Not even the return of Whit Merrifield, Super Ballplayer was enough for the KC Royals offense on Tuesday night.
Y’all remember when Whit Merrifield languished in Triple-A for two weeks even though nobody in the KC Royals regular lineup save local demigod Lorenzo Cain was producing at anything approaching a big-league level?
Remember when this was a stuptefying position to take?
Well, that won’t be a problem anymore.
Merrifield homered in his second plate appearance of the season, taking Matt Cain on a rawhide joyride, and was the only spark of offense on a lifeless evening that you can’t even begin to blame on the bullpen, don’t you dare, I will hit you.
Merrifield finished 2-for-3 with a couple of walks in his return to Kauffman Stadium, but it wasn’t enough in the KC Royals 2-1, 11-inning loss in the series opener against the Giants.
Cain and his opposite number Jason Hammel were sterling—Cain scattered four hits and a run over seven innings, while sprinkled six hits and a run over six before giving way to literally (not literally, but close enough) the entire bullpen. Extra innings early in the season can wreak some real havoc on a ‘pen.
An otherwise pedestrian game was livened up considerably by a couple of truly stellar defensive plays. Alex Gordon made a nice diving stab in the sixth off of a Chris Marrero line drive, making everyone remember that hey, Lorenzo Cain is not the only sold glove-hand in the outfield.
Later in the sixth, after the Giants had pushed across the tying run on a Hunter Pence single, the Royals came up with another defensive gem… kinda? After a chopper up the middle kicked off Raul Mondesi Jr.’s glove, the Giants elected to send Brandon Belt to the plate anyway and Mondesi was bailed out of a slightly off-target throw by the cat-like reflexes of Salvador Perez, who…
Managed to catch Mondesi’s errant throw by the tiniest fractions of his glove
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Held the ball through a quick transition to the plate
Maintained a tag on Belt, who did him a solid by essentially kicking the ball deeper into Salvy’s glove.
Salvador Perez deserves a Gold Glove for that play alone, really.
The bullpen, which has taken its fair share of blame this season, was solid as a whole on the night. After Hammel’s exit, Peter Moylan and Travis Wood combined to extricate the Royals from a one-out, runners-on-the-corners situation, then Joakim Soria, Kelvin Herrera and Scott Alexander tossed three innings of scoreless ball to get us deep into extras.
The problem, of course, is that you already knew there was a problem, and that was at the plate. The KC Royals put a man in scoring position each inning from the eighth on.
Let’s see what transpired, shall we?
Bottom Eighth: After Merrifield and Gordon reach and Cain singles to load the bases, The $200 Million Man Eric Hosmer grounds out to end the inning.
Bottom Ninth: Brandon Moss singles. Merrifield walks. RMJ strikes out to end the threat.
Bottom 10th: Mike Moustakas and Cain deliver back-to-back singles, but Hosmer grounds into the most predictable double-play in the history of baseball.
Bottom 11th: Perez singles, Merrifield singles. RMJ strikes out to end the game.
I could question the merits of being ride-or-die with Scott Alexander all night, but the bottom line is that the putrid offensive showing lost that game; Alexander was just an innocent bystander.
This brief series closes out tomorrow night at the K, with probable superhero Madison Bumgarner making his return to Kauffman Stadium against the (possible?) superhero-in-training Jason Vargas. Should be a real festival. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. (CT).