I have to be totally honest. My Sunday started before seven o’clock with a two and one-half hour drive, followed by seven hours of watching girls’ tennis (with bad cell service so no MLB Gameday), followed by a two and one-half hour drive home and immediately continuing on for four more hours into the bowels of Iowa for a business meeting Monday morning. I know, I hear you: shut up, we don’t care about your personal life.
Fair enough. All I was getting to in a roundabout way was that I missed the entire 15 inning Royals’ win today. In doing so, I missed what has to be one of the most exciting, excruciating, maddening, thrilling, bizzare and euphoric of the past five years. Pick an adjective, any adjective, and I bet you can make it apply to this game.
Let’s start with the fact that the Royals, after asking for seven plus innings out of their bullpen on Saturday, needed a good start from Luis Mendoza. They got exactly that, as Luis went six innings and allowed just two runs (back to back homers to Halladay and Craig when he was ahead in the count – I consider 2-2 to be ‘ahead for the pitcher’). All that and the bullpen still had to toss nine innings!
Mendoza’s performance comes on the heels of allowing just one run in six innings in his last start, which came after he gave up just two runs in five innings in relief of Felipe Paulino. Now, I’m not ready to sign Mendoza to a long term contract or even to say that he will still be in the rotation by the end of July, but damn, Luis, well done.
Speaking of the bullpen, they went seven innings after Mendoza without allowing a run, surrendering just three hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. The key guy, obviously, was Tim Collins, who went three perfect innings to allow Ned Yost to avoid having to call on Roman Colon for a third straight day or a used up Bruce Chen.
The Royals also got two innings of work out of closer Jonathan Broxton: one more than they wanted. Broxton, who makes a living dancing the high wire in save opportunities, fell off on Sunday and gave up the tying run in the bottom of the 14th. Redemption came in the 15th, however, when Broxton struck out two (Cardinals pinch-hitting pitcher Joe Kelly is no Bruce Chen) on his way to a 1-2-3 inning and finally, thankfully, the win for Kansas City.
Of course, Broxton would not have had the save opportunity to blow or the chance at redemption had it not been for Yuniesky Betancourt. The Yunigma, despised and reviled generally, gets to be the toast of the town for tonight. A run scoring double in the 14th and a two run homer in the 15th after going 0-5 in his first five at-bats. Of course, how often does a non-starter get SEVEN at-bats in one game?
Backing up to the 14th inning, Betancourt fouled the first pitch off while attempting to bunt. Was that a call from the bench or Yuni acting on his own? As you know, the sacrifice bunt is not a popular item around these parts, but I don’t hate it in this situation. However, I’m not sure I like it with Yuni up. The one occasional skill Yuni brings to the plate is some pop (you know like extra inning doubles and homers), so I am glad that either he cut it out or Ned called the bunt off after one attempt.
But then, Yuni would not have had his chances if it had not been for Billy Butler turning around 99 mph fastball on an 0-2 count with two outs in the top of the ninth to tie the game in the first place. I not sure everyone has noticed, but Billy Butler kinda knows how to hit a baseball.
This game featured, among other things:
- FIVE walks by Alex Gordon.
- Back to back intentional walks with no one on and two outs. Sounds crazy, but it was the 14th inning, the Royals were out of bench players, Bruce Chen already had gotten his pinch hit knock, so the Cards gave free passes to Moustakas and Escobar to get to Nate Adcock.
- As alluded to a twice already, we saw the first Royals pitcher to get a pinch hit when Bruce Chen, batting for Tim Collins singled. I’m amazed that is the first time it has happened. You would have thought that back before the DH, some Royals pitcher (Jim Rooker for example) would have gotten one in some wild game.
I bet you can list three or six or nine more things about Sunday’s game that deserve a bullet point: it was simply that kind of game. The kind of game that, more often than not, the Royals have ended up losing in the past. Progress or just dumb luck? Not sure, but I’ll take five out of six in any form. Especially with three at Houston coming up.
The Royals are not really a contender, not yet. They, however, are not exactly not contenders, either. I bet you didn’t expect to see that when they were losing 12 in a row.