When this season ends in early November, and the fire begins to burn in baseball’s annual Hot Stove, fans of the KC Royals will remember Wednesday night’s game with a smile and nod toward the future.
The Royals beat Arizona 5-3 at The K, but how they did it will prove more memorable than the victory itself.
It was, unless you prefer slugfests and blowouts, which are fine in moderation, as fine a contest as the Royals have involved themselves in this year. Pitching—good pitching—dominated on both sides; the offense, while not overwhelming, was still exciting.
And the Royals, who’ve been on the losing end of too many games like this one, found vintage Royal ways to win, and turned what started as a bad day into an excellent evening.
How did it happen?
Hit by bad news Tuesday, the KC Royals received more before Wednesday’s game.
Adversity visited Kansas City Tuesday when his shoulder discomfort forced the club to put rookie Vinnie Pasquantino on the 10-day Injured List. The injury robs the Royals of Pasquantino’s power, energy, and bat, which had been growing hotter.
Adding insult to injury, the Royals then watched as their bullpen ruined Jonathan Heasley’s good start by giving up seven runs in the last four innings of Tuesday’s contest. KC lost 7-3.
Things can always get worse, and they did Wednesday. Just hours before they met the D-backs again, the Royals placed two key pitchers on the IL—starter Zack Greinke with right forearm tightness and reliever Josh Staumont with right biceps tendinitis.
Despite the adversity, the KC Royals bounced back and defeated Arizona.
That Kansas City remained undaunted by bad news is a good thing. Better, though, is how the club won Wednesday’s game. Pitching and timely hitting, missing from their efforts all too frequently this season, did the trick.
Anyone planning to attend, watch, or listen to the finale of the teams’ brief two-game series anticipated a pitchers’ duel, and that’s precisely what Brady Singer and Arizona’s Zac Gallen provided.
Singer, who’s for weeks been as “on” as any big league hurler, faced the minimum in five of the seven innings he pitched, didn’t walk a single Diamondback, and struck out six. Only Daulton Varsho’s fifth inning homer blemished Singer’s evening.
Gallen entered the night 9-2 and didn’t allow a run in pushing his scoreless innings streak to 27.1. He walked three but, like Singer, fanned six, and gave the Royals only three hits before Arizona manager Torey Lovullo turned the game over to his bullpen to start the seventh.
And that’s when, behind 1-0, KC’s young hitters took the game over.
Kyle Isbel singled off Noé Ramirez to lead off the frame, stole second, and advanced to third on Hunter Dozier’s sac fly.
Then came some vintage Kansas City offense, the kind of sudden run manufacturing the club did so often under Whitey Herzog in the 1970’s.
Nicky Lopez put down a superb one-out bunt and Isbel beat the play at the plate to tie the game and end Ramirez’s night.
Rookie Drew Waters, called up just Monday for his big league debut, greeted Joe Mantiply with his second major league hit—and second of the game—and MJ Melendez followed with his own single to score Lopez with the lead run.
Another rookie, Bobby Witt Jr., then slammed his 18th homer of the season; suddenly, the Royals had the upper hand at 5-1.
The lead was four with two innings left but, because the Kansas City bullpen is the Kansas City bullpen, nothing was over. Fortunately, Carlos Hernández retired the D-backs in order in the eighth and closer Scott Barlow overcame a pair of wild pitches and a two-run homer to Christian Walker in the ninth to assure Singer of a club-leading seventh win.
Wednesday’s exciting victory won’t vault Kansas City into even Wild Card contention, a race from which they’ll soon be mathematically eliminated. But it gave fans a glimpse of what these Royals can become.
And a nice memory for the winter.
Kansas City is now 51-75 and has today off before opening a three-game home series with San Diego Friday night.