Do you follow the Royals? I don’t, not really, no more than any other non-AL Central fan might. But I have heard of
Grit Whit Merrifield, and his impressively clutch moments for the Royals. Like a lil’ David Eckstein or something.
Anyway, it seems perfectly fitting that Merrifield would end the Royals’ scoring drought with a home run that just barely wrapped around the left field foul pole. The streak ends at 45 scoreless, which is the longest scoreless inning streak in the DH era. So good for them! But for a while, it sure seemed like they transferred all their bad luck and total ineptitude back to the Rays, Space Jam-style.
In the fourth inning, Alex Cobb inexplicably decided that the Royals needed a little boost to get going. Hosmer led off the inning with a single, but Cobb really felt like he deserved a double, so Cobber uncorked a wild pitch to put Hos on second. After recording a soft out, Mike Moustakas put a misplaced 0-2 pitch to left field to score the Royals’ second run. Again, Cobb was impressed by the good piece of hitting, and vowed to put the slow-footed Moustakas on second the only way he knew how: with a wild pitch. Said pitch also put Moose on second in scoring position. Another base hit failed to score Moose, and so with runners at the corners, Cobb let fly his third wild pitch of the inning, pushing Bonifacio to second base. Luckily, the Royals remembered their issues with run production, and stranded the men on base.
Meanwhile, the Rays were getting absolutely hamstrung by Jake Junis, not actually getting their first hit until the fifth inning. Ominously, the first man to get a hit (Corey Dickerson) looked like he got hurt on his way to first, but it turned out it was basically nothing. If Dickerson gets injured, we riot.
The top of the sixth inning involved one of the stranger umpire-led conferences that I’ve ever seen in baseball. With one out and the speedy Kevin Kiermaier on first base, the hot-hitting Lucas Duda entered the batter’s box. Despite being gifted a 3-0 count by a nibbling Junis, the count worked itself full. On that 3-2 count, Kiermaier broke for second base as Duda swung and missed at a nasty breaking pitch. Kiermaier coasted into second base, but as Duda swung he stepped forward a bit, seemingly entering Salvador Perez’s line of view. Perez reacted immediately, pointing at Duda and even tagging him with the baseball.
It looked like Perez was arguing for an obstruction call, yet the umpires went to the video booth to review it. Obstruction calls are one of the few non-reviewable calls in the game right now, along with the Infield Fly Rule, balks, and deciding where the umps are going to meet up after the game for drinks. Turns out, the reason was even stranger. The Royals, officially, challenged whether or not Duda was hit by the insane pitch. Duda would be out after swinging at a pitch even if it struck him, but the ball would also technically be dead, meaning that Kiermaier’s stolen base would count for nothing.
‘Lo and behold, the pitch did hit Duda on his back foot, a true testament to the sharp curve. Kiermaier went back to first, and there were two outs on the board. It certainly seemed—at first—that the Royals were taking advantage of a lucky break to keep Kiermaier from stealing the base, by working around a non-reviewable play. I definitely thought that, and was seriously starting to believe that the Royals had passed on their curse. But it was not so! Careful lip-reading of Perez (I am a certified lip reader by the Siberian Government) points to him shouting at the umps that it hit Duda’s foot. So the real winner here is Perez, who has insane eagle eyes and might not be human.
While the Rays were put in a bit of a hole, they clawed their way back, scoring a run thanks to a couple of solid hits by Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison. Morrison’s hit came after Junis was lifted, which was the biggest favor the Royals did the Rays all day. Still, it was bittersweet. Despite loading the bases, Corey Dickerson grounded out harmlessly to second to end the threat.
The two teams seemed content with trading solo shots for a while. Cobber gave up a homer to Jorge Bonifacio, but Brandon Maurer allowed one of his own to Brad Miller. The score seemed destined to stay a one-run game.
In the bottom of the seventh, Brad Boxberger relieved Alex Cobb, and quickly allowed another hard-luck, doinker of a hit to Alcides Escobar that sort of seemed to sum of the day for the Rays thus far. Escobar ran on a pitch to Whit Merrifield, who sharply grounded to third base, putting Escobar in scoring position. With two outs and runners on first and second, Cash called to Dan Jennings to face Eric Hosmer. The lefty-on-lefty matchup was favorable for the Rays on paper, despite Hosmer’s sky-high average against lefties this season. Not so much: Hosmer hit a three-run homer to dead center, nailing that coffin and kicking the Rays in the groin while he’s at it.
The Rays didn’t put up too much more of a fight after Hosmer’s Homer, and fell to the Royals 6-2. Tomorrow marks the rubber match of the series, and for the Rays to continue to be in the Wild Card hunt, they need to start consistently winning series.