Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Game of the Day (6/3/14)

Royals 8, Cardinals 7. Kansas City sent James Shields to the mound against Jaime Garcia of St. Louis. It was the Royals' ace against the Cards' #5 starter... insert joke about almost equalizing the quality of the two teams here.

Naturally, it was the #5 starter who was perfect through two innings and the ace who struggled in the early going. Matt Carpenter led off the bottom of the first with a single, and Kolten Wong reached on an Eric Hosmer error. One out later, Allen Craig singled to load the bases, but Yadier Molina hit into an inning-ending double play to help Shields escape. That evasion was temporary, however. Oscar Taveras led off the second with a single, and Jon Jay matched him one out later. Garcia hit into a force and Carpenter walked to load the bases; Wong then selected that moment to hit his first career home run, a grand slam giving his team a 4-0 lead.

Shields became the first Royal to reach by singling with two outs in the third; he was stranded, then worked around a Jhonny Peralta double in the bottom of the inning. Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon both singled in the fourth, but Salvador Perez hit into a double play; Garcia led off the home fourth with a hit and was bunted to second before Wong lined into a DP of his own.

Kansas City finally broke through in the fifth, starting with a one-out double by Mike Moustakas. Alcides Escobar tripled him home, Shields doubled Escobar in (the pitcher's first career extra-base hit), and Norichika Aoki singled to score Shields, taking second on the throw home. A flyout moved Aoki to third, and Hosmer was hit by a pitch to bring Gordon to the plate. Gordon completed the one-inning team-wide cycle with a go-ahead 3-run homer.

The newfound 6-4 lead didn't last. Matt Holliday drew a walk to start the bottom of the fifth, and Craig reached on a Moustakas error. Molina grounded out, advancing the runners, Taveras hit a foul sac fly, and Peralta doubled Craig in to tie the game at 6.

Seth Maness relieved Garcia in the top of the sixth, entering as part of a double switch that also put Peter Bourjos in center, and set the Royals down in order. Bourjos then led off the bottom of the inning with a go-ahead homer. A walk and an out later, the Royals replaced Shields with Aaron Crow, also double-switching their center fielder with Jarrod Dyson. This substitution did not have such an immediate offensive benefit, as Sam Freeman retired Dyson during a scoreless seventh. Wilking Rodriguez was then sent to the mound for his major league debut and set the Cards down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning.

Freeman struck out Gordon to begin the eighth, and was then supplanted by Pat Neshek. Perez greeted Neshek with a single, and Billy Butler followed with a pinch hit double that put the tying run at third. Moustakas popped up, but Escobar singled to even the game at 7. Wade Davis allowed only a Carpenter single in the eighth, and the Royals took the lead against Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth when Omar Infante doubled and Hosmer singled him home. Greg Holland then retired the Cards in order in the bottom of the inning to secure the save.

The Royals are not a particularly outstanding team. (Shocking, I know.) But they do have a remarkably effective set of front-line relievers, and that's what kept them in this game long enough for their normally-stagnant offense to push enough runs across to win (with a bit of help from their starting pitcher, who went 2 for 2 with a run and an RBI).

But forget all that wider discussion of team quality. This game had three lead changes, two hits by a pitcher, an MLB debut, and a first career homer that doubled as a grand slam. Any one of those events would be enough reason to enjoy a baseball game. Put all four together, and you've got quite a good outing indeed.

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