Infante, Two-Out Rallies Lift Royals Past Rockies
In one week, I will start my sophomore year of college. I turn 20 years old in March.
Tonight, for the first time in my lifetime, the Kansas City Royals (70-55) are 15 games over .500.
Omar Infante broke out of his extended slump with a huge game, the offense came through with two-out rallies to back James Shields, and Ned Yost celebrated his 60th birthday with a win. The Royals held off a late rally by the Rockies to win 7-4, putting them in position to potentially sweep the four-game season series from Colorado tomorrow.
Infante, who had been hitting just above .180 since the All Star break, was 4-5 with three doubles, the second of which was a huge two-out, two-run two-bagger that helped the Royals take the lead for good in the seventh inning. Infante drove in four runs, vaulting him back into the team lead with 57 runs batted in. The mark set a career high for the second baseman, topping his previous high from 2004 of 55.
The Royals are now 15-4 in interleague games, giving them the most wins in interleague play of any team since the 2010 Chicago White Sox.
Trailing 1-0, Lorenzo Cain tied the game in the fourth inning with a run-scoring double. Billy Butler scored all the way from first base, getting some assistance when catcher Michael McKenry dropped a relay throw that appeared to be in time.
James Shields (12-6) threw six innings of two-run ball for Kansas City. He gave up a run on a double play in the first inning and a solo home run by Nolan Arenado in the fifth. For the seventh time in his last eight starts, he provided the Royals with a quality start. He struck out six and walked one to earn the win.
Interestingly, he did not reach the 100 pitch count mark for only the fourth time in 2013, and the first time since June 3 in St. Louis.
It’s extremely rare in Kansas City for Yost to get any sort of credit form the fans, but the birthday boy deserves some praise for his late-game managing.
With two out and nobody on in the sixth inning, the Royals’ pitchers spot was due up. Yost decided to pinch hit Josh Willingham, thus concluding Shields’ day after six innings. Willingham reached with a single, which would get the Royals’ rally going. Following that, Nori Aoki worked a walk after falling behind 0-2 in the count, and that’s when Infante came through with his two-run double down the right-field line. Salvador Perez provided another run with a towering double to dead center field, giving Kansas City a 4-2 lead and putting Shields in line for the win.
The bottom of the seventh inning belonged to Kelvin Herrera, who walked the first two hitters before using a double play and a groundout to escape unscathed.
In the eighth, the Royals once again were faced with a two-out, none-on situation before erupting for a streak of baserunners. Singles by Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar started the rally, and defensive replacement Jarrod Dyson walked to load the bases. Pinch hitter Christian Colon would then put forth a gutty plate appearance that is normally unheard of from a rookie by taking five straight pitches, walking in a run. After that, Infante drove in two more with his third double of the game to push Kansas City’s lead out to 7-2.
Wade Davis worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning to lower his ERA to a microscopic 0.81. With a five-run cushion, Francisley Bueno was called on to work the ninth, but promptly gave up a two-run homer to Drew Stubbs. It became a save situation when Arenado reached on a bunt single with two outs, and Yost brought in closer Greg Holland to finish the game. The All-Star closer needed just one pitch to retire Corey Dickerson on a fly out, nailing down his league-leading 39th save of 2014.
Random stat that I’m choosing to put here: Shields now has 18 road wins since the beginning of 2013, which is second in all of baseball. His road ERA the last two seasons is an impressive 2.64.
Before the game, it was announced that Billy Butler would be on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. Fans worried about the trend of the “cover jinx”, but it doesn’t even appear that can stop red-hot Royals.
Another random stat that’s shocking but kind of amazing: the Royals reached the 70 win mark only twice from 2001-2010. Tonight, they reached it with 37 games left. They are now 14-3 in August – should they win six of their last 10 games this month, they will become the second winningest team of the Dayton Moore era – with all of September left.
Scoreboard watching: the Tigers overcame a 4-0 deficit in Tampa to defeat the Rays 8-6 in 11 innings. The win helped them keep pace with the victorious Royals to remain 2.0 games back in the division. Considering the Royals gave the Rays Wil Myers, hopefully they can help Kansas City out in the next couple of days.
Up next: the two-game series concludes tomorrow when Danny Duffy (8-10, 2.60 ERA) takes on former Royal Jorge De La Rosa (12-8, 4.32). Kansas City goes for the four-game series sweep of the Rockies, and is also in search of its 16th interleague win in 20 opportunities. On Thursday, the Royals will have their first off-day since August 4.