired six of the first seven batters over the first two innings, with the lone blemish being a two-out double from Salvador Perez. The Royals managed to get on the board in the third. After a leadoff walk to Michael A. Taylor, Cam Gallagher roped a ball to left. It banged off the wall and, thanks to some characteristically poor defense from Jesse Winker, allowed Taylor to score easily and Gallagher to cruise into second base with a double. Ray then struck out Whit Merrifield and threw out Gallagher at second on a bouncer from Edward Olivares. Up came Perez with two outs and he came through with another double off Ray to score Olivares and tie the game 2-2. In the bottom of the frame, following a one-out walk to Frazier, France lined a single to right for his seventh consecutive hit. Hernandez quickly retired Winker and Eugenio Suarez to end the threat.
The pitching took control in the middle innings. In the 4th and 5th innings, the offenses combined for just two baserunners. In case anybody was still in doubt about Bobby Witt Jr.’s defense, check this out:
Watch this Bobby Witt Jr. play. Art. pic.twitter.com/o2ZCGhGJNx— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) April 24, 2022
After a quick top of the 6th, Seattle got to Hernandez in the bottom of the inning. After a soft lineout into the shift by Winker, Suarez and J.P. Crawford smoked back-to-back doubles to give the Mariners a 3-2 lead. A blooper that dropped in front of Hunter Dozier in right field off the bat of Abraham Toro moved Crawford to third and chased Hernandez from the game. Collin Snider replaced him on the mound to face Julio Rodriguez. Rodriguez smoked an 84 mph slider right at Adalberto Mondesi that resulted in a double play to end the inning.
Matthew Festa replaced Ray on the mound to start the 7th inning. He promptly walked Mondesi on four pitches (Mondesi now has four walks on the season and is on pace for 35 walks, which would destroy his previous career high of 19. He’s turned a corner!). He easily stole second and then advanced to third on a flyout by Witt. Festa fanned Taylor and retired Gallagher on a flyball to right to snuff the threat.
Amir Garrett and Scott Barlow kept the Mariners offense quiet in the 7th and 8th, but the Royals lineup was also unable to muster any offense as the Royals trailed 3-2 going into the 9th inning. Carlos Santana led off the inning with a flyout against Mariners reliever Drew Steckenrider. Up stepped Dozier. He spat on a low curveball before turning around a 93 mph fastball that caught way too much of the plate, depositing it over the fence in center for a game-tying dinger. Steckenrider attacked the next batter, Mondesi, with a flurry of changeups and caught him looking for the second out. Witt smacked a broken bat single into center to put the go-ahead run on base, but Taylor was then retired on a nice running grab by Rodriguez at the track in center to end the inning.
Josh Staumont took the mound for the bottom of the 9th and surrendered a leadoff single to Rodriguez to put the winning run on base. Staumont rang up Jarred Kelenic on a curveball in the dirt (with the help of a questionable call on a checked swing). Cal Raleigh struck out swinging for the second out as Rodriguez stole second. Frazier hit a tapper back to Staumont that he booted, but he was able to recover in time and flip the ball to Santana at first for the third out. Seattle challenged, but the call stood, sending the game to extras.
Taylor began the 10th inning at second and Andrew Benintendi pinch-hit for Gallagher against Seattle reliever Diego Castillo. Benintendi smacked a groundball just under the glove of Frazier, bringing home Taylor and giving Kansas City their first lead of the game. Following a strikeout by Merrifield, Nicky Lopez pinch-hit for Olivares and grounded a single through the right side of the infield. Benintendi took the turn at second but was gunned down by a strong throw from Kelenic to third base for a big second out. Toro made a nice play on a groundball to retire Perez, ending the inning.
Taylor Clarke took the mound to close out the Mariners in the bottom of the 10th. Ty France led off the inning and, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, smoked a single up the middle, moving the tying run to third. Winker battled for 11 pitches before sending a flyball to center that scored Frazier, tying the game. Clarke retired Suarez and Crawford; on to the 11th!
The Royals couldn’t touch noted superstar reliever Matt Koch in the 11th, with Santana, Dozier, and Mondesi going down in order. Dylan Coleman took the mound needing to strand zombie runner Crawford at second base. In a 9-pitch battle, Coleman struck out Toro leading off the inning on a checked swing for a big first out. With Rodriguez in the box, Coleman sent a 1-0 slider to the backstop, moving the winning run to third base. After another breaking ball in the dirt, they sent Rodriguez to first, bringing up Kelenic. Fortunately, he decided to swing at every pitch and struck out on four pitches. The next batter, Raleigh, walked on four pitches to load the bases. Do or die, and Coleman did, retiring Frazier on a groundout to send the game to the 12th.
After a popup to start the inning, the Royals loaded the bases with consecutive walks by Taylor and Ryan O’Hearn. Yet once again, the Royals were unable to break through as Merrifield and Nicky Lopez struck out to end the inning. Joel Payamps came out to pitch the 12th. They wanted no part of France, sending him straight to first base and bringing up Winker. Winker battled for yet another 11-pitch at bat before muscling a broken bat single into shallow right to score Frazier, walking off the Royals and completing the sweep.
The Royals are 5-9 and have yet to win a road game this season. They will have the day off tomorrow before traveling to Chicago for a three-game set against the White Sox.
Carlos Hernandez: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
Robbie Ray: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Salvador Perez: 2-5, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K
Ty France: 3-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 IBB