Even though they never trailed, today’s game felt like one that the Royals were going to lose. They squandered seemingly countless scoring opportunities - leadoff man on after leadoff man on kept getting wasted, and when Tampa Bay eventually pulled even in the middle innings, it seemed like we all knew where this was headed.
But Hunter Dozier came through with a big hit and the pitching staff did a great job from beginning to end, allowing the Royals to hang on and narrowly beat Tampa Bay, 4-2, earning their first series win over the Rays since 2017.
Two early runs gave Kansas City a 2-0 lead through two innings. The first inning was straight out of 2015 - Whit Merrifield doubled off what should have been a single because of great base running, he moved to third on a groundout by Andrew Benintendi, and Bobby Witt Jr. singled him home on a beautiful, opposite field line-drive single. In the second, Nick Pratto picked up an RBI on a sacrifice fly. There were plenty more opportunities to extend the lead, as the Royals had their leadoff man on in six of eight innings today, but they couldn’t capitalize on many of them.
In the late innings, though, they finally came through. Hunter Dozier and M.J. Melendez each had a two-out RBI hit to put the Royals ahead. If you have enough opportunities, eventually, you’ll come through.
Kris Bubic, meanwhile, was exceptional. He did allow two runs to tie the game - a third-inning homer by Yandy Diaz and a a sixth-inning sac fly - but his command was great and he did a really nice job of executing with men on base. It was the second straight time - the other being last Sunday in Toronto - that he’s twirled a really good game. In all, he allowed four hits and two runs in seven innings, striking out four and walking three. He was also very efficient with his pitches, as he needed just 82 to get through seven frames. By earning the win, he is 2-6.
Dylan Coleman came out of the bullpen and started throwing absolute gas, blowing through the eighth inning with a handful of 100-mph heaters. With Scott Barlow out, it was Taylor Clarke that Mike Matheny entrusted to get the save. Mike Matheny sure loves him some Taylor Clarke, doesn’t he? Fortunately for Matheny and Royals fans, this experiment worked today, as Clarke did get the final three outs. Clarke now has two saves in six opportunities. Victory!
The Royals had 14 hits as a team. They were +9 in the hits category and it was still a nail-biter! They definitely should have had more than four runs. But when your pitching is as good as it was today, it doesn’t really matter.
Other notes: Whit Merrifield had a great series, looking like the Whit Merrifield of 2018. Nick Pratto is doing some good things. Oh, and Bobby Witt Jr. left the game in the third inning after stealing his 20th base of the year. He was removed with precautionary hamstring tightness. Yeesh.
Also, how good was that uniform battle today? Tampa Bay’s navy blues and Kansas City’s baby blues on a sunny summer day? Ah, it was just perfect. These are two teams with elite color schemes and really good, simple uniform designs. It was beautiful.
The record is 38-57. They hadn’t won a home series with Tampa in five years.
Up next: the fighting Shohei Ohtanis come to town tomorrow night for three games. Zack Greinke and Noah Syndergaard will do battle tomorrow night at 7:10. The projected first-pitch temperature is 75 degrees, which is roughly half of what it was today.