How the KC Royals defied themselves Friday night
Logic wasn’t on the side of the KC Royals as they opened a three-game series at Denver’s Coors Field Friday evening.
They were, by most measures, a team inferior to Colorado, a club that despite its 16-15 record owned the National League Central cellar because that division is so good this season. Kansas City’s 10-19 record simply didn’t stack up.
More troublesome, however, were the Royals’ anemic bats, incapable so far of mounting any kind of consistently good collective attack, but trying nevertheless to top one of the NL’s better offenses.
The Royals’ hopes for a win rested primarily on the supremely talented right arm of Zack Greinke, who’d pitched well enough to win every one of his six previous starts but had been failed by his teammates’ soft hitting.
And then Kansas City, true to the form of a team with only three wins in its last 10, handed the Rockies 10 runs, a total destined to assure a series-opening defeat.
But the Royals defied logic.
They won 14-10.
Explaining how it happened requires examining the bad and good of this game.
The KC Royals did almost everything they needed to do to lose Friday.
Consider first the reasons the Royals should have lost.
They gave up 10 runs and 13 hits.
Greinke came into the game with a 2.67 ERA. He left with it almost a run higher—3.52—after he gave the Rockies seven runs (three less than he’d surrendered all year) in 4.2 innings and failed to finish the fifth inning for the first time in 2022.
Gabe Speier, unscored upon in eight games when he relieved Dylan Coleman with two outs and the Royals ahead by a run in the sixth, proved mortal when the Rockies tagged him for three runs on four hits—including two home runs—before he gave way to Josh Staumont in the eighth after Sam Hilliard led off the inning with the second of those two homers.
Unfortunately, Staumont hit Yonathan Daza, the first batter he faced and, an out later, uncorked a wild pitch to move Daza to second. C.J. Cron immediately singled and, two batters later, Staumont loaded the bases by walking Randal Grichuk, forcing manager Mike Matheny to summon Scott Barlow an inning sooner than the ideal.
The KC Royals did everything at the plate they needed to do to win this one.
Now, consider just how (besides outscoring Colorado by four, of course) Kansas City managed to overcome the bad.
The Royals collected 18 hits, seven of them for extra bases.
They were 6-for-17 (.352) with runners in scoring position.
Hunter Dozier went a perfect 5-for-5 with a double and an RBI, and scored four times. He’s now hitting .277.
On the same day he defeated the club in arbitration (its first loss since Dayton Moore arrived from Atlanta almost 16 years ago), Andrew Benintendi fell a double short of the cycle, went 3-for-6 with three RBIs, and gave KC its first lead of the game with a two-run homer in the first.
Whit Merrifield, whose bat suddenly displayed signs of life in this week’s three-game series with Texas, continued to improve at the plate with two hits and two RBIs.
And Salvador Perez, also quiet too much of this season, maintained his recent resurgence by going 2-for-6 with an RBI. He’s hitting .322 in his last seven games.
But that wasn’t all.
Ryan O’Hearn, whose presence on the club remains a source of some mystery, hit for Emmanuel Rivera in the eighth and delivered a bomb to the right field seats. The blast, his first home run of 2022 and fourth career pinch-hit homer (a new team record), increased his club’s lead to 14-9.
The two runs KC scored in the fifth on an error and a Michael A. Taylor single (he, by the way, had three hits and knocked in a pair of runs) gave them a lead they never surrendered despite the seven runs Colorado subsequently scored.
And remember Barlow coming in with the bases loaded in the eighth? He retired Brendan Rogers to extinguish the threat, then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to secure the win.
So it was that the Royals did much to lose this game, but defied themselves by winning it.
The Royals can win the series by beating the Rockies tonight. Carlos Hernández (0-2) faces German Marquez (0-3) in a 7:10 p.m. CDT start.