For six special innings Wednesday night, a former KC Royals star battled a future one at Kauffman Stadium. Houston’s Zack Greinke, winner of the Cy Young award in 2009 as a Royal and a decent bet for Cooperstown, and Kansas City’s uber-talented but struggling Brady Singer, all but silenced each other’s club through the first two-thirds of the game.
At 37 and pitching in his 18th big league season, Greinke doesn’t dominate hitters like he once did, but he knows how to pitch (he came into the game 11-3) and proved it. He didn’t strike anyone out, but didn’t walk any Royals either, and scattered just five singles in his six frames. One of those hits, however, was Carlos Santana’s, and it drove in Nicky Lopez to give KC a 1-0 lead in the fourth.
Better for the first six innings, though, was second year KC starter Singer, whose season-long inconsistency includes giving up 15 earned runs in 14.2 innings over his four starts immediately preceding Wednesday’s. But Singer was different against the Astros—he shut them out on four singles and fanned six, then appeared to tire and surrendered two runs in the seventh before giving way to Domingo Tapia.
But in the end, sheer power and an excellent throw determined the outcome of this quite satisfying contest. Both came after Singer and Greinke were gone, and gave the Royals a 3-2 win.
Blake Taylor replaced Greinke to start the KC Royals’ half of the seventh and gave the game away in seven pitches. Andrew Benintendi, to whom that excellent throw later belonged, doubled on a 1-2 slider to lead off the inning, and Hunter Dozier belted a 1-1 Taylor slider far into the left field seats:
Dozier’s blast, his 10th of the season, gave the Royals the lead they didn’t relinquish.
Houston, though, did its best to ruin Kansas City’s third straight victory.
Manager Mike Matheny put the game in Scott Barlow’s hands in the ninth. Barlow, the KC Royals’ officially undesignated but de facto closer, gave up one-out singles to Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers before retiring Jason Castro. That left only the always dangerous Jose Altuve standing in the way of Kansas City’s third straight victory over the Astros.
Altuve appeared to have come through, rifling a single into left that looked certain to score McCormick. Then, courtesy of Benintendi’s arm, this happened:
The play was close, perhaps even closer than it looked in real-time and replays. The umpiring crew naturally granted Houston’s request for a late-inning review, but home plate ump Rob Drake’s call stood and Kansas City had that third straight, and a series, win.
Almost lost in the excitement was Tapia’s first major league victory, which Barlow secured with his seventh save to tie injured Greg Holland for the club lead. Tapia is now 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA since being called up July 23; he has 12 strikeouts in 11.1 innings. Josh Staumont, who appeared to be the closer earlier this year, didn’t give up a run in the eighth. Barlow took it from there.
Where does the win leave the KC Royals going into today’s series finale?
Kansas City’s narrow victory was its 52nd of the season. But with 67 losses, the Royals are still in last place in the American League Central, one game behind fourth-place Minnesota. They’re 7-9 in August.
The win gave KC a series win, which the club has a chance to convert to a sweep this afternoon when Mike Minor (8-11, 5.35) faces Houston’s Luis Garcia (9-6, 3.30) in a 1:10 p.m. CDT contest at The K.
The Royals then head to Chicago for three afternoon games with the Cubs starting Friday. They then travel to Houston for three and Seattle for four before returning to Kansas City Aug. 31 to begin a six-game homestand.
The KC Royals’ Brady Singer pitched pretty well Wednesday night against Houston. Hunter Dozier, Andrew Benintendi, and three relievers made sure Singer’s effort wasn’t wasted and preserved the club’s opportunity to sweep the Astros.