The severe weather that never arrived at Wrigley Field Saturday afternoon will, for a long time, make the KC Royals and Kris Bubic wonder what might have been.
It was at the end of the Royals’ half of the seventh inning that the fears of anyone watching this game were realized—the threat of imminent inclement weather forced the decision to tarp the field with Bubic closing in on a no-hitter.
That Bubic was dominant is an understatement. When the ill-timed delay came, he’d retired every one of Chicago’s 17 batters since issuing a walk to former Royal Frank Schwindel with one out in the first. He’d fanned nine Cubs, including three on swinging strikes in the fourth.
The severe weather never came, but the delay, which lasted a little over a half-hour, seemed to affect Bubic who, despite the interruption, was allowed by Manager Mike Matheny to return when it ended. Bubic walked Schwindel again to start the seventh, and Patrick Wisdom followed by parking a 1-0 Bubic changeup in the left field seats to make it 4-2.
Bubic then retired Matt Duffy on a grounder before Matheny called in Domingo Tapia, who closed the inning without further incident. Josh Staumont, pitching for the fourth time in five days, threw a perfect eighth inning and Scott Barlow put the Cubs down in order in the ninth for the second day in a row.
That gave the KC Royals a 4-2 win and Barlow his team-leading eighth save of the season.
An appealed call and some good hitting also helped the KC Royals Saturday.
After scoring in the first and second frames, Kansas City scored the decisive run via a run that initially didn’t look like one. Andrew Benintendi singled with two away in the fifth and, trying to score on Michael A. Taylor’s double, appeared well-beaten by a throw from the outfield. The Royals, believing Chicago catcher Robinson Chirino improperly blocked the plate on the play, won an appeal. That gave the club the third run Bubic and the bullpen wouldn’t let the Cubs equal.
Whit Merrifield and Nicky Lopez paced Kansas City at the plate. Merrifield’s 3-for-5 performance gave him his 10th three-hit game of 2021; he also scored twice and stole a base. Lopez also had three hits and remains the club’s leading hitter with a .278 average; he leads Merrifield by two points and Salvador Perez by three. Lopez also had two steals.
What does Saturday’s victory mean for the KC Royals heading into Sunday?
Coupled with its 6-2 win Friday night, this victory gives Kansas City its second consecutive excellent chance for a series sweep. KC lost to Houston Thursday after beating the Astros three times in a row; now, the Royals will sweep the Cubs if they beat them Sunday at Wrigley Field.
Saturday’s win, together with Minnesota’s loss to the Yankees, also allowed Kansas City to escape the American League Central Division cellar. The Royals are in fourth place, one game ahead of the now last-place Twins.
The Royals wrap up this three-game series Sunday with a 1:20 p.m. CDT game. Carlos Hernandez (3-1, 4.33) is slated to face Chicago’s Alec Mills (5-5, 4.19).