After two straight poorly played losses in Beantown, the determined Kansas City Royals (74-48) were in no mood to mess around Saturday night. Anxious to halt the losing streak at two and ruin the evening of every Red Sox (56-67) fan on the planet — and they are legion (just ask KofK’s own David Hill) — the Royals kicked things off (go Chiefs) with one of their patented two-out rallies in the first inning.
Lorenzo Cain singled on Sox pitcher Matt Barnes‘ first off-speed offering of the contest. Eric Hosmer singled. And Kendrys Morales drove them both in with a double off the big green monster in left; a ball that was badly misplayed by Boston’s dreadful left-fielder Hanley Ramirez.
Royals hitters blew the game open in the sixth, when a Morales walk, a Moose single, and a Sal Perez three-run jack (his 18th of the season) to right made the score 5-0, and sent Barnes to the Fenway Park clubhouse showers.
KC would tack on one more insurance run in the eighth when Alex Rios drove in Moose, who’d reached on a walk.
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Meanwhile, Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura (8-7 / 4.64 ERA) was tossing a gem. Boston hitters were only able to scratch across a single run off the dominating Dominican, bringing shame to their families and dishonor to all of New England (Royals fans excepted, David). Ventura, who struck out six through six innings, was in command of the game. Very promising for the future.
Royals relief pitchers finished off the Bostonians over the final three frames, but not without a little drama. Ryan Madson gave up a harmless solo shot in the seventh. Wade Davis gave up nothing in the eighth. Then Kelvin Herrera got two outs but also was wild and put two guys on via hit a batsman and a walk, which prompted skipper Ned Yost to turn to Greg Holland to record the final out.
He did so for his 28th save – after allowing a run-scoring single. The game ended when Holland induced a weak infield pop-up for the final out, mercilessly smashing the comeback hopes and dreams of the Fenway faithful as Royals fans everywhere rejoiced: good times never felt so good – indeed.
The Royals are leading their division by 12.5 games and it’s almost September, which naturally makes one start to look ahead.
For example, if Kris Medlen pitches well in his new starter’s role, it’s hard to see how Jeremy Guthrie makes it to the post-season roster. Especially if one or more of the September call-ups bursts on the scene ala 2014 Brandon Finnegan. A young pitcher with dominating stuff (Kyle Zimmer, Miguel Almonte, or ?) who has the added advantage of having never been seen by opposing hitters is more likely to pay dividends than a 36 year-old with a fading and familiar repertoire.
The same is true for Alex Rios. A platoon of Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando in right, with world-class speedster Terrance Gore as a fifth outfielder, and with Ben Zobrist at second and Omar Infante as an end-of-the-bench utility back-up is the roster that provides the best chance of winning. Like Guthrie, Rios provides less real value in a playoff run than readily available alternatives who are faster and play better defense, and are certainly no worse than Rios at the plate.