No Mike Moustakas, No Alex Gordon. Kendrys Morales played just one game this weekend. Salvador Perez left a game with an injury and missed today’s game.
The Royals went on and swept the White Sox anyway, even beating Chris Sale today (kind of), and find themselves on top of the standings in the AL Central for the first time since April 22.
After a 5-13 stretch, the Kansas City Royals (27-22) slowly heated up, and as a result, they started winning. Once down by as many as seven games in the AL Central on May 10, they’ve gone 12-5, winning five straight series, while the White Sox (27-24) have lost six straight series (4-14) and six straight games. They’ve won nine of their last 12 at home and own the best home record in baseball (16-7). It was their fifth straight series win over the White Sox and they’re now 63-36 (.636) against the White Sox since the start of the 2011 season – MLB’s best record against one team during that span (minimum 10 games). Playing the White Sox six times in 10 days, the Royals won five of them.
On the road last weekend, the Royals won two of three, in a series that featured just 13 runs (Royals 8-5). In last Sunday’s loss, the Royals ended up losing more than just the game. Gordon and Moustakas collided both at full speed in foul territory, and it looked bad. Gordon, hit his head on the tarp and Moose got up limping, but stayed in the game. Gordon was later replaced and Moose finished the game. Then, Gordon hit the DL the next day and Moose, after being originally diagnosed with a knee contusion, hit the DL with a torn ACL and is out for the season.
But, it got worse. Morales, the 2015 Silver Slugger, missed four straight games and five of the last seven with a sprained right middle finger. Despite slashing .187/.247/.313 on the season and hitting just .146 in May entering today, K-MO is still a presence, and with the others out, he’s needed in the lineup. He officially finished 0-2 today, but just missed extra bases to dead center in his first AB and walked twice.
Last, but certainly not least, there was the Salvy scare yesterday. Also involving a third baseman, Cheslor Cuthbert took out the legs of Perez in a little tweener bloop in foul territory down the line. Normally, the third baseman’s ball, Perez clearly called for it and Ches never peeled off, and Perez, hit the ground in immediate pain, pounding the ground and calling for the trainer. The All-Star catcher and World Series MVP will miss some time – as Tony Cruz was called up from Omaha and Aussie Peter Moylan was sent down under to Omaha (I know, I know) – but it could be a lot worse, as an MRI showed no structural damage, out 7-10 days with a “quad contusion.” Manager Ned Yost said they opted not to put Salvy on the DL because it is possible he responds better to the injury and could be back sooner. That’s the third time in a week that an All-Star went down for the Royals.
No big deal though, as Royals Devil Magic kicked in, and the Royals came from two or more runs down to win in three consecutive games for the first time in franchise history (48 years).
On Friday, Danny Duffy was perfect through 16 hitters and looked the best Ned Yost had ever seen him, but didn’t record another out, leaving the game down 5-1 after allowing three straight singles and a grand slam to old friend Melky Cabrera and a solo shot to AL HR leader Todd Frazier (15). But, the Royals scored six runs in their final three at-bats to rally for a 7-5 win, led by a 4-run sixth, doing what the Royals do when they’re at their best – answering the other team. For Duffy, he really pounded the zone. It seems that starting the year in the bullpen has really helped him in that area, and his 80.4% strike rate (61 of 76 pitches), was the highest by a Royals starter since pitch-count totals are available (since 1988).
One day after their largest come-from-behind victory of the season, the Royals did it again, in historic fashion. Down six in the bottom of the ninth, they saw 51 pitches, sent 12 batters to the plate, and scored SEVEN runs in coming back and winning, 8-7, marking the first time in franchise history they came back and won after being down by six or more runs entering the ninth. How improbable was the comeback win? Dating back to 2010, teams are NOW 5-2,813 when trailing by six runs entering the bottom of the ninth. In other words, they won 0.001% of the time – or the same chance ESPN gave the Royals of winning when the inning started.
