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Repeated Royal rallies refuse to result in runs; KC loses 5-4

Cole Ragans could have used some help this time.

Cole Ragans #55 of the Kansas City Royals pitches in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium on August 12, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Cole Ragans #55 of the Kansas City Royals pitches in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium on August 12, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

In our hearts, I think we all knew Cole Ragans couldn’t pitch nearly perfectly forever. But, if you were like me, you probably hoped he could at least do it one more time. It was a mixed outing for Ragans, in the end; yes, he allowed four earned runs on four walks in five innings, but it really could have been a lot worse if he hadn’t successfully limited the damage multiple times. If this is the “worst-case scenario” for him, he’s going to be something special. Of course, it remains to be seen if it’s that or if this is more like his norm than the first three starts.

In the end, he battled tough and still struck out five. Obviously, the walks are a problem if he keeps giving up that many, but his first three starts he showed excellent control so there’s reason to believe this was just an off night. I know people won’t want to hear it, but seeing a guy battle tough instead of just giving in when he didn’t have everything going his way was nice to see.

The Royals' offense succumbed to terrible luck, once again, in addition to simply not being good enough. Matt Duffy and Freddy Fermin each lost hits to terrific defensive plays by Cardinals defenders. Still, the Royals had rallies going a couple of times and couldn’t get runs home.

Nelson Velasquez got a second straight start and was shoved into the leadoff spot with Maikel Garcia out due to an injury. In his second at-bat, he made that move look very smart.

The Royals got a third run in the bottom of the eighth when Matt Duffy doubled down the left field line in front of a Kyle Isbel single into right to lead off the inning. As an example of the Royals not getting the job done, Velazquez flew out into right before Bobby Witt Jr. hit another single, sending Isbel to third. Michael Massey and Salvador Perez made outs to get the Cardinals out of the jam.

The ninth inning featured a little bit of both problems. Freddy Fermin led off with a bloop single to left, but was erased on a groundball from Edward Olivares. It was into deep short, almost a single, but Edman got a glove on it and just managed to record the out at second. Then, following an MJ Melendez single to right which put runners at first and third, Duffy hit a squibber down the line that 10-time Gold Glove recipient Nolan Arenado couldn’t field cleanly. Olivares scored, Melendez went to second and the Royals had the tying run in scoring position with only one out.

Up came Kyle Isbel to the plate. He hit a groundball down the third base line. A lot of times that’s an RBI double, maybe even a game-winner. It wasn’t hit weakly, either, with a 98.1 MPH exit velocity. Unfortunately, Arenado was able to get to that one. The ball naturally drew him to third base, he stepped on the bag and fired to first to get the game ending double-play.

For the Cardinals’ side of things, Tommy Edman did most of the heavy lifting. He hit two home runs, including one with a runner on. They also scored on an Arenado double and a Willson Contreras single.

Nelson Velazquez had the two hardest-hit balls of the night for either team, the first-inning lineout topped the meter at 108.1 MPH, and the home run traveled 441 feet after exiting at 107.1 MPH. MJ Melendez flew out during his pinch-hit appearance to the wall in right field; according to Baseball Savant, that would have been a home run in 20 out of 30 major league parks. The Royals had three different balls estimated at 67% likelihood of dropping for a hit or better that ended up as outs instead.

The Royals split the series with the Cardinals. Due to a quirk with the new scheduling system used by MLB this season, the Royals have a scheduled off-day tomorrow. Perhaps you can watch some pre-season football instead. KC will host the Mariners starting Monday night for a four-game series. This is absolutely the wrong time for the boys in blue to rejoin the Battle for Grass Creek as they have lost six of their last nine and the Mariners have won eight straight as of this writing and could be at ten before game time Monday.