If you didn’t watch this game, it’s hard to describe. Of course, that’s what you pay me for. But first, a visual aid.
For the vast majority of this game the Royals were considered unlikely to win. The Angels hit a pair of home runs in the bottom of the second off of starter Mike Mayers and the Royals never led until the final at-bat. Prior to actually pulling off the victory, their best odds of winning were 66.7%. On the other hand, at one point FanGraphs had their chances of winning as low as 1.4% at another part of the game.
This was not a well-pitched game by either team. The Royals used five pitchers and all of them gave up at least as many runs as innings pitched except for Scott Barlow. Mayers went so far as to allow six runs off of three homers in his five innings. For a while, that seemed like it would be enough to guarantee the Royals’ eleventh loss in a row.
Griffin Canning mostly held the Royals in check for six innings. He did allow what was then a game-tying two-run home run to MJ Melendez in the bottom of the fourth, but Mayers immediately gave those runs back in the top of the fifth inning and then Jackson Kowar and Taylor Clarke helped extend the lead further.
Things started to get weird as soon as Canning left the game in the bottom of the seventh, There’s an old saying that if you use enough relievers you’ll eventually find one who just doesn’t have it on a given day. The Angels used four different relievers and none of them had it.
Rookie Kolton Ingram was the first out of the bullpen for the Angels, making his major league debut. He got Maikel Garcia to fly out for his first career out, but couldn’t get anyone else out. Nicky Lopez singled, Samad Taylor walked, and Drew Waters doubled to drive Lopez home. Taylor didn’t score, which would be a pattern with him.
Nick Pratto walked and Bobby Witt Jr. welcomed new reliever Jacob Webb by smacking a two-RBI double to bring the game within three - the first Royals’ hit with a runner in scoring position since Wednesday. Unfortunately, Salvador Perez sandwiched a strikeout with an Edward Olivares ground out around a Melendez walk to end the scoring threat and it seemed as if the Royals would fall well short of the mark after batting nine in the inning.
Then, in the bottom of the eighth, something even weirder happened: the Royals scored more runs.
Jose Soriano took the mound for the Angels and Garcia again led off with a flyout. However, Lopez and Taylor both reached - this time both by walk - to start another rally. Waters was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Pratto walloped one off the wall in right field. You’d expect that to score two or maybe three runs, but Taylor went back to second to tag up and was unable to score on the play which kept the bases loaded as Waters and Pratto were both forced to retreat.
As a Royals fan you were probably expecting Witt and Salvy to strike out and the Royals to pay for their ineffective baserunning, but for once, the teammates picked each other up. Witt slapped a two-RBI single into left to tie the game before Perez and Melendez made outs to end the inning.
And then the bad luck struck again, Aroldis Chapman, easily the most effective if also the most abusive reliever in the Royals’ bullpen this season, couldn’t completely shut the Angels’ offense down in the top of the ninth. He walked two and gave up an RBI single around striking out three. The Royals were losing once again.
“Now, surely!” Royals fans could be heard thinking, “This game is over. The offense will meekly concede defeat.” But that didn’t happen either.
Olivares popped one into no-man’s-land in right-center and ended up at first base. Dairon Blanco was called upon to pinch run and successfully stole second before advancing to third on a throwing error by the catcher. Maikel Garcia slapped one past the drawn-in short stop and the game was tied once more. With Nicky Lopez at the plate everyone was prepared for a sacrifice bunt, which allowed Garcia to steal second relatively easily. Then Nicky bunted, moving Garcia to third with only one out.
The Angels brought their outfield and infield both in, determined to cut down the runner at the plate if at all possible. Samad Taylor stepped into the batter’s box having earned two walks, but also having made at least one base-running blunder and looking for his first big league hit.
That might be an out under most circumstances, but these aren’t most circumstances and Samad Taylor got to be the hero. He also collected his first big league hit. He also owes Bobby Witt Jr. a hearty thanks. The young shortstop bolted out of the dugout and into centerfield to make sure that ball was collected to be properly validated and gifted to Samad for his achievement today.
The Royals are now 19-51 on the season. They still own the worst record in either league. They are still well on their way to losing more games than any Royals team has ever lost in a single season. But for one day, at least, there was reason to celebrate in Kauffman Stadium.
The pitching may have been awful today, but the hitters had a great day. Every batter reached at least once, six of them reached multiple times. Witt had 4 RBIs. Melendez, Lopez, and Taylor each walked twice. Samad Taylor now has a career OPS of .933.
The Royals will have a chance to win their fourth series of the season tomorrow. Zack Greinke will take the mound for the boys in blue. My off-season free-agent crush, Tyler Anderson, will pitch for the Angels.