Although I’ve never been there, I am a fan of Kauffman Stadium. The fountains in the back are among my favorite baseball park features and it seems like a great place to see a game. I also admire the fact that the Royals are still playing in a stadium built in 1973, albeit one that has gotten some expensive face lifts.
But Kauffmann Stadium has not been kind to the Rays. For the past several seasons, those fountains have seemed to mock the the team from Tampa Bay, their constant recycling of water merely speaking to the futility of the team’s efforts to eke out a win in the Paris of the Plains.
Cursed no more
Perhaps today’s game presages a new era of Kauffman Stadium fortunes for the Rays. Because tonight the Rays enjoyed something that they have not had for quite a long time: a blow out win. It was a put up crooked numbers kind of game. It was a get to rest your bullpen and even your position players kind of game. All this while the Royals were forced to go through six pitchers, which with luck will benefit the Rays for the next too game as well.
Rays score early and often
Rays got on the board early. Kevin Kiermaier swung at the first pitch, a 93-mph two-seamer, and managed to get it somewhere into the outfield no man’s land. Hustling all the way, Kiermaier had an easy double. Two sac flies later, including one to the back of the warning track, and the Rays were ahead 1-0.
The Rays followed up with a shutdown first, with Austin Pruitt notching a strike out and two ground ball outs, the last a nifty play by LoMo who fielded the ball between first and second, spun around and tossed to a sprinting Pruitt. Morrison, playing in front of friends and family in the KC area, would go on to have several such sharp 3-1 plays. He also got a few hard hits, but more on that later.
In the top of the third, Adeiny Hechavarria hit the first pitch down the left field line for a double. Kevin Kiermaier tried to bunt him over (Kevin, don’t bunt, hit a dinger!), gave up after 2 strikes, but then worked out a walk although honestly ball four was really strike three.
Ian Kennedy is a fly ball pitcher who, much like our own Jake Odorizzi, has been having particular trouble with the long ball this year. Just as the broadcast team was pointing this out, Lucas Duda sent one really really deep to right for the greatest thing in baseball, the three-run bomb. #RaysUp, 4-0.
But they weren’t done: still with no outs, Longoria doubled into the gap, and Morrison shot one seemingly over the left field fence. The ball bounced back to the field putting Morrison on second as the umpires reviewed to see whether the ball had bounced off the padding (double) or off the top railing (home run). It remained an RBI double with Longoria scoring the Rays’ fifth run.
Two outs later, it was Wilson Ramos’ turn to use his HR swing, as he hit one to dead center, nearly hitting one of those lovely water falls, making the score 7-0. With two outs in the third, Ian Kennedy left for a reliever.
With Brian Flynn on the mound in the fourth inning, Hechevarria (who is as tired of hearing that he’s not Tim Beckham as Beckham was once tired of hearing that he was not Buster Posey) led off with a well struck triple. Kiermaier’s ground ball up the middle was good for an RBI single: #RaysUp 8-0. In the bottom of that inning the Royals got their first hit, a double from Lorenzo Cain, but once more a smooth 3-1 put out ended the inning.
But that’s not all! Just in case, the Rays tacked on four insurance runs in the ninth, with the most notable hit being a Logan Morrison three-run-bomb.
In the top of the fifth inning, Corey Dickerson gave us something fun to talk about. He drilled the ball into the right field corner. When Melky Cabrera bobbled the ball Corey went easily to third, but then, ignoring Charlie Montoyo’s stop sign, continued on to home where he was thrown out. The broadcast team speculated that Dickerson may not have seen Montoyo’s sign, but that seems unlikely. Given the final score we can all have a good laugh about Dickerson’s overboogie, but let’s hope that in a closer game he listens to his coach.
Rays pitching and defense come through
Buoyed by some good run support, Pruitt put up one of his better starts. Pruitt’s line: six innings, one hit and one walk. He had thrown just 78 pitches and if not for the decision made much earlier to get Matt Andriese a few innings of work, this seemed like one of the best candidates for a complete game shut out we have seen.
The top of the seventh was time for the first Matt Andriese sighting since June 10. The Rays had decided to activate Andriese today and have him relieve Pruitt at some point, with the idea that he would slide back into the rotation later in the week. Andriese went three innings, yielding a walk and a hit.
Of course, Kansas City has been going through offensive doldrums that make the Rays offense at its mid-August low point seem robust. They have now gone 43 consecutive innings without scoring a run. So was tonight’s shut out about preeminent pitching or hopeless hitting? I don’t care, just let it continue.