Sox closer David Robertson came in to “get some work in” and instead, got worked. He struck out Paulo Orlando to start the inning then:
- Cuthbert single
- Brett Eibner double
- Omar Infante walk (he walked TWICE yesterday)
- Alcides Escobar walk (7-2)
- Whit Merrifield single (7-4)
- Lorenzo Cain 6-4 fielders choice (7-5)
- Hosmer double
And, Robertson was done. Enter Tommy Kahnle. Due up, Perez’s spot in the order and Drew Butera, who produced a game-tying double. It was only Butera’s fifth hit of the season, but fourth double. Two intentional walks later, Eibner up. On a full count and after fouling off three pitches, he singled just beyond Jose Abreu at first base. Ballgame. WOW.
On Sunday, they jumped out to a 2-run first off Sale on a Cain double and Hosmer single, but found themselves down 4-2 in the eighth inning as the Sox chipped away at Edinson Volquez and tacked on a run against Luke Hochevar – the only run the Royals ‘pen allowed the series. In the 8th, with Sale out of the game, with one out again, it started. Seven straight hitters reached. It began with a Cain HR – No. 7 on the year and his third to the opposite field. 4-3. Hosmer doubled. Morales walked (Dyson pinch-ran), Orlando singled to right to load ‘em. Eibner up, again, with the bases loaded, where he walked – the second bases loaded walk in as many games for the White Sox bullpen. Cuthbert then had an infield single, where fan-favorite Brett Lawrie, threw the ball from his back about 10 feet in the air and two feet in distance, scoring the go-ahead runner in Dyson. That play couldn’t happen to a better person (nice vampire fangs, you ass clown. The other accessories weren’t enough?). Orlando was thrown out trying to advance an extra base. Enter, Wade Davis for a 1-2-3 ninth and his 14th save. Chris Young, making his first appearance since May 9, pitched a perfect 8th in relief, earning the vulture win (2-5).
The Royals absolutely feasted off the White Sox bullpen, scoring 14 of the 20 runs in the series in just 6.1 IP, walking 10 times with 15 hits.
Hosmer had three hits today, including two off Sale. The 12 hits against Sale are the most by any active left-hander other than teammate Alex Gordon. His RBI single in the first was Sale’s first RBI allowed to a left-handed hitter since September of last season.
Hosmer, the Royals leader in the Triple Crown categories, was the bus driver in the series: 8-13, 1 HR, 7 RBI (4 on Friday), 3 R, 1 SB in the series. Cain, now slashing .292/.343/.4434-9 over the last two games, with three runs scored AND driven in, including the visit to DONGTOWN chipped in, but, the other guys were more than just a supporting cast.
“Two-hit Whit” Merrifield recorded another hit today to extend his hitting streak to six games, and put together three GREAT swings off Sale. Yesterday, he became only the third Royals rookie – and the first since Mike Moustakas (2011) – to record five consecutive multi-hit games. He’s hitting .361/.361/.472 on the season and has hit safely in all eight starts, playing three different positions.
Eibner, filling in for Morales as the DH on both Friday and Saturday and started his first game in the field (LF) today, struck out in his first two AB in the bigs, is 5-9 since with two doubles, two runs, two RBI – the game-winner yesterday and the game-tying walk today. He’s slashing .455/.500/.636 through his first three games. In Saturday’s walk-off, he made MLB history by becoming the ONLY rookie to record two ninth-inning hits, with the second being a walk-off and the first player to do it since 1997. It’s certainly been worth the wait for the 27-year-old.
Butera was hitless today, but also walked in the eight inning, but stepped in for Salvy in the ninth inning yesterday with the huge clutch double.
Cuthbert had the scary moment with Perez yesterday, but had one of the biggest AB today. No, it did not turn into a run or even end up as a run, but he worked a 10-pitch walk in the 8th inning today, which helped increase Sale’s pitch count and ensured he would not come out for the eight inning. In that eighth inning, he delivered the game-winning infield hit. He’s also played great defense and has hit in 15 of his 18 games as a starter, where’s he’s hitting a respectable .257.
Paulo Orlando, who has essentially been playing every day since Gordon went down, made a great diving play in the seventh inning to prevent a big inning and keep the Royals in the game and extended his hitting streak to 12 games with his eighth-inning single. Hitting .376/.393/.494 on the season, Orlando has been even better in May, slashing .473/.451/.647 and has not been exposed by the regular AB’s…yet.
What this team has done with guys being out and with these new guys in the lineup, coming back three days a row, has been unreal. I would ask, “who the hell are these guys?” But, this is who they are now. This is what they do. They…WIN. GAMES.
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