Both the Royals and Rangers opted for a bullpen game tonight, with Gabe Speier starting for Kansas City and Matt Bush taking the mound for Texas. It paid dividends for the Royals as the bullpen dominated a scuffling Rangers lineup and the lineup broke through late en route to a 8-2 victory.
Both “starters” did their job as Speier tossed two scoreless innings to open the game and Bush provided a scoreless inning for Texas. Kolby Allard followed Bush and the Royals managed to strike against him. Allard’s first pitch of the third inning was a 92 mph fastball right down Broadway to Whit Merrifield and he didn’t miss it, parking it in the left field seats for his first homer of the season. That was also Merrifield’s first extra base hit since a first inning double on April 29th.
Joel Payamps followed Speier and was outstanding, tossing three shutty with five punchies, only allowing two baserunners. Kansas City jumped on Garrett Richards in the fifth inning. Michael A. Taylor led off the frame with a walk and Merrifield followed with a single. After a Nicky Lopez strikeout, Bobby Witt Jr. lined a double down the left field line that easily scored Taylor and Merrifield to give the Royals a 3-0 lead. Witt managed to reach third when the throw home got past Rangers catcher Sam Huff.
This is where I will mention that I hate how often the Royals run the contact play. With one out and Witt on third, the Rangers brought in their infield. On a 3-0 count, Andrew Benintendi hit a chopper directly to Corey Seager. Witt broke home on contact and was easily thrown out at home. This is not the first time we’ve seen that this season. @Royals: please stop running the contact play.
Texas got on the board in the sixth with an opposite field solo homer from Brad Miller off Collin Snider. Kansas City responded immediately thanks to some sloppy defense by the Rangers. Merrifield led off the inning with a soft grounder to the pitcher Dennis Santana, but his throw was offline, allowing Merrifield to reach second base. He advanced to third on a wild pitch. After a Nicky Lopez groundout, Witt came up and hit a check swing chopper towards third base. The infield was in and Texas third baseman Miller charged in and flipped it towards home, but it was hit so softly (27.7 mph exit velo) that Merrifield was able to come in and score to make it 4-1 Royals.
To this point, the Royals were 1-13 with runners in scoring position. But in the 9th inning, the big hit to put the game away finally came. Emmanuel Rivera came on to pinch hit for Ryan O’Hearn with the bases loaded. Rivera slapped a first pitch fastball right down the middle from Matt Moore down the right field line and into the corner. Rivera slid into third with a bases-clearing triple. The Royals scored another thanks to a Miller error to make it 8-1. On the broadcast, Ryan Lefebvre stated the Royals lead the majors in unearned runs scored “by a lot.” I could not find data to verify that statement.
Kris Bubic pitched the 9th and allowed a solo homer to Corey Seager. But he managed to prevent Texas from scoring seven runs and closed the door for the victory. Of note, Bubic threw four fastballs over 95 in that inning, including one at 97 for a swinging strike by Adolis Garcia. Merrifield said “sexy” several times in his post-game interview.
Kansas City is now 10-18 and will go for the series win in tomorrow night’s rubber match.
Joel Payamps- 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 0 HR
Kolby Allard - 3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR
Whit Merrifield - 3-4, HR, RBI, 4 R
Brad Miller - 1-2, HR, RBI, R