KC Royals: No, Angel Hernandez didn’t beat Kansas City

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals lost Wednesday night. Angel Hernandez wasn’t the reason why.

There are probably few sports officials who draw more ire and criticism than Angel Hernandez. The veteran major league umpire worked the plate at Kauffman Stadium Wednesday night and, for the second time in as many KC Royals games, attracted as much attention as the contest he called.

With the memory still fresh of Tuesday night’s “guess” call that resulted in crew chief Hernandez and his colleagues reversing two out calls on the same play sequence, Hernandez ruled in the sixth inning Wednesday that Brady Singer hit Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez—the umpire’s gestures against his own shirt suggested the pitch grazed Ramirez’s jersey.

Replays on the public game feed showed it didn’t, but provided the slightest hint that maybe, just maybe, Singer’s pitch instead grazed a finger—Ramirez’s reaction suggested it hit his bat…if anything. The New York replay crew allowed the call to “stand” but didn’t confirm it.

Salvador Perez held on to the pitch which, if not for the “hit” call, would have made the at-bat a strikeout and the second out of the frame. Instead, Hernandez awarded first base to Ramirez, advancing Jake Bauers to second. Both then scored on Eddie Rosario’s double, cutting the Royals’ lead to 4-2.

More controversial on the field, however, was the balk Hernandez called on Singer moments later when the KC starter tried to pick Rosario off second. Replays revealed a minor post-set leg move Singer made before turning and throwing to the base, a motion arguably sufficient to constitute a violation of the balk rule. Rosario soon scored on an infield grounder to make it 4-3.

The balk call produced Hernandez’s successive ejections of KC Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred and manager Mike Matheny when they argued it; Pedro Grifol then pulled Singer for Scott Barlow, and Hernandez tossed an argumentative Singer as he left the game.

For Hernandez, who the Royals may also have thought missed a few too many Singer strikes, this was yet another night caught in the controversy that seems to constantly surround him. All the commotion set social media ablaze, but the fact of the matter is it wasn’t Hernandez who beat Kansas City.

It was Cleveland. Yes, that sixth inning allowed the Indians back in the game, but the Royals still led when it ended. All Kansas City had to do was settle down, protect the lead, and score another run or two for good measure.

Nothing of the kind happened. Cleveland starter Shane Bieber, who hadn’t been as sharp as he customarily is, struck out Michal A. Taylor and Nicky Lopez to start the Royals’ half of the sixth, then retired Whit Merrifield to end a clean frame. The Indians’ bullpen took over and put down KC in order in the final three innings. Eight of the Royals’ final 12 batters struck out, and 15 fanned in all. And for the game, Kansas City was 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

And, for the third night in a row, the bullpen couldn’t hold. Although Scott Barlow didn’t allow a runner in his 1.1 innings, Jakob Junis, who two nights before gave Cleveland five tie-breaking runs in the seventh, allowed the Indians to tie Wednesday’s game when Jose Ramirez homered off him in the eighth. And Wade Davis, not pitching particularly well of late, coughed up a homer to Josh Naylor in the ninth to give Cleveland what proved to be the winning run in KC’s 5-4 loss.

So, the KC Royals had much to do with their own demise Wednesday night, and can’t shift the blame for their fourth consecutive loss to Angel Hernandez. Even after his questionable calls in the sixth, the lead was still theirs to keep or squander. Unfortunately, Kansas City’s bats and bullpen didn’t get the job done.

dark. Next. Royals lose, but farm teams win

Despite Wednesday’s loss, the Royals enter this afternoon’s series finale with the Indians tied with them and Chicago for first place in the American League Central. Kansas City needs a win to avoid a Cleveland sweep; Danny Duffy (4-1) is scheduled to face Triston McKenzie (0-1) with first pitch set for 1:10 p.m. CDT at Kauffman Stadium.