One thing people love to talk about when it comes to baseball is how things always even out. Typically, this comes up when a batter smokes a ball but a fielder makes the play or when a pitcher makes a perfect pitch and the ball just goes to no-man’s-land and the batter ends up safe. But, logically, it must work the other way as well. Edward Olivares banged two home runs in a win last night but today he wore the golden sombrero awarded to batters who strike out four times in the same game. He also lost two different balls in the sun - both were ruled doubles - that directly or indirectly led to three runs scoring.
Olivares wasn’t the only defender making things difficult for Royals’ starter Brad Keller. Bobby Witt Jr. had a fielding error in the first inning that helped lead to two runners scoring and then a mental error in the third that meant the Royals only got one out on a bases loaded grounder instead of potentially getting two. Whit Merrifield slid into a groundball that shot it into left field instead of stopping it to prevent a runner from scoring.
Not that Keller would have had a great day without all that. He struggled to throw strikes and also left a lot of pitches over the middle of the plate. Still, it’s safe to say his exit before the end of the fourth inning with five runs allowed was a team effort. That effort and those runs set the pace for the rest of the game as the Royals were constantly playing catch-up and the bullpen was not super sharp, either. Amir Garret, Daniel Mengden, Taylor Clarke, Foster Griffin, and Dylan Coleman combined to allow four runs over the final 6.1 innings of the game.
The offense did a good job battle but never actually managed to completely tie the game after the A’s took a two-run lead in the first inning. Bobby Witt Jr. got things started with a solo shot in the third inning, his eleventh of the season.
Cam Gallagher added a pair of RBI doubles but, again, every time the Royals would seem to be closing the gap, the A’s would re-extend their lead. The Royals’ best chance to take over the game came in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Hunter Dozier and Carlos Santana each took walks to lead off the inning before Michael A. Taylor destroyed a baseball for three runs, bringing the Royals’ deficit to only one.
Cam Gallagher then took a walk and manager Mike Matheny asked Kyle Isbel to pinch run for the backup catcher. The A’s went to reliever Lou Trivino. He then walked Whit Merrifield. The Royals had runners at first and second, down one, with no one out and Andrew Benintendi at the plate. Trivino bounced a pitch and Isbel foolishly took off for third. The ball did not get nearly far enough away from A’s catcher Sean Murphy and Isbel was gunned down at third in plenty of time to complete the TOOTBLAN. Andrew Benintendi watched a very pretty slider on the outer edge to strike out on the next pitch. Had Isbel remained at second and nothing else changed, the Royals could have tied it up when Bobby Witt Jr. lashed a single into left-center but Isbel wasn’t there and the A’s were playing a no-doubles defense to keep the Royals from scoring on just such a hit. Moments later, Olivares struck out for the fourth time to end the threat.
- I’ve been frustrated with how few opportunities Kyle Isbel has received to play this year, but he did nothing today to justify getting more. Besides the TOOTBLAN he also took an awful route on a flyball hit into right field which turned into a double and later the A’s ninth run.
- After four straight games in which he failed to reach base, MJ Melendez ended his mini-slump with a pair of hits in today’s game while playing DH and we had to listen to Rex Hudler talk about how hard it is for young guys to do that. He also cranked a ball into the left-center gap in the first inning that required an impressive defensive play to become an out. In all he had three batted balls with exit velocities over 100 MPH. I think he’s going to be just fine.
- Bobby Witt Jr. did have a couple mishaps in the field, but he also had this Jeter-esque throw, so maybe he’s already evened things out a bit
- Every single starter in the A’s lineup had at least one hit while the Royals had four guys go hitless. Kinda makes it seem impressive the Royals managed to keep it as close as they did.
- Also, while the Royals were dropping flyballs and booting groundballs the A’s made several impressive plays at key opportunities to prevent the Royals from scoring. If you didn’t know any better, watching this game you’d never have guessed which of these teams is counted among the worst and which is counted among the best defensively in MLB.
The Royals can still win the series tomorrow. If they pull it off, that would mark their third straight series win in a row after going a month without earning even one. Brady Singer will go for KC and keep trying to work his way back to how he looked in his first couple of starts after returning from his demotion. The A’s will counter with James Kaprielian who might just be even worse than his 5.98 ERA would indicate. Let’s hope he doesn’t get right against the Royals.