Tonight was a very exciting night for Royals fans. Mark May6th 2011 down in your calendar as the date we saw our much-heralded Eric Hosmer in his major league debut. What lay behind the overwhelming excitement of the Hosmer call-up was the chance to see one of the MLB’s hotter offenses face a pretty good pitching staff and discover who could come out on top. The Royals sent Sean O’Sullivan to the hill to face Gio Gonzalez for the A’s.
O’Sullivan ran into some trouble in the first as he walked Coco Crisp and gave up a walk to David DeJesus. After Sean managed to get Conor Jackson to fly out, Hosmer was faced with his first defensive test. Hideki Matsui hit a sharp grounder right to Hosmer who calmly fielded the ball on a knee and threw to second before recieving a return throw for a bang-bang 3-6-3 double play. I wanted Hos to get involved early, but I was thinking more along the lines of a nice soft grounder to second or the pitcher maybe, where he could recieve an easy throw and kind of get into the flow. He didn’t look fazed by Matsui’s grounder though and made a slick-looking MLB play on it and got the fans at Kauffman excited early.
Alex Gordon then hit a bomb in the bottom of the 1st to give the Royals a 1-0 lead. Sullivan got 3 groundouts to end the top of the first. And finally, the moment had arrived. After a Franceour groundout, Eric Hosmer stepped to the plate. He didn’t hit a home run, but he did run the count to full before taking a walk. It definitely could have been worse. Betemit promptly hit into a double play to end the inning.
O’Sullivan got another 1-2-3 inning in the top of the third and the Royals came to the plate ready to score some runs. After a Treanor walk, Mike Aviles tripled to score him, putting the Royals up 2-0.
In the top of the 4th, Dejesus and Jackson grounded out and Matsui flied out. Suddenly O’Sullivan had retired 10 straight. In the bottom of the 4th, Butler flied out and Franceour flied out and Hosmer stepped to the plate once again. Kauffman held it’s collective breath. AGAIN he ran the count to full and AGAIN he drew a walk. At this point, I assumed he was just going to be on base every time he came up for the rest of the season. Before I had a chance to finish that thought, Hosmer stole second. He didn’t look very pretty doing it seeming a little hesitant immediately after his jump, but he made a nice slide and was in scoring position. Sadly, Betemit struck out to end the inning.
Top of the 5th frame and here is where Sean ran into trouble. He gave up 3 straight singles to Suzuki, Sweeney, and LaRoche. Suzuki scored on LaRoche’s single and the score was 2-1 in favor of the Royals. Then Mark Ellis hit a sharp shot to left field. Alex Gordon didn’t have a terrible jump on the ball, but seemed to take his time moving towards the ball. I don’t know if he thought he had more time to make the catch or what. Regardless, the ball glanced off his glove and the bases were loaded after this 4th straight single. Kevin Kouzmanoff then hit a grounder to Wilson Betemit. He made the throw to Aviles which should have begun a double play. Somehow, Aviles couldn’t get the ball out of his glove to turn the double play and Kouzmanoff was safe at first. Sweeney scored. Coco Crisp then hit a grounder to Aviles. Kouzmanoff was forced at second but Coco legged it out to first and avoided the double play. LaRoche scored and it was 3-2 A’s. Coco Crisp was then thrown out at 2nd on a pretty decent throw by Matt Treanor.
The inning was over and you had to wonder how O’Sullivan would respond to losing the lead. He promptly came out and retired the next nine batters to give the Royals a career-high 8 innings pitched with only 5 hits allowed. Unfortunately, the hits had primarily come together which was why the boys in blue were down 3-2. I’ll take 8 innings and 3 runs from O’Sullivan any night. I’m hoping he can keep his consistency up. Tim Collins came in and pitched a scoreless 9th.
You’d think that the Royals could easily overcome a 3-run deficit with 15 outs left to work with, but the bats fell silent. In the bottom of the 5th, Aviles walked and stole second with two outs but was stranded. In the 6th, Franceour doubled with 2 outs but Hosmer was called out on strikes. Bottom of the 7th, Escobar got on with an infield single with 2 outs but was also stranded. Bottom 8th, Grant Balfour entered the game for the A’s and got 3 straight outs. Bottom of the ninth and in came Brian Fuentes. Hosmer was due up second and I thought it would be a great time for him to get his first major league hit. Franceour flied out and Hosmer worked the count to full for a third time before striking out again. Betemit hit a single with 2 outs. Dyson pinch ran and stole 2nd base before Treanor grounded out to end the game.
The Royals had chances, but just couldn’t deliver when it counted. They only ended up with 4 hits and left 9 men on base. In 4 of the last 5 innings they were able to get baserunners with 2 outs but were never able to capitalize. Hosmer ended the night 0-2 with 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, and a stolen base. He didn’t hit 4 homers like most fans wanted, but I was pleased with his patience at the plate and think that it’s only a matter of time before we see his first major league hit.