You know what they say.
If you have Freddy Fermin, you’re never out of it.
Well, I don’t know how many people actually say that, but it was true today. After over a month since their last series win, the Royals looked poised to finally get one, up 3-1 late. But after another blown save from Aroldis Chapman, Kansas City needed some late-game heroics. They got it in the form of a safety squeeze of the bat of a backup catcher that doubled for an exciting walk-off hit single, beating the White Sox 4-3 on a rain-soaked day at Kauffman Stadium.
Kansas City improved to 12-27 while the White Sox drop to 13-26. That’s right. The Royals are just a game out of 4th place in the AL Central.
Michael Massey started off the scoring with his 2nd homer in as many days, giving the Royals a quick 1-0 lead.
The red-hot Massey had already seen his wRC+ jump from -48 (!!) on April 23 to 51 entering this afternoon’s matchup. For context, his OPS was .246 going into that April 23 game, the first of three consecutive two-hit games, and now sits at .588. So no, 51 isn’t great, but his 147 wRC+ across his last 14 games is.
The White Sox got the run right back the next half inning on an Andrew Vaughn single, but a Maikel Garcia two-RBI double in the 4th put Kansas City back up 3-1.
All the while, Royals starter Brady Singer had a mostly quiet afternoon. Despite logging just a single 1-2-3 inning, Singer worked through his six innings on an efficient 80 pitches, giving up just the one run on five hits. He struck out four.
On the other side, Chicago starter Mike Clevinger similarly made few mistakes, allowing just five base runners in six innings of work, but the Royals made him pay for them. He left after six innings as well, but with three runs to his credit.
After a clean 7th from Carlos Hernandez, the Royals turned to a struggling Aroldis Chapman. After beginning the season with eight consecutive scoreless outings and striking out over 53% of the hitters he faced, Chapman entered this outing having given up four earned runs in his last 4.2 innings, including a blown save last Thursday that featured three walks in just 0.1 innings.
And he continued to struggle. Chapman retired the first two White Sox before Andrew Vaughn and Carlos Perez responded with back-to-back singles. Luis Robert Jr then tied the game on a two-RBI double down the left field line that was unsuccessfully challenged as a foul ball by Kansas City.
In his last seven outings, Chapman has posted a 9.53 ERA and two blown saves after today’s performance. A clean inning from Scott Barlow gave the Royals a chance to win it in the 9th. Surely Barlow was extra motivated knowing that Fermin and his 1.000+ OPS were due up the next inning.
Nick Pratto got things started with a walk and moved to third on Matt Duffy’s 1-2 single into right field, hitting in place of Massey. It’s a bit ironic actually.
Not only was this Thursday series-deciding game similar to last Thursday’s thanks to Chapman’s blown save, but it also featured a hot hitter being replaced in the lineup for a defensive replacement the same inning as said blown save and that defensive replacement’s spot in the lineup coming up at a crucial moment.
Last week, it was Dozier replacing Vinnie and striking out to end the game. This week, it was Duffy batting in place of Massey, but he got the job done this time. And set the table for our hero.
With the infield back, Fermin got the bunt sign, as he confirmed in the post-game interview, and laid down a perfect bunt to win it. A risky decision, but one that paid off.
The Royals have won four of their last five and now head to Milwaukee to face a reeling Brewers team that are losers in 8 of their last 10 games.
Up Next: Royals at Brewers, Friday, May 12, 7:10 PM CDT, American Family Field. TBD v. RHP Corbin Burnes (3-2, 3.86 ERA)