A terrible April put the KC Royals in last place in the American League Central. A doubleheader sweep on May Day was a welcome, albeit brief, respite from the club’s losing ways.
The KC Royals are known for slow starts triggered by disappointing Aprils. Last season was no different — April was the club’s worst month, its 7-19 record laying the foundation for another lost season. The 2-1 March that gave the Royals first place in the AL Central meant nothing as their awful April dragged toward May.
The false hope of March resurfaced for a day on May 1, when Kansas City hosted Tampa Bay for a rare doubleheader. The Royals won both games, a feat uncharacteristic of the 2019 team because it marked one of only 13 times the club won two or more games in a row. (They promptly lost two in a row after the twin-bill sweep). The games were uncharacteristic for other reasons: both victories featured excellent KC pitching, the club took an early lead in the first game and held on to win, and the Royals got a lopsided win in the nightcap.
Kansas City scored three runs in the first inning of the opener — Whit Merrifield led off with a double, stole second, then scored on Adalberto Mondesi‘s fourth homer of the season, and Alex Gordon scored on Kelvin Gutierrez’s sacrifice grounder. Surprisingly, and luckily, those three runs were all KC would require, as Jakob Junis, Jake Diekman and Ian Kennedy held the Rays to two runs despite the fact the Royals managed only one more hit and scored no more runs.
Junis, who started and went 6.1 innings to earn his third win, struggled a bit, giving up six hits and striking out only two. He gave the Rays their only two runs of the game in the second, then shut them down until Diekman took over in the seventh and Kennedy closed the Rays out for his second save as the Royals’ emerging closer.
The Royals had it easier in the nightcap. They scored all eight of their runs in the first four innings; Tampa Bay didn’t score until the ninth and KC cruised to a six-run win.
Glenn Sparkman, who would struggle to a 4-11, 6.02 season, gave KC his second-best game of the campaign (his best was a complete game shutout victory against the White Sox in July) — he gave up just three hits, struck out six, walked only one, and held the Rays scoreless for seven innings.
The 3-2 and 8-2 victories made a good point in a bad season. The Royals did what they had to do in winning two very different games, making the May Day twin-bill sweep one of the month’s biggest moments.