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Bullpen collapses, Royals lose 7-6

There are positives to take from this game but the disappointment is still real.

MJ Melendez watches a baseball he hit go for a home run. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

This game started out so well too.

Whit Merrifield struck out swinging on what would have been ball four but the next four Royals all reached base and before Jonathan Heasley ever took the mound, Hunter Dozier’s two-RBI single had given him a lead to work with. In the second inning, the Royals scored another pair of runs, this time on an Andrew Benintendi single. Finally, in the third inning MJ Melendez smashed a home run into the right field, upper deck seats to give the Royals a 5-0 lead.

Meanwhile, on the pitching side, things were going even better. Heasley had trouble locating all day. He regularly missed to his arm side, especially with the fastball and slider, but for the first 10 batters it didn’t matter, they all went back to the Astros dugout without reaching base. At the end of the day, Heasley’s line included only a single earned run in six innings. He did give up an unearned run, only struck out three, and walked two. But when you’re lacking control to the degree he was, today, holding the Astros to three hits and keeping them inside the ballpark is a huge win and there can be very little to complain about.

Astros starter Jake Odorizzi managed to escape the fourth without giving up any more runs and then their bullpen took over and started strangling the Royal bats. For Royals fans who still so fondly remember 2014 and 2015, a battle of bullpens usually sounds like a good time. Unfortunately, today’s game was played in 2022 and the Royals’ bullpen could not match up to their opponents’.

By the time Heasley left the game, the Royals were still up 5-2 and the bullpen just needed to hang on for the win. First up was recent acquisition Wyatt Mills; he provided an inning with only one run allowed and Royals fans began clinching hard but a two-run lead with two innings left still seemed reasonably safe. Then MJ Melendez came up in the top of the eighth and tanked another upper-deck bomb, hugging the right field line, to give the Royals back their three-run lead.

Surely the bullpen could hold on now?

Mills was tasked with getting Jeremy Pena Jr. out to lead off the eighth but walked him. Manager Mike Matheny decided to ask a veteran to get things done and called upon lefty Amir Garret. Garret promptly walked the bases loaded and then gave up a two-RBI single to Kyle Tucker. Back to the bullpen went Matheny, out came Taylor Clarke. Clarke managed to escape the inning but first gave up another single so as to go into the ninth inning tied.

The Royals failed to score in the ninth and Scott Barlow, bucking the tradition of reserving your closer for a lead in an away game, was called upon to send it into extra innings. He got the first two outs but when faced with three-hole hitter Yordan Alvarez - who terrorized the Royals with seven hits, most of which went for extra bases, in the last matchup of these two teams - got a hold of a 3-1 pitch and deposited it beyond the wall in right to end the game. Believe it or not, that was allegedly Alvarez’s first-ever walk-off homer.


  • I know I said it’s hard to fault Heasley for a game with the results he had, but he’s not likely to achieve those results very frequently in the future if he can’t develop better control over his pitches. He also only got six swings and misses all day.
  • Melendez’s bombs came in at 107 and 108.4 MPH, respectively. The kid has some serious power.
  • Vinnie Pasquantino had an RBI-single and another walk, which means he’s reached base multiple times in four of his six games since being promoted to the big leagues. That means he has an .870 OPS despite a .176 batting average. He’s also walked in a quarter of his plate appearances and struck out only twice. If he’s not the next coming of Ryan O’Hearn he might be the next Mel Ott.
  • Per the broadcast, the Royals have now walked more batters than any other team in baseball. But keep telling us how the Royals are very good at accountability while Cal Eldred makes another fruitless mound visit, President Moore.

The Royals will have a chance to even the series tomorrow evening. Zack Greinke will be pitching for one former team against another former team. The Astros will counter with 25-year-old right-hander Luis Garcia. He limits walks and strikes out plenty but he can also be got for a home run, this season. The game starts at 7:10 PM CDT.