After the first inning of Sunday’s matinee, it felt like Wade Davis was going to have a rough day against his former team.
In his first game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Davis threw 35 pitches in the first inning, giving up two runs but stranding the bases loaded. Matt Joyce led off with a single, then moved to second after Ben Zobrist grounded out to Eric Hosmer. The ball bounced off his glove as he tried to come up too soon to try for a double play, but the Royals were fortunate that it went right to Davis who was headed to the base. He made the putout on the bag, but since they didn’t get the lead runner at least, Joyce scored on Luke Scott‘s double. Evan Longoria walked before James Loney lined out to Alex Gordon. The inning could have ended there if they’d turned the double play, but instead, it continued.
Desmond Jennings got a ball past Mike Moustakas and Scott scored, then Kelly Johnson walked to load the bases. Finally, Davis got Jose Molina on a fly out to right field to end the inning. He threw 17 extra pitches due to the missed double play opportunity (though, to be fair, you can’t assume a team will turn two – though it looked like they had a good chance if Hosmer had fielded the ball cleanly).
Davis settled in after, though, giving up only two hits the rest of the day. He finished his day by retiring the last nine batters he faced.
While he was holding Tampa in check, the Royals kept chipping in runs. They scored in the first after Eric Hosmer reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to second on a groundout, then went to third on a passed ball and Billy Butler followed with a base hit to bring him in. They got another run on a homer to left by Jeff Francoeur, who got just enough of the ball and cleared the top of the fence by about a foot.
In the top of the sixth, they opened up with two outs, but Elliot Johnson continued his dominance over his old team with a double that just missed going over the fence. He’d already hit a three run homer off of them in the first game of the series and got seven hits over the whole series. After his double, the Rays intentionally walked Francoeur to get to Alcides Escobar, who shot a ball into left field. Luke Scott had to move to get to it and the throw was cut off as Johnson scored. Alex Gordon then lined a fastball into right field and Francoeur scored, avoiding a tag at the plate.
They added their fifth and final run after an Escobar double, a wild pitch and a high fly from Gordon. The insurance made the bottom of the ninth much more comfortable after Greg Holland came in and gave up a homer to Jose Lobaton and walked Matt Joyce a batter later. He got Ben Zobrist swinging to end the game though.
This was an encouraging series. The Royals head to Cleveland a game under .500, but after taking five of seven against the Tigers and Rays. Eric Hosmer is hitting the ball hard and even better, he’s mostly been hitting line drives instead of grounders. Billy Butler is starting to get back on track and he’s gotten two hits in three of his last four games. Escobar got a hit in each game of the series, including two doubles and a triple.
The Royals scored 25 runs in the four game series and, not surprisingly, won each game in which they scored more than three runs. They held Tampa to 11 runs. That’ll get you a lot of success.