The KC Royals played the kind of game Wednesday night they’ve lost so many times this season. This contest was different.
The Cleveland Indians, tied for the American League Central Division lead, hosted the last place KC Royals Wednesday night. The game looked like so many others Kansas City has managed to lose this season.
For much of the evening, the Royals fought to solve their opponent’s pitching. They were retired in order four times. Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco held them in check for seven solid innings—he struck out six, didn’t walk anyone, scattered seven singles, and gave up just one run.
Although the Royals finished with 10 hits, only one was for extra bases, and that only came on a fluke bad bounce in the ninth inning. They were just 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Key Kansas City hitters Hunter Dozier and Maikel Franco, batting third and fourth respectively, were a combined 0-for-8.
Nicky Lopez, typically a reliable base runner when he gets on, was thrown out at second twice.
And, once again, KC’s offense didn’t provide superb pitching with much run support. The club scored three times, marking the 15th time this season it’s scored four runs or less.
But this time, the outcome was different. The Royals won 3-0; capitalizing on a couple of openings was what distinguished this contest from so many others like it. The first came in the sixth inning when Carrasco, who’d allowed only three Royals to reach base, cracked a bit and surrendered a leadoff single to Cam Gallagher after KC’s catcher had been behind 0-2. Whit Merrifield then rapped Carrasco’s first pitch changeup for a single, moving Gallagher into scoring position at third.
Adalberto Mondesi, whose horrible slump would have made him an easy mark for Carrasco just a week ago, then extended his hitting streak to six games with a single to score Gallagher and give Kansas City a 1-0 lead.
The Royals’ second opening came in the ninth. With Alex Gordon at first on a one-out infield single, newcomer Edward Olivares lined reliever Phil Maton’s 1-2 offering to right; what appeared to be a routine play for Tyler Naquin turned into a triple when the ball took an odd hop to evade the Cleveland right fielder and double KC’s lead. Olivares added to the good impression he’s been making since coming over in the Trevor Rosenthal trade—he went 2-for-4 and is batting .384 in six games with the Royals.
Nicky Lopez followed with his third single of the game and Kansas City led 3-0.
The victory wouldn’t have been possible, of course, without excellent pitching. Danny Duffy started and turned in his best performance of the season, a 5.2 inning scoreless, four strikeout, four hit effort that evened his record at 3-3. He worked out of a bases-loaded scare in the fifth by getting Francisco Lindor on a liner and Carlos Santana on a called third strike.
The bullpen locked Cleveland down. Jesse Hahn relieved Duffy in the sixth with a runner on and gave up a hit, but didn’t let the Tribe score in that frame or in the seventh. Fireballing Josh Staumont retired the Indians in order in the eighth. And Greg Holland, looking like the team’s new closer, allowed a two-out triple to Delino DeShields but retired Cesar Hernandez to earn his third save and preserve the KC Royals’ second shutout of the season. (The club blanked the Reds Aug. 19).
So it was that the Royals, faced with good pitching from a better team, complemented their own outstanding pitching by capitalizing on a couple of key moments, and secured a much needed victory.
Simply put, this was the kind of game Kansas City doesn’t usually win, but must learn to.
The KC Royals won a close game Wednesday night. Hopefully, it starts a trend.