This game was billed as a pitcher's duel featuring two of the game's most exciting young hurlers. It lived up to the hype, with Yordano Ventura and Sonny Gray going toe to toe, each allowing two runs in six innings. Ventura was past his pitch count and on his last batter with only one out in the 6th. However, he finished with a flourish, inducing a double play from Derek Norris. Sonny Gray stayed in the game looking to one-up Ventura. Unfortunately, it was the Royals that went up by one before handing it to their bullpen to slam the door on the Athletics.
Sonny Gray again had a bit of trouble in the first inning. After allowing a seeing eye leadoff grounder to Jarrod Dyson, Omar Infante smacked a solid line drive to Gold Glove right fielder Josh Reddick. In a complete fluke, Reddick came up to throw the ball to second, and it just slipped out of his hands. The throw went all of 10 feet, if that, and the speedy Dyson sprinted to third base.
It will be gif'd for generations, so you might as well see the dang thing here.
Salvador Perez hit into a double play that scored Dyson. Josh Donaldson made the right decision going for two versus the unsure out at home. Billy Butler flew out, but the Royals took the early lead 1-0 on an unearned run. Without the "bar of soap" throw by Reddick, Sonny would have escaped unscathed.
Meanwhile, Ventura threw about 90% fastballs (between 95 and 98 mph) and the A's looked helpless. In the second inning, the Royals earned their run, thanks to stringing together three hits. Two lucky grounders and a liner off the bat of Alcides Escobar. On an 0-2 count. Remember that for later. The Royals had only six hits, but four of them were on 0-2 counts. Somehow Gray couldn't finish off batters.
The A's couldn't come up with much offense, but did pick up Gray in the third. The slumping John Jaso lead off with a solid base hit. After walks to Coco Crisp and Josh Donaldson, the A's coldest hitter stepped to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. Moss worked the count and then smacked a solid line drive on a 2-2 fastball (the 5th straight fastball he saw) to knock in Jaso and Crisp. With the A's offense suddenly coming to life, hope sprang eternal.
Unfortunately, Kansas City proceeded to retire 16 out of the next 17 A's hitters.
The A's did work the count and fight off a lot of pitches from Ventura though, and he was fighting to finish the sixth, having gone over 100 pitches with just one out in the frame. However, rather than going for the killing blow with a man on, Derek Norris hit into the aforementioned double play and Ventura exited with his head held high.
In the seventh, Sonny Gray had two outs and Alcides Escobar on an 0-2 count. Going for a second straight curveball, he missed his location and caught the entire plate. Escobar didn't try to do to much, sending it back up the middle to give the Royals a lead they didn't relinquish.
The reason they didn't relinquish the lead is because they have Kelvim Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland. Three fireballers that have ERAs of 1.62, 0.88, and 1.74, respectively. Holland has blown all of two saves the entire year. Driving up the pitch count against a tough starter often works, but it will never ever work against the Royals. They are 52-1 if leading after 8 innings.
For one hopeful moment though, it looked like the A's could hand Greg Holland his third blown save with two on and nobody out in the 9th inning. And of course, Derek Norris hit into another double play and the rally was snuffed out. Hindsight says Derek Norris could have bunted and kept it alive, but Derek Norris is one of the A's best hitters. I don't think it was the wrong decision to swing away, but he needed to muscle that over the infield.
At that point, the Kansas City crowd went wild. With the Tigers loss earlier in the evening, everyone in Kauffman Stadium knew that the Royals were one batter away from extending their win streak to 8 and taking their first late-season division lead since George Brett was on the squad. I believed in Stephen Vogt, but unfortunately he could only manage a long flyball (WHY COULDN'T NORRIS HAVE DONE THAT?) and the Royals fanbase lost it while Jarrod Dyson celebrated with a backflip.
They haven't made the playoffs in 29 freaking years, so I don't mind letting them have this moment. Tomorrow it's time for the best team in baseball to give them a dose of reality.