After going to the World Series in 2014 and winning it in 2015, the KC Royals disappointed in 2016. But in May, a rookie gave the club his finest moment.
The 2016 baseball season began with promise for the defending World Champion KC Royals. The club was coming off two straight trips to the World Series and looking for a third. Hopes were high. But the Royals disappointed (some say underachieved) with an 81-81 record and missed the postseason.
Even disappointing seasons have their good moments, however, and one such moment came early in the campaign from an unlikely source. May 28 was the date; a pleasant Saturday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium was the setting.
The club wasn’t yet out of the race at that point–in fact, they entered the day’s contest against the AL Central-leading White Sox in third place, a mere game behind the Sox after beating them the night before. (By Sunday night, the KC Royals would be in first place, a position they’d occupy only six more times).
The Royals had some things going that Saturday: Yordano Ventura, the wonderfully talented but unpredictable young pitcher, had the start, and four in Kansas City’s lineup were hitting over .300.
Designated hitter Brett Eibner, a 27-year old rookie who’d homered three times in a game for Omaha two weeks before, was in the .300 group at .333, but it was a deceptive .333–he’d gone 1-for-3 in his first big league game the night before. He struck out twice against ChiSox starter Miguel Gonzalez before his one-out double chased Gonzalez in the seventh inning. (KC won 7-5).
Eibner was back at DH May 28 and watched the Sox rough up Ventura for seven runs in seven innings; the Royals were down 7-1 when Eibner, 0-for-3, came up in the bottom of the ninth.
Paulo Orlando took a third strike to lead off the frame; Cheslor Cuthbert then singled and Eibner doubled to right. Omar Infante walked, Alcides Escobar walked to force in Cuthbert, and Eibner and Infante scored on Whit Merrifield‘s single. It was 7-4.
The KC Royals made “Keep the line moving” famous in 2014 and ’15 and they had it moving again; they batted around, bringing Eibner up again, this time with two outs, the bases loaded, and the score remarkably tied 7-7. Chicago reliever Tommy Kahnle had intentionally walked Jarrod Dyson to get to rookie Eibner.
The ensuing at-bat may not have been epic, but it was all but if it wasn’t. Eibner pushed Kahnle to a full count and then, on the 10th pitch of the duel, lined a single into right field. Drew Butera scored the winning run and the Royals, trailing by six just minutes before, walked the Sox off courtesy of Brett Eibner:
The win knocked Chicago out of first place and into a tie for second with the Royals, one-half game behind the Indians. The Royals beat the Sox the next day to take over the division lead (Cleveland lost to Baltimore), but their stay was short-lived–they finished the season at .500, good only for third place, 13.5 games behind the division champ Indians.
Eibner played 24 more games for the KC Royals before they shipped him to Oakland in a trade deadline deal for Billy Burns. He hit .231 with three home runs for Kansas City, then only .165 with three more homers for the A’s, who traded him to the Dodgers that winter.
He appeared in just 17 games for Los Angeles before the Dodgers decided in June to make him a pitcher and sent him to the minors to learn his new craft. Unfortunately, he injured his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery; to add insult to injury, LA released him.
Eibner signed a free agent deal with Texas as an outfielder but never made it to Arlington. He played for independent league teams in 2018 and ’19 and is now an unsigned free agent.
It’s not known whether Brett Eibner will play organized baseball this season, or if he’ll ever see the major leagues again. But on a May afternoon in 2016, he gave the KC Royals his best moment.