Guthrie Shines, Ibanez Hits Dinger in Huge 1-0 Win over A’s
Inning after inning, despite missing scoring opportunities constantly, the Royals tiptoed their way past the sleeping giant. On Friday night, that giant never woke up.
Kansas City, in a game that was perceived as an on-paper pitching mismatch, snuck past the Oakland A’s 1-0 to open a three-game series on Friday night. Jeremy Guthrie (7-9) picked a great time for his best outing of the season, and arguably his Royals career. The “big three” at the back of the bullpen were once again lights-out.
As for the offense, well, they did just enough. Nori Aoki led off the game with a double, and moved to third after a wild pitch. Despite this golden scoring opportunity, the Royals were unable to plate a run.
In the third inning, Jarrod Dyson reached on an infield single with one out, and moved to second on another wild pitch. Once again, A’s starter Sonny Gray (12-4) settled down to get out of the inning unscathed.
Kansas City only had one more runner to reach scoring position the rest of the game (Dyson in the 8th), and he was, shockingly, stranded. The team finished 0-6 in RISP opportunities, and managed only four hits the entire game against Gray and two Oakland relievers.
It’s a good thing the Royals had Raul Ibanez.
While the 2-6 hitters went 0-19, Ibanez re-broke his own team record when he became the oldest player in club history to homer in the fifth inning. He mashed a first-pitch fastball from Gray just over the wall in right-center field for his fifth dinger of the season. It was also just the second time in his last nine starts that he surrendered a long ball.
The 1-0 lead was all Jeremy Guthrie needed, who turned in his finest outing of the season. After starting the game with three perfect innings, he used his classic tightrope act to get out of huge jams in both the fourth and sixth innings. In both situations, the A’s put runners on the corners with only one out, but Guthrie buckled down to get out of them, more often than not with looking strikeouts. He mixed and mashed his pitches to frustrate the A’s, particularly in the fourth inning, when Jed Lowrie was called out on strikes before firing his bat and screaming profanities at the home plate umpire. Guthrie finished with six strikeouts, his most since June 18, and allowed just three hits over six stellar innings.
It was the first time since August 5, 2013 that Guthrie did not allow a run. While his statline from that game (his second career shutout) may be more impressive, the guts he pitched with on Friday night earned his team their biggest win of the season.
The biggest question heading into Friday was whether Wade Davis and Greg Holland would be available after pitching each of the last two days. Kelvin Herrera was expected to pitch at some point in the game, and he did so with a scoreless seventh inning.
Because of the circumstances, Ned Yost wound up using both Davis and Holland, who were simply magnificent and showed no signs of fatigue despite pitching for a third consecutive day. Davis worked a perfect eighth inning with two strikeouts, while Holland worked around a two-out double to earn his 30th save of the season. By the time he fanned Alberto Callapso with a devastating slider to end the game, he found himself tied with Seattle’s Fernando Rodney for the most saves in the American League.
The series will continue on Saturday afternoon when the newly acquired Jon Lester (10-7, 2.52 ERA in 21 games with Boston) will make his A’s debut. The former Red Sox ace has always been a thorn in the Royals’ side, sporting a stellar 1.43 ERA in 11 career starts against Kansas City.
Opposing Lester will be Jason Vargas (8-4, 3.31), who will make his first start since July 8 after undergoing an appendectomy. The Royals are expected to place 1B Eric Hosmer on the 15 day disabled list when they officially activate Vargas before tomorrow’s game. Hosmer suffered a fractured hand in Thursday’s win over the Twins, and is expected to miss 3-6 weeks.
Seriously. It’s August of 2014, and the Royals just beat the best team in baseball 1-0 thanks to home run by 42-year-old Raul Ibanez. If Eric Hosmer doesn’t get hurt last night, Ibanez doesn’t play on Friday, and the game could still be going on for all we know.
It’s a Royal Coaster. Kansas City has won eight of their last 10 and finds themselves 2.5 back of Toronto for the American League’s second wild card spot. The future is a mystery, but what we do know is the Royals won an enormous game on Friday night in Oakland. If they can just keep it going, who knows what will happen. Maybe this Dayton Moore-led team will make the postseason.
Okay, probably not.
But seriously – maybe. Just maybe.