Michael A. Taylor smacked a Sam Hentges pitch to the right side for a single to score pinch-runner Edward Olivares for a 4-3 walk-off win over Cleveland in the series-opener on Friday. But it was rookie Vinnie Pasquantino that set up the dramatics with a lead off double that nearly went over the fence for a walk-off dinger.
The Guardians got on the board in the second inning, with Brady Singer plunking Andres Giménez. In his first Major League plate appearances, Nolan Jones doubled him home to make it 1-0 Cleveland. The Royals answered in the third inning when the red-hot Andrew Benintendi singled home Taylor to tie it up 1-1.
Singer cruised through the first six innings, allowing just three hits and facing just two over the minimum. But he ran into some trouble in the seventh when he faced the top of the Guardians lineup for the third time.
Jose Ramírez led off with a fly ball that Kyle Isbel appeared to make a terrific diving catch on, but instead it was ruled a double, and the Royals did not decide to challenge the play.
We will hear from Royals on the no-challenge after the game, but here is a freeze-frame from replay. Because it was called a double on the field, it might've been difficult to get an overturn with a snapshot like this. pic.twitter.com/svy0sQvzjv— Jesse Newell (@jessenewell) July 9, 2022
Slugger Franmil Reyes would make that decision pay with a two-run home run, his eighth of the year. Singer would make it through the inning allowing just three runs over seven innings with five strikeouts, and it was the fifth time this year a Royals starter had gone that deep in a game with no walks.
The Guardians would threaten in the eighth off reliever Joel Payamps. Myles Straw led off with a single, then was sacrificed to second. Ahmed Rosario reached on an infield single to bring up the dangerous Ramírez. But the All-Star popped up, and Payamps got Reyes to swing and miss for a strikeout to end the threat.
Emmanuel Rivera led off the bottom of the inning with a single off reliever Eli Morgan before Whit Merrifield blasted a pitch 413 feet for his fifth home run of the season.
The Royals had a chance to take the lead when Bobby Witt Jr. hit a routine ground ball to short. The throw from Ahmed Rosario was a bit off but first baseman Owen Miller couldn’t handle it, and it got by him to allow Witt to reach second. But Morgan retired the next two hitters to end the threat.
The Guardians had their own threat in the ninth when Scott Barlow hit Giménez, then walked Oscar Mercado. Josh Naylor loaded the bases with a single, but Barlow was able to wriggle out of the jam without a run scoring.
But in the bottom of the inning, Vinnie Pasquantino led off against lefty Sam Hentges and hit an absolute frozen rope off the top of the right field wall, about two feet away from being a walk-off home run. Olivares would pinch-run for him, and after Kyle Isbel struck out unsuccessfully attempting to bunt him over, Taylor singled for the game-winner.
The Royals improve to 31-51 and take on Cleveland again tomorrow afternoon at 3:10 CT with Jonathan Heasley scheduled to go against Triston McKenzie.