As it turns out, it’s really easy for the KC Royals to beat the team with the league’s best record. They just have to figure out a way to give each opposing starting pitcher some kind of illness.
(That’s probably not what happened to Dallas Keuchel, but it’s a starting point.)
As good as Jason Vargas has been, and he has been electric at times, Dallas Keuchel has somehow been even better. Wednesday’s outing would’ve had Keuchel going for win No. 10, with a majors-best 1.67 ERA. Vargy’s 2.08 ERA is second—it would’ve been the first meeting between the MLB’s top-two in ERA since Sept. 3, 2005 (Chris Carpenter and Roger Clemens).
And then… Keuchel ran back into the clubhouse and Dayan Diaz began to warm up.
Were KC Royals fans deprived of a must-see pitching matchup? Absolutely. Keuchel-Vargy would’ve been tremendous. But the downgrade from Keuchel to a guy with a dozen minor league starts, no starts at the MLB level and no outing longer than four innings since 2008 is significant.
Significant enough for the KC Royals to snag a 7-5 victory.
Brian McCann put the Astros up with a solo homer in the second inning, but the Royals bounced back with two runs in the home half. Cheslor Cuthbert doubled home Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar singled in Cuthbert and the KC Royals had a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Lorenzo Cain’s fourth homer of the season chased Diaz after 2.2 mostly unremarkable innings. I’m sure he’ll always remember the time he got to start because Dallas Keuchel had the bubble guts.
Houston got one back in the fourth with a leadoff Carlos Beltran double and McCann’s RBI single. But two more KC Royals crossed the plate when Escobar—this is the sort of game where Esky KILLS—singled in Salvador Perez after he led off with a double. And Ramon Torres earned his first MLB hit with a run-scoring double to bring in Escobar.
Cuthbert came through again in the fifth with a two-out, bases-loaded single to bring in Jorge Bonifacio (who led off with a single) and Cain (walk). It’s Cutbert’s first three-RBI game since July 5 of last year.
That made it a 7-2 game, and although Vargas left after five innings (he scattered six hits and struck out five) and just 89 pitches, Mike Minor and Peter Moylan combined skate through the next two innings unscathed.
The bullpen didn’t hold up all the way through. In the eighth, McCann (again) singled, followed by back-to-back singles by Alex Bregman and Jake Marisnick to score McCann. Dave Eiland went out to visit Scott Alexander.
Alexander walked George Springer.
Ned Yost went out for the next visit to remove Alexander.
Escobar’s error on a Josh Reddick grounder brought home Bregman and Marisnick, but Joakim Soria induced a Jose Altuve ground out to end the frame. And Kelvin Herrera, despite recent struggles slammed the door despite another McCann hit in the ninth.