For seven innings, there was hope for the KC Royals. But the final two innings were everything we’ve come to expect—and not in a good way.
On the one hand, it’s tough being Ian Kennedy.
With the way things are going for the KC Royals right now, Kennedy knows his margin for error is slim. As good as he’s been early on in 2017—and Jason Vargas and Danny Duffy too—the reason the Royals sit where they sit in the standings, with the fanbase on tenterhooks, is because anything less than a quality start at this point leaves the door wide open for a bullpen blowup or an offensive no-show.
Which, as it turns out, we got to experience in turns Friday night as the visiting Minnesota Twins bounced back from a three-run deficit from a good—albeit short—outing from by Kennedy.
And that’s the crux of the current issue—Kennedy needed 100 pitches to go 5.1 innings, which featured six strikeouts, two hits and two earned runs. And those are fine numbers. But when that leaves 11 more outs for a bullpen that’s been shakier than a barrel of monkeys… well, that leads to what transpired Friday night at the K.
For once, the KC Royals got out to a lead thanks to Salvador Perez—I told y’all he kills the Twins—after Salvy blasted a two-run homer in the second. Eric Hosmer’s Corpse added an RBI single to score Whit Merrifield an inning later and we were off and running.
Kennedy didn’t allow a hit until the fourth, when Miguel Sano took a belt-high fastball to right center to cut the lead to a run, but Kennedy held after that and the Royals got solid relief efforts from Peter Moylan and Matt Strahm to get the game into the eighth, with an insurance run to boot thanks to Crown Prince of the Three True Outcomes Brandon Moss, who hit his season’s fourth home run.
And if this were Behind The Music, it’s the point where things took a turn against the KC Royals.
Joakim Soria—good ol’ reliable Joakim Soria—entered in the eighth and had all the worst things happen to him. Eddie Rosario greeted him with a ground ball single that it’s not entirely unreasonable to have expected Whit Merrifield to have made at second. After a Byron Buxton walk and Brian Dozier strikeout, Max Kepler sent one out to rightfield that Jorge Bonifacio—well, he butchered it. Really no way around it.
That loaded the bags for Sano and he missed a grand slam by about two spoonfuls of Wheaties. He rocketed another liner right off the top of the wall in left-center, scoring two runs.
Joe Mauer, the next batter, doubled to right to score Kepler and Sano.
And that was it.
It was not the sort of atmosphere conducive to a rally.
To blame it all on Soria—or Merrifield, or Bonifacio, or Kennedy’s lack of efficiency or any other one thing is to completely and utterly miss the point.
Now Jason… Jason gets it.