After a brief three game homestand that saw the Royals beat Houston two games to one, the Royals traveled to Atlanta to take on the NL East leading Braves. Last night, Kansas City sent Brian Bannister against veteran Derek Lowe. Tonight, the Royals put Zack Greinke up against Kris Medlen.
And here is how it all went down.
Brian Bannister gave up five runs in four innings before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the fifth inning. Bannister had another rough outing, starting in the second when a series of singles and two wild pitches put the Braves up 2-0. The Braves got three more runs in the bottom of the fourth, stringing together four hits and a walk. At the end of the night, Bannister had given up seven hits and three walks on top of the wild pitches.
After the game, he described his approach as “gun shy”. Remember, in his last start, Bannister was chased after only three innings against Cincinnati after giving up eleven runs, nine of them earned. This is something to watch, because Bannister doesn’t have the stuff to consistently get batters out. For him, it’s about approach, preparation and confidence. He’ll need to shake off the poor starts, because his next one is slated to go against Stephen Strasburg and the Royals aren’t exactly the type of team that would strike fear in the heart of the phenom.
The Royals didn’t give up, though, adding runs in the seventh and eighth innings. It was too little too late, though, and the Royals were shut down by Billy Wagner in the ninth, who preserved the 6-4 lead.
Zack Greinke looked to follow up on his complete game, 12 strikeout performance last week, but struggled early, allowing two runs in the bottom of the first. One of the runs was unearned, as a Yuniesky Betancourt throw pulled Billy Butler off the bag which would have been the third out. Brian McCann hit a homer in the fourth on a hanging slider that looked like it came out of Greinke’s hand incorrectly and stayed over the plate.
The Royals didn’t get much going on offense right away against Kris Medlen but they broke through in the fifth inning, scoring two runs without a single hit. Such a feat is what you’d expect the Royals to end up doing, but instead they were the benefactors of some mistakes on Atlanta. Mike Aviles walked and Betancourt grounded to Yunel Escobar, but he didn’t get his glove down all the way and it trickled into left field, allowing Aviles to go to third. Zack Greinke came up and bunted on the first pitch. Medlen fielded the bunt and fired to home plate as Aviles ran down the line rather than take the sure out at first. Medlen threw too soon, as Aviles was able to stop and reverse back to third, just beating the throw from Brian McCann. After that, Scott Podsednik drove in a run on a sacrifice fly and Jason Kendall‘s chopper to third was slow enough that the only play available was at second base and Betancourt scored.
The rally ended when Kendall was caught stealing second.
The Braves were up 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth when they got an insurance run on a strange force out to second. Jason Heyward and Chipper Jones opened up the inning with consecutive singles and McCann struck out, so with one out, Troy Glaus hit a fast grounder to Betancourt’s right. Betancourt, through some magical means, got to the ball and threw Jones out at second, but Aviles got tangled up with him and fell backwards to the ground. He righted himself, stood and fired to the plate to try to catch a heads up move by Heyward. Greinke apparently didn’t see Heyward break home and cut the ball off. It may have been a close play, but I don’t think the throw would have gotten the runner out. But there’s no way to know.
In the top of the seventh, the Royals made some noise again, putting Mike Aviles on third and Yuniesky Betancourt on second after a single and double respectively. Zack Greinke was allowed to hit (a curious move with Mitch Maier and Wilson Betemit available to pinch hit). Greinke grounded out to third, but the combo of Podsednik and Kendall managed to get both runners home with a ground out and an RBI single to tie the score. Greinke worked a perfect seventh inning, so leaving him in worked.
The Royals threatened again when Jose Guillen singled, extending his hitting streak to 14 games, and two groundouts moved him to third. Betancourt struck out, stranding the runner, however, as Greinke stood in the on-deck circle.
Blake Wood, surprisingly, came in to work the eighth (Greinke was at 101 pitches and could have gotten one more in, but Yost must have had it in mind to leave him in if the Royals got the lead…I guess…it’s not clear). Wood gave up a ground rule double to Martin Prado, but stranded him on base, inducing a ground out from Heyward, striking out Chipper Jones and getting a popout from McCann.
Wagner again came in and with one out, gave up an infield single to Podsednik after brushing him back, but Jason Kendall killed the opportunity again, grounding into a double play to end the inning. Robinson Tejeda came in to face Troy Glause leading off the ninth and gave up a walk-off homer to take the loss.
The Royals had some opportunities but didn’t take advantage of them. Then again, they got some free outs in the fourth and did take advantage of them. Still, Billy Butler was 0-3 with runners in scoring position. David DeJesus, incidentally, went 3-4, hitting two doubles with nobody on. Maybe it’s time to move Kendall out of the #2 spot in the lineup so DeJesus can have someone on base in front of him.
The two losses put Kansas City at 29-40 as they try to salvage a game before traveling to Washington to face the Nationals. The Royals will send Kyle Davies (4-5, 6.01, 1.55 WHIP) against Kenshin Kawakami (0-9, 4.42, 1.42 WHIP).
Topics: AL Central, Baseball, Billy Butler, Billy Wagner, Blake Wood, Brian Bannister, David DeJesus, Derek Lowe, Jason Heyward, Jason Kendall, Jose Guillen, Kansas City Royals, KC, Kris Medlen, Mike Aviles, MLB, Royals, Scott Podsednik, Troy Glaus, Yuniesky Betancourt, Zack Greinke