Kila Wins With Walkoff Whack

The story is going to be about the walkoff homer by Kila Ka’aihue, and that’s fine.  With the Royals tied going into the ninth inning, Ka’aihue stepped in against reliever Michael Kohn and drilled a pitch over the wall for a 2-1 Royals win.

What will go overshadowed is a fantastic debut by Jeff Francis.

After the first two innings, Francis settled down, brushing off a Howie Kendrick homer to center in the first inning to go seven strong innings, walking none and wearing out the infield grass with grounder after grounder.

Robinson Tejeda and Joakim Soria added two scoreless while Soria got the win after Kila’s late-inning heroics.

It’s a fortunate win, though. It could have gone way worse, as the Royals twice wasted leadoff doubles and runners on third with less than two outs, failing to score both times.  Their first run was the result of back to back singles by Billy Butler and Ka’aihue, who both advanced on a wild pitch by Dan Haren.  A Jeff Francoeur groundout later, and the Royals were on the board.

In the fifth inning, Brayan Pena led off with a double to the left field gap and moved to third on a Chris Getz sacrifice.  Mike Aviles, who’d tripled earlier after homering yesterday, popped out to short right field and Melky Cabrera flew out to end the inning. In the sixth, Alex Gordon led off with a double and moved to third on a Butler ground out.  Ka’aihue had a chance to play hero here but struck out and Jeff Francoeur drilled what could have been a homer, but Vernon Wells made a great catch, slamming into the left field fence.

The Royals bats were still pretty quiet, though they were getting runners on.  That will probably be a trend with a team this inexperienced, but they still have to find a way to get runners in when they have a chance.  The same problem plagued the team last season.

Fortunately, Ka’aihue didn’t let a solid pitching effort go to waste.

Francis was shaky to start, but also got squeezed on a couple of calls early.  He was nibbling the corners but missing.  As the game went on, he settled in and his curve and changeup were both working well.  He struck out four and walked just one, Torii Hunter in the first.  Of the 21 outs he recorded, 13 were on the ground with only four in the air (all to Francoeur).

The Royals defense was still a problem, as they committed two errors, first a flub by Aviles at third on a routine play that he never got down on, and then with a throwing error by Pena who tried to throw out Erick Aybar in the fifth.  The Royals did turn two double plays, and Alcides Escobar already looks like a pleasant change from Yuniesky Betancourt.  He looked solid on the field most of the night (there was a play where he didn’t quite get the grip and wasn’t able to turn a double play).

The win evens the Royals record at 1-1.  For facing Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, that’s not too bad.  The Royals send Kyle Davies for his first start while Ervin Santana and his Royal-killing slider starts for the Angels.

Remember, also, that tomorrow is the Futures Game featuring the Omaha Storm Chasers against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.  Mike Montgomery faces John Lamb in the 12 inning exhibition.  It might be the most exciting game in Kauffman Stadium all season, so if you haven’t gotten tickets yet, you might give it a shot.

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Tags: AL Central Alex Gordon Baseball Jeff Francis Kansas City Royals KC Kila Kaaihue Mike Aviles MLB Royals

  • kane

    is there a way to maybe get the bloggers to get behind kila and the 2011 royals. this whole site lately seems to be about what happens next for the royals instead of “hey we’re 3-1!” ive been an avid reader but the tone lately is bothering me. KILA has worked his tail off to get his shot and he hits a walk off home run to the applause of… one here at least. maybe we’ll lose 100 games but as of right now we’re one of the better teams in baseball so please let us enjoy it and our home grown guys doing well

    • Michael Engel

      Well, I can’t force other bloggers to support one guy over another, but I see your point. I’d say I’m among the more optimistic people regarding Kila and his potential. I’ve said, to others’ skepticism, that he can hit 30 homers. Not down the line – THIS YEAR. He has awesome power and great plate patience, both good things for that goal.

      He’s definitely paid his dues and deserves the opportunity he has now.

      The last couple games have been exciting, no doubt. Seeing Aaron Crow and Tim Collins debut and succeed was a highlight of the weekend and the team showed great resiliency. For right now, it’s a fun ride for sure but in the long view, how long will it keep up? I think it’ll be an interesting year regardless since we should see Moose, Montgomery, possibly Hosmer and Duffy and have all the other younger minor leaguers getting a step closer to the big leagues while other players on the team now figure out how to be major leaguers.

      A few come from behind wins and a 3-1 start is a good way to get that going.

      I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but in terms of writing a recap or article on here, I have to keep the long term picture in mind and consider what might be coming along.

      I’d invite you to follow any of us on Twitter – during games I’m always around to comment while I watch and I go from manic to depressed depending on what’s going on but when things like Kila’s bomb happen, it’s a lot of fun on there. Also between innings, I predicted it was going to happen. It was pretty fun – a friend of mine made fun of me for celebrating in the kitchen afterwards…