It was the never-ending game.
The scoring bookended regulation. Eugenio Suarez yanked a home run to left field in the bottom of the first. Ben Zobrist (The Zorilla!) tied the game in the ninth off the previously Teflon arm of Aroldis Chapman. It was his first blown save at home in 56 attempts. See? The Royals aren’t the only team that has had bullpen streaks come to an end.
Speaking of streaks… After going the entire season without a ninth inning come from behind victory, and just days after seeing their 111 game winning streak when leading after eight innings end, the Royals have now won two in a row when trailing after eight.
Baseball can be kind of amazing.
Edinson Volquez started and went a hard six innings. He limited the damage to just the home run, but the entire game was a battle. He needed 112 pitches to get those 18 outs. He faced 24 batters on the night and threw a first pitch strike to only nine. Command has been an issue in the past, no so much this season, but it just wasn’t a tidy ballgame. Volquez walked three and allowed four hits but was really only tested in the sixth inning when he intentionally walked Votto to load the bases. A grounder to Moustakas at third ended the threat and Volquez’s night.
Enter bullpen. Damn, that Royals bullpen was nails. Rollcall! Ryan Madson, Chris Young, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Franklin Morales, Kris Medlen, and Greg Holland. Combined, they allowed just four baserunners scattered over seven innings. With nine strikeouts. And you were worried.
Bullpen aside, it was truly a dreary affair until the 13th. The only other plays of note were a couple of replay decisions that went against the Royals. The first was on Lorenzo Cain at home plate in the ninth. Originally called safe following a rundown, New York overturned the decision on the field. Meh. It was difficult to tell, but Cain didn’t seem too disturbed. Maybe he just loves baseball so much and can see into the future, so he was fine with the extra innings. Either way the call went, it was a strong effort from him to stay in the rundown and to attempt to avoid the tag. I’ll pay money to watch Lorenzo Cain play baseball.
The next replay came in the top of the 11th when Alcides Escobar was thrown out at second trying to leg out a double. It was maybe a good move if Escobar had run at full speed out of the box. The ball was heading for the gap, so I really have no clue why he wasn’t busting it from the beginning. After Hamilton dove for the ball and grabbed it on one hop (a really great defensive play by the way, he was at full extension) Escobar was beat to second by the throw. However, it looked like the he evaded the tag, sliding over the glove. Replay thought otherwise and Yost, displeased, was promptly ejected. I’m clearly not a fan of replay, but the one good thing that has come from it is a decrease in ejections. Nothing looks sillier than a grown man yelling and gesticulating wildly about a call that he perceives has gone against his team. However, in this instance, Yost was justified in his frustration. Two close calls, one was overturned and one was upheld. Both looked like they could go either way.
Replay, in it’s current state, is a sham.
On to the 13th. Jarrod Dyson led off with a single. He was in the lineup only because Omar Infante was a late scratch with back spasms. (Does that make Infante a candidate for Player of the Game? Good question.) That pushed Zobrist, originally slated to play left, to second, while Dyson was tapped to field left. Out of bench players outside of Drew Butera (and Infante, who was suffering back spasms and you know… Isn’t that good when healthy), the Royals elected to allow Medlen to come to plate. Medlen’s twitter bio describes himself as a “Platoon DH” so I suppose he has some confidence carrying the lumber. He laid down a nice bunt on the first base line that was promptly launched into right field by the pitcher Mattheus. Dyson, did his thing, flipped on the afterburners and came around to score.
You read that correctly. The Royals scored the go-ahead run in the 13th inning when their pitcher laid down a sacrifice bunt… That scored a runner from first base. To paraphrase Denny Matthews, “When it’s your year…”
A wild pitch, a single by Escobar, and a Zobrist chopper that went for a single brought home Medlen for the insurance. This is a blog with a sabermetric bent, so you’re not going to read about pitcher wins in this space. But I do acknowledge they are important for the pitchers… They matter to them. So it does feel like it’s worth noting that Medlen picked up his first win since 2013. You can’t help but feel happy for the guy to persevere like he has. Just add his name to the list of the Feel-Good Royals of 2015. This team…
After Medlen crossed the plate, all that was left was for Holland to do his thing in the bottom of the 13th. He showcased a nasty curve against Votto on 0-1 before he lost him on a walk. The command abandoned him ever so briefly in that inning. His breaking balls were up in the zone and he caught a little too much of the plate before he spiked a slider for a swing and a miss for the final out.
Didn’t you feel confident when Zobrist went yard against Chapman in the ninth? Playing extra innings plays right into the Royals strength. It’s all about the bullpen, baby.
Win probability always throws the advantage to the home team in extras. Understandable. For the home team, one swing of the bat can end the game. However, win probability doesn’t take into account the wonder that is the Royals bullpen.
The Royals magic number is 31.