You’re excused if, like most fans of the KC Royals, you had no idea who Domingo Tapia was when the club picked him up from the Seattle Mariners in May. That he’d appeared in only seven major league games in two seasons made him anything but a household name.
His obscurity didn’t stop the Royals from sending cash considerations, the quid pro quo typically associated with little-known players, to the Mariners for him. Nor did the fact Seattle was casting him away—they’d DFA’d him five days before Kansas City acquired him.
It was a low-risk move. Now, it’s paying dividends, some of which Kansas City reaped Monday night in Houston.
Manager Mike Matheny summoned Tapia, an imposing presence at 6-feet-3 and 263 pounds, to the mound for a sixth-inning rescue mission against the Astros. Starter Daniel Lynch began the inning having held the American League West Division leaders to a run with five strikeouts through five but, with no one out, Carlos Correa reached first on an error and Aledmys Diaz singled. The Royals’ slim 2-1 lead was in danger.
Tapia did precisely what Matheny and KC needed him to do. He struck out Jake Meyers swinging on a 3-2 count, then quashed the threat by inducing Taylor Jones to ground into an inning-ending double play.
The Royals took full advantage by scoring twice in the seventh; Tapia, whose most important work of the evening was already done, returned for the bottom half of the inning, but gave way to Richard Lovelady after issuing a one-out walk to Jose Altuve.
Lovelady, Kyle Zimmer (just returned from the Injured List), and Ervin Santana shut Houston out the rest of the way to preserve a 7-1 victory, the Royals’ seventh in their last eight games and fourth in a row. Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez drove the offense—Merrifield went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, Perez hit his 33rd home run of the year and drove in his career-best 81st run.
Domingo Tapia is becoming a valuable component of the KC Royals’ bullpen.
Tapia is rapidly becoming that household name he didn’t used to be, and his short but stellar Monday night performance against the Astros shouldn’t come as a surprise because he’s grown increasingly effective since arriving in Kansas City late last month.
That wasn’t, of course, the case before the Royals called him up. He’s been a pro since 2010, but didn’t make it to the majors until last season when he pitched five times for Boston and gave up one run in 4.1 innings. Seattle picked him up on an October waiver claim and he posted a pair of scoreless innings this season before the M’s sent him to Triple-A Tacoma in early May. The righthander had a nifty 1.42 ERA and .095 OBA in five games there, but Seattle still let him go.
He then went 1-0, 4.50 with 22 strikeouts in 22 innings at Omaha, and had a 5.40 ERA in three late July appearances for the KC Royals, a high average owing primarily to the three runs he gave Toronto in an inning July 30.
But Tapia’s subsequent stingy pitching has made himself known to Kansas City fans. He didn’t allow any runs in his first four August outings, gave up one Aug. 10, and hasn’t been scored upon in seven games since. He has a microscopic 0.81 August ERA. His control needs some work—he’s walked six in 12 innings this month—but he’s still become a go-to kind of pitcher for Matheny.
Expect Tapia to be important to the KC Royals next season, too.
Kansas City, now 56-68 and inching away from last-place Minnesota—the Royals are two games ahead of the Twins—continue this three-game series with the Astros tonight. Brady Singer (3-8, 5.23) faces Luis Garcia (9-3, 3.39) in a 7:10 p.m. CDT contest at Minute Maid Park. The Royals will be seeking the second leg of another sweep after taking three of three from the Cubs over the weekend.