As far as games go, this one wasn't worth its Friday night billing. It did showcase the Royals' strengths; this is a good team with a phenomenal bullpen, and while the A's hit the ball much harder and in some cases further, the Royals relentlessly found all of the holes in the A's defense and took apart Sonny Gray, one seeing eye single at a time, racking up 15 hits overall. Dan Otero continues to prove that he isn't a replacement set-up man and shouldn't be allowed to pitch the eighth innings, and we've learned beyond a shadow of a doubt why Brett Lawrie doesn't make it through full seasons. And also why he'll be drilled by a pitch in tomorrow's game.
The game started off in fine fashion, as the Royals welcomed back Billy Butler with a second-place ring, reminding us all that as good as the Royals were last season, they couldn't finish it when it counted. Add it to the list. Butler went 1-4 in today's contest in front of his old fans, extending his hitting streak to 11 on the season.
The A's put the first run of the game on the board in the second inning, as a one-out single by Davis and a double by Vogt put runners at second and third with one out. A sacrifice bunt by Lawrie scored the run. The A's wasted Marcus Semien's lead-off double in the third; they followed with three hard-hit balls, but the Royals' outfield was perfectly positioned all night.
The third inning will be the devil in the scorecard for Sonny Gray, but the second inning very nearly took a downturn, saved only by Marcus Semien. Gray walked the lead-off hitter and the next hitter bounced a come-backer to the mound. Gray threw it into the dirt barely ahead of the runner at second base, and only a terrific play by Semien recorded the out; without that play, there are runners at second and third with no one out.
Alas, the third inning was quick to follow. After two quick fly-outs to open the inning, five straight two-out singles mixed in with a stolen base put three runs on the board for the Royals. Most were hit to the right side. The difference between Eric Sogard and Ben Zobrist at second base did cross my mind, as I'm sure it did Sonny Gray's, but Zobrist is such an upgrade at the plate, I don't think I'd change a thing. Royals gonna single, and single they did.
Down 3-1, the A's opened the fourth with a bang; back-to-back home runs by Ike Davis (his first) and Stephen Vogt (his first of the game) to tie the game at three, which showed grit and moxie. All was quiet until the sixth inning, when more doubles and singles brought in the go-ahead run for the Royals. IBISV indeed, in his first multi-home run game of his career, tied the game at 4 in the seventh. And the A's, knowing the behemoth that is the Royals' pen, should have added more, but Lawrie. Lawrie singled following the home run and should have been moved to second on Reddick's grounder, but for a reason that only Lawrie can explain, he slid into Alcides Escobar instead of the base.
Lawrie: "They need to know there was no intention of hurting anyone. I'm just playing the game hard, trying to break up a double play."— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) April 18, 2015
What, of course, Lawire missed in all of this was had he slid properly into second base, he would have been easily safe, and the A's would have had a real rally going. Instead, he broke Escobar, pissed off the entirety of Royals fans, cost the A's an out, lost yet another replay call (that one was never going to be overturned), and could have injured himself in the process, as well. It wasn't the best call, per se, whether or not he intended to hurt anyone, and I'm beginning to understand why full seasons of play are challenging for him and also why opposing teams may not enjoy him.
The Royals' bullpen, as advertised, was lights out against the A's in the eighth and ninth innings, and Dan Otero, well, sucks as a set-up man, okay? I don't know how to put that any more politely. A single, triple and a sac fly plated two runs that the A's couldn't match; their chances came earlier in the game.
Tack on another no-decision for Sonny Gray in a start he'd rather forget, as the A's re-group for tomorrow. It's quite nice of the Royals to have a night game, as not to interfere with the Golden State Warriors. Hahn will take on Ventura tomorrow at 4. We'll have all your action right here.