Balks, HBP's, and Line-Out Double Plays: Dodgers Clip Royals 5-4
Lorenzo Cain stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth. With the Royals trailing 5-4, the tying run was in scoring position, and a lousy single against troubled Dodger reliever Brian Wilson would surely tie the game. “Hopefully he can line one to right”, Rex Hudler muttered in the booth.
Cain did just that.
Scott Van Slyke, channeling his inner Andrew Wiggins, leapt into the air and snagged Cain’s ringing liner out of the air. He then fired to second base to double off Pedro Ciriaco, who froze on the liner, to end the game.
The Royals found another way to lose a game and a series on Wednesday night, falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-4. Kansas City (40-38) has lost five of six since winning 10 games in a row last week, and fell to four games back of the first place Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. To put things in perspective, the Royals were five games back when the winning streak began, so that amazing, record-breaking run has almost been completely nullified thanks to the team’s poor recent play.
Kansas City entered Wednesday night’s contest with high hopes. Hopes for ace James Shields to snap out of his rough stretch. Hopes for the offense to get off the struggle bus. Things began on a high note, as Shields worked a clean 1-2-3 first inning, and Cain led off the Royals’ first with a towering home run into the left-field fountains. Cain’s third homer of the season would also be his first career leadoff blast.
Shields struggled through the next four frames, yielding four runs and continuously dodging bullets as his defense took hits away from the Dodgers seemingly every minute. Matt Kemp evened the score at one when he led off the second with a long homer of his own.
In the third inning, Dee Gordon tripled and eventually scored on another James Shields balk. It was Shields’ second balk on a pickoff attempt to third in three games, and the Royals ace was fuming in disbelief after the call was made. He expressed frustration and disagreement in the call after the game, but it didn’t matter anyway, as Yasiel Puig would triple immediately afterwards. He scored on an Adrian Gonzalez sacrifice fly, and the Dodgers led 3-1.
The Royals got a run back in the fourth when Mike Moustakas singled home Alex Gordon with two outs. Los Angeles matched it when Puig doubled home Gordon in the next frame.
Trailing 4-2, Jarrod Dyson blasted a power-struck homer over the visitor’s bullpen in right field to lead off the fifth. Later in the inning, the Royals chased Dodgers starter Dan Haren from the game just before Billy Butler’s RBI groundout tied the game at four. Shields would mow down the Dodgers from there, and the Royals appeared to be back in business. Shields, while still not sharp, managed to go seven innings and hold Los Angeles to four runs. He struck out only two batters while walking one.
Fast forward to the eighth inning, where usually dominant Wade Davis took the mound for Kansas City. The Royals’ setup man hadn’t given up a run since April 23, got into trouble when the Dodgers loaded the bases with two outs. After ahead of A.J. Ellis in the count 1-2, Davis plunked the Dodgers catcher with a misplaced off-speed pitch. As the crowd gasped in disbelief, Andre Either trotted down from third to score the go-ahead run.
The Royals threatened in the ninth when Danny Valencia reached with a one-out single. He was replaced by pinch runner Pedro Ciriaco, who stole second base after a reversal on a challenge that was originally ruled out at the base. It was then when Cain stung a liner into a leaping Van Slyke’s glove.
Davis (5-2) received his first loss since Opening Day. Jamey Wright (3-2), who worked a scoreless 2.2 innings in relief, received the win. Former Giants closer Brian Wilson locked down his first save since April 2012.
While the worry with the Royals seems to be focused on James Shields, I’m much more concerned about how Kansas City has blown nearly all of the ground they gained in the 10-game winning streak. It’s now the Tigers that are red hot, and this recent cold slump may doom the Royals’ hopes to contend in the division if it continues much longer.
There are bright spots. Jarrod Dyson continues to prove superior over either Justin Maxwell or Nori Aoki, so knowing the Royals, there’s little doubt that he will return to the bench as a fourth outfielder when Aoki returns from the DL. Davis and Greg Holland both hiccupped this last week after nothing but dominance for two months, so hopefully they’ll get back on their usual pace. There are 84 games left, more than enough time to get back on track.
However, things don’t get any easier this weekend, as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim come to Kauffman for a three-game series. Former Angel Jason Vargas (7-3, 3.16 ERA) will face Scott Shoemaker (5-1, 3.42) in what should be an intriguing pitchers’ duel.