KC Royals win, but did those things really happen?

(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /

The KC Royals won Tuesday, but some strange things happened along the way.

Improbabilities were the order of the evening at Kauffman Stadium Tuesday. In a win built not on playing the odds, but instead on defying them, the KC Royals squeezed by the Angels 3-2.

The strange definitely outweighed the ordinary.

And fittingly, the Royals and Angels saved the strangest thing for last.

Greg Holland, trying for a four-out save after working out of a slight Wade Davis-created jam in the eighth to preserve a 3-2 lead, set the stage in the ninth by surrendering one-out singles to David Fletcher and Shohei Ohtani and a two-out walk to Albert Pujols. That loaded the bases for Jared Walsh, third only to Ohtani and Mike Trout in Angel hitting this season.

Holland quickly got ahead of Walsh 0-2 with a pair of mid-90’s fastballs before losing a slider in the dirt that bounced off Salvador Perez, then Walsh, then back to Perez. The Gold Gove catcher snapped a perfect throw that beat Fletcher back to third base, and the Royals escaped with their fifth win in nine games.

But for the odd play, the outcome might have been different—Walsh unwittingly saved Holland’s errant slider from getting away and allowing Fletcher to score the tying run.

That, however, wasn’t the only improbability of the night.

Take, for example, the fact Kansas City’s top of the order collected the club’s only hits. The bottom two-thirds of the lineup—Carlos Santana, Jorge Soler, Michael A. Taylor, Dozier, Jarrod Dyson, and Nicky Lopez—went a collective 0-for-17. And of that quiet group, only Soler reached base with a walk. (Fortunately, Whit Merrifield, Andrew Benintendi and Perez took care of what hitting the Royals did; Merrifield and Perez had two hits apiece and Benintendi added another).

Then there was the slumping (.189) Santana. Only 5-for-33 this season, he accounted without a hit for two of the KC Royals’ three runs with a sacrifice fly in the first and an RBI grounder in the third.

And don’t forget Jake Brentz, the Kansas City rookie whose presence on the active roster is improbable in itself. Plagued by control problems throughout his minor league career, Brentz so impressed the Royals with a 1-0, 2.89 ERA Cactus League performance that they promoted him to the majors. The righthander took over for starter Danny Duffy in the seventh and promptly retired Fletcher, Ohtani and Trout in order; he struck out Trout, but more on that in a moment. Brentz hasn’t given up a run in five innings this season and has walked only one.

Count Duffy’s effort not so much improbable or strange, but refreshing and welcome. He struck out six, gave up only a run and a walk, and scattered eight hits in completing six innings for the second time this season, matching already the number of times he finished six frames in 2020. His ERA is 0.75; if the lefty isn’t a different pitcher than he’s been the last few years, he’s close.

But back to improbabilities, and Brentz’s strikeout of Trout. The Royals didn’t settle for fanning him just once. Duffy struck him out swinging in the third, then again in the fifth. Then it was Brentz’s turn in the seventh. And not to be left out, Holland got him swinging in the ninth. Trout strikes out about once every five at-bats, so KC getting him four times in one night was remarkable.

And when all was said and done and Holland’s slider in the dirt stopped bouncing long enough for Perez to grab it and gun down Fletcher, the KC Royals proved a win is always only the sum of its parts. On this night, some of those parts were odd, but they fit.

Next. Salvy reaches milestone. dark

The Royals won in unorthodox fashion Tuesday night to even their three-game set with the Angels. The clubs face off in the rubber game today at 1:10 p.m. CDT.