The KC Royals return to Kauffman Stadium started off the same way the nine-game road trip ended—with a win.
About a month ago, the KC Royals were the deadbeat high school with all the potential in the world who either couldn’t or wouldn’t put it together long enough to earn a 3.25 GPA, constantly kept getting brought home by the cops and couldn’t be trusted with even the most menial household tasks.
(I swear this analogy is gonna make sense. Hang with me.)
So in winning 13 of their last 19, the KC Royals have suddenly become the 4.0 student with the impeccable manners who spends his Saturday’s doing community service.
It’s night and day, what Ned Yost’s bunch has been able to do over the last 20 games. They’re a game from .500—a minor miracle after April.
And it was an improbable hero who mirrors the KC Royals 2017 journey who ultimately made the difference in the 4-2 victory against Boston, Monday.
Jason Hammel was AWFUL to start the campaign. Seriously, really very bad. As recently as 16 days ago, his ERA was a whisker from 6.00 (5.93). He’d managed just two quality starts in his first eight outings and looked every bit as washed up as many feared.
Four straight quality starts in June has a way of changing perception though, and Hammel’s latest was a masterpiece. He went seven innings, scattering seven hits and two earned while striking out four, finally dragging his ERA below 5.00 (to 4.83, in fact) and giving the Royals at least some confidence that some kind of Hammel-Jason Vargas-healthy Danny Duffy troika can be… maybe not imposing, but at least not embarrassing.
The KC Royals drew first blood in the third, with Eric Hosmer cranking a two-run home run in the third, his season’s eighth. Hosmer reached base three times in four trips in this contest, going 1-for-2 with a couple of walks. He’s hitting .308, best by an AL first-baseman.
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Jackie Bradley Jr. equaled the game with a homer of his own in the top of the fourth, but that would be all the damage against Hammel, or any KC Royals hurler for that matter. The Royals bullpen—a source of constant concern for fans—came through. And it does quite a bit whenever Mike Minor’s involved, for whatever that’s worth.
The game remained deadlocked until the seventh, when Whit Merrifield singled to score Ramon Torres, who was on third as a pinch runner after a Drew Butera triple. Why Torres needed to come in to replace Merrifield—what possible play Torres’ speed could make that Butera, who it should be noted had just legged out a triple, could not—Ned and Ned alone can tell you. I thought it was an asinine move, which needlessly inserted a supposedly resting Salvador Perez into the proceedings. Butera could’ve scored on Whit’s single—a toddler could’ve scored on Whit’s single.
Minor, who came on in the eighth, didn’t have his best day but induced a two-out, bases-loaded chopper which Cheslor Cuthbert fielded with aplomb and fired to first to get Christian Vasquez by a step. That was the last threat mounted by the Red Sox in the series opener.