These two things we know very well. One, that the Tampa Bay Rays are the best team in baseball and the Kansas City Royals are just about the worst team in baseball. Two, that the Royals simply do not win games when they get down early. But tonight showed why baseball is a wonderful sport, as it was the Royals who defeated the Rays 6-5, fighting back from behind not once but twice.
Jose Cuas, operating as the opener, immediately gave up a pair of runs in the first inning, something that has traditionally doomed the Royals. It wasn’t pretty—Cuas hit Luke Raley, and Salvador Perez couldn’t handle MJ Melendez’s home to home plate, resulting in an error. Randy Arozarena and Isaac Paredes ended up with the two RsBI.
Later in the game, Taylor Clarke, who has been on whatever you want to call the polar opposite of a “hot streak” is, gave up three runs. Jose Mejia kicked off the bottom of the seventh with a home run, and four more Rays would get hits in the frame.
But outside those two innings, it was a truly great game for the Royals—in no small part because of young players the Royals have under team control for years. Drew Waters made an argument for player of the game, what with his first home run of the year to give the Royals a lead in the top of the seventh...
...to a nifty defensive play in the second inning at the wall. Waters ended the day with another hit, as well, an eighth inning single that tied the game at 5-5.
Do you prefer your main character to be a pitcher? Austin Cox did a phenomenal job as the “bulk pitcher” for the opener. Cox threw 3.2 innings and struck out four Rays, and he only allowed the first hit of the year tonight. For those who have been reading about Royals prospects for a while, it’s nice to see him finally get some nice run here in the big leagues.
Perhaps you are an MJ Melendez stan. Melendez had a nice game today, and was on base four times. Melendez scored in the eighth inning and hit the go-ahead single in the ninth inning, which finally gave the Royals the 6-5 lead. He was assisted by Yandy Diaz, who flipped the ball to pitcher Pete Fairbanks rather than going back to the bag himself.
What about Maikel Garcia? On a night in which Bobby Witt Jr. was incredibly quiet, Garcia turned in a solid performance. It was Garcia who walked in the ninth inning and stole second and third base to be in position to score on Melendez’s “single,” his second and third stolen bases on the evening. Garcia singled to lead off the game in the first and hit another RBI single in the third inning.
After being down 2-0 after the first inning and then 5-3 after the seventh inning, the Royals roared back. Aroldis Chapman and Scott Barlow were sharp in the eighth and ninth innings, and the Royals handed the Rays’ second loss this year when the Rays were leading after seven innings.
The Royals still have a long way to go, and the deck is stacked against them. But what fun is it to be grumpy about the team always? On nights like tonight, it’s fun to watch the Royals and fun to dream about who Garcia, Waters, and Melendez might become.