What a wild finish to an insanely frustrating game. In case you missed the action last night, the Royals got a come-from-behind walkoff win in the 9th in one of the most improbable ways imaginable.
With 1 out, Mike Moustakas doubled and Jarrod Dyson pinch ran for him. After Alcides Escobar grounded out to short without advancing the runner, up came Nori Aoki representing the winning run.
Nori had a career game. On a night where White Sox starter John Danks managed to somehow stymie the Royals hitters over 6 innings, Aoki was the only bright spot. Aoki got 2 hits off of Danks. The rest of the team had none.
Danks: 6 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 6 K, 4 BB
I don’t understand why the Royals have so much trouble with Danks. He literally would get my vote for “2014 Worst Starter in Baseball.” In past years, John Danks has never been a great pitcher, been much better than his 2014 self. He has a career 4.32 ERA, but this year it’s 5.05, and in the last 8 games it’s 7.04. I saw him pitch at Target Field back on September 3 and he was atrocious: 7 R, 11 H in 4.2 IP. He consistently misses his target. His stuff is anything but electric or nasty.
And yet he comes into Kauffman Stadium year after year and makes us look foolish.
My gut tells me we aren’t being as patient as we should be, because that’s the usual narrative – but we worked 4 walks off him tonight and seemed much more selective than recent games (with the exception of Billy Butler in the 8th). It seems like the game plan was to wait for your pitch and make it count. For most guys, that meant high fastballs, but we ended up just helping Danks out by swinging at would-be balls.
James Shields got the start for the Royals – so much has happened since then it’s hard to remember how it all began – and he gave up 3 early runs on 10 hits in 7 innings. Good enough, it turns out, but not his stellar self.
On paper, this looked like it should be a cake walk win for the Royals, but it was anything but that.
The Royals finally broke through in the 7th after Hosmer led off with a double. He scored in an Infante single to make it 3-1.
They added to it in the 8th when Aoki led off with a check swing infield chopper that was fielded and thrown wide of first base. Aoki was credited with a single and advanced to second on the error. Two batters later, Alex Gordon singled and Nori came around to score making it 3-2, bad guys.
Ned Yost elected to go with Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis for the 8th and 9th innings, respectively. They were great. I still cannot believe Yost went with Crow on Sunday. Jason Frasor would’ve been great. Brandon Finnegan would’ve been okay too. Kelvin Herrera would’ve been phenomenal. But it was Crow who gave up the grand slam and got the loss.
But last night, Yost put his best arms out there and they came through as one would expect.
I defended Yost a week ago. He did not deserve the blame for a base running blunder and poor offensive output. He is, however, directly responsible when he puts relievers in bad situations. That is a managers primary role: putting players in the best situation to succeed. He is so stuck in his Herrera in the 7th, Davis in the 8th and Greg Holland in the 9th that he refuses to stray for the betterment of the team. At least last night he showed some flexibility and put his team in a position to compete.
Which brings me back to the crazy events of the bottom of the 9th.
With two outs Nori at the plate, Dyson broke for third base. Chicago reliever Jake Petricka threw a curve in the dirt that for away from the catcher, Brandon Flowers. So Dyson just kept running and scored on the wild pitch. Just like that, tie game, 3-3.
That’s what speed do.
Then Nori doubled down the left field line and put the winning run on second with two outs. Terrance Gore – who people swear is 23 years old but looks about half that – came in to run for Nori. Up came Lorenzo Cain.
Lorenzo hit a chopper over the Petricka and it settled down right between the infielders for a hit. The speedster, Gore, races around third and scored without a throw.
And the Royals win 4-3.
Again, that’s what speed do.
After Sunday’s debacle and the first 6 innings last night against Danks, I was just about to throw in the towel. Like borderline for good. I was frustrated. The Royals had grounded into double plays in the 6th and 7th, and Butler swung at the first pitch to end the 8th, and it had all just sucked the life right out of me. It felt like we were squandering opportunities against an inferior opponent. If we can’t win a Shields/Danks matchup, what can we win?!
I even tweeted they “sometimes baseball sucks.” Although, that had more to do with the Tigers hitting back-to-back HRs to takes 8-6 lead over the Twins in Minnesota at the same moment we were grounding ourselves out of innings in KC.
But that’s the funny thing about baseball. In 140 years of playing this game, I’ve never seen a finish like that before. What a goofy way to walk off. And the moment things seem darkest, suddenly light survives and shines brightly in the end.
These are the wins the Royals desperately need at this point of the season. Every game is huge, and any close game must come out in your favor.
Last night was a microcosm of this roller coaster season, really. And it’s games like these that are going to be remembered by me and others for the rest of our lives. What a rush. What a win.
A couple random notes and I’ll be done here…
1. Jeremy Guthrie’s start will not be skipped this week which means we’ll have Guthrie-Vargas-Shields this weekend versus Detroit. Guthrie was awesome on Saturday. He’a also king of the Gatorade dump and chuck move in the walkoff celebration. (EDIT: the Tigers, however, are adjusting their rotation.) (ANOTHER EDIT: per Andy McCullough on Twitter, the Royals have responded by adjusting their lineup too, moving Guthrie back to Sunday and moving Vargas/Shields up to Friday/Saturday. Sets up Shields for the 1 game playoff/ALDS Game 1, whichever comes first.)
2. The New Lineup has actually been effective. I asked for Cain to get moved up and for Infante to move down, but I never expected anything like this. But you can’t argue with 15 runs and 20 hits over the past few games.
3. Billy Butler needs to start cherishing moments at The K because it is looking more and more like he’ll be somewhere else in 2015.
4. Jeff Montgomery has always looked like somebody to me. I finally figured out where I’ve seen him before:
5. We are holding on to the Wild Card spot just fine, but I have a feeling we’ll get another sniff of first place this weekend with Detroit coming to town.
6. Danny Duffy will be back next Tuesday vs Cleveland. Thought it was going to be tomorrow, but they’re taking no chances and throwing Liam Hendriks instead which also kinda feels like taking a chance.
7. With the minor exception of Darren Sproles’ TD run, I had zero interest in Monday Night Football compared to the Royals. It’s a delightful feeling to not care about other sports. Shockingly, the Royals have numbed my pain to the start of the Chiefs’ season.
8. Finally, since I do most of my blogging from my phone these days, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to correct the words “Eoyals” and “Riyals” and “RoyLs” this year.
What a night. Let’s do it again tomorrow. Because as fun as that was, we’ve still got some work to do.