When Danny Duffy got through the top of the first 1-2-3 with two strikeouts, it sure seemed like I was wrong about disliking the idea of bringing him back without a rehab assignment, but then the second inning happened and that was when the real game had started. Duffy walked three in that second inning and if only we knew what was about to happen.
It’s so hard to figure out where to start with this, but I’m going to start at the end because that ninth inning was bizarre. After the Yankees had taken the lead in the bottom of the eighth, the Royals had the bottom of their order up to face Aroldis Chapman, who you may have heard is still quite good. Hunter Dozier struck out looking and Michael A. Taylor miraculously not only made contact but singled up the middle. Hanser Alberto pinch hit for Nicky Lopez and he struck out looking.
Whit Merrifield’s bloop single to right got Taylor to third and then it was decision time for the Yankees. The Royals had Carlos Santana, who had homered in the eighth to give the Royals a 3-2 lead, coming up. Now, what the Royals didn’t have was Salvador Perez up after him because he had left earlier in the game after getting hit in the mask with a foul ball. So with Sebastian Rivero on deck, the Yankees went unconventional and walked Santana to load the bases to face Rivero. It seemed like quite the mismatch, but Chapman couldn’t find the zone with four straight pitches and the game was tied.
Then Ryan O’Hearn, who I’ll get to in a bit, came up and checked his swing and the ball dribbled toward third but he beat it out and the Royals had themselves a 5-4 lead, as improbable as it might be.
The intentional walk came back to bite the Yankees in a HUGE way.
So we move to the bottom of the ninth and after a strikeout of Aaron Judge by Greg Holland, Gary Sanchez ties the game with a home run. Giancarlo Stanton then lined a single to right. Tyler Wade pinch ran and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. With Luke Voit at the plate representing absolutely nothing, the Royals decided to pitch to him rather than put him on. Now remember last night that they actually put Sanchez on as the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, so the fact that they didn’t do the same with Voit was shocking. And of course, he lined a ball off the wall, Wade scored and the Royals lost.
Not issuing the intentional walk came back to bite the Royals in a HUGE way.
Okay, now let’s go back to the rest of the game. The fact that they didn’t walk a batter they should have walked was a little bit of a weird situation because they walked 11 batters previously. That’s not a typo. Royals pitchers, one night after walking eight, walked 11. It was the 24th time in team history they’ve walked at least 11 batters in a game.
The most walks the Royals ever issued came in a 14-inning game in 2002 against the Marlins that they lost 15-8. They are now 4-20 in games in which they’ve walked at least 11 batters. It’s the 14th game that didn’t go into extra innings they’ve walked 11 or more. They’re now 1-13 in those games. The six runs allowed in this one were tied for the seventh-fewest of the 24 games, so that’s something. Their 10 strikeouts were the third most in an 11-walk game. If you’d like to enjoy the walk (no pun intended) down memory lane, here are all the games with 11+ walks in team history.
*****End Historical Interlude*****
Of all the walks they gave up, it’s just so interesting to me that the one they didn’t issue is the one that hurt the most. Of course, that’s not entirely true because walks hurt them throughout the game. With a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth, Jake Brentz walked the leadoff man and he was erased on a really nice double play started by Whit Merrifield. But then he walked Clint Frazier and Rougned Odor hit a two-run home run to give the Yankees the lead that led to Chapman coming out for the ninth.
In total, the Royals used seven pitchers to throw 8.1 innings. Those seven pitchers threw 203 pitches and just 110 strikes on them. They did get 31 swings and misses on 84 swings which is a pretty ridiculous 36.9 percent whiff rate, so they do have that to hang their hat on at least.
But boy was this an ugly game. And back to the original point about Duffy, this is a big reason why I wasn’t so excited to see him come back without any rehab stint because they couldn’t really afford to have a bullpen game in the second day of 20 games in 20 days. Now the Royals are in a situation where they likely have to get six innings from Keller tomorrow without a roster move as I doubt any of Scott Barlow, Brentz, Kyle Zimmer, Holland or Josh Staumont are available tomorrow. They likely have some combination of Ervin Santana, Anthony Swarzak and Wade Davis out of the bullpen. That’s not a position you want to be in facing the Yankees in that stadium, no matter how much their lineup has struggled.
What we saw from Duffy was encouraging, though. He averaged 94.6 MPH on his fastball, which probably would have fallen a bit if he had gotten to 90 or 100 pitches, but was still above his season average. He got six swings and misses on that in 10 swings, which is pretty fantastic. His changeup was really, really good in the first, and I think that led to some of his fastball swings and misses. That got four whiffs on five swings. Yes, he had 10 swings and misses in two innings on 18 total swings, which is just really, really good.
I thought his command got the better of him, but as I noted on Twitter, that’s not terribly surprising given that he hadn’t thrown a competitive pitch in six weeks. The stuff was crisp and that’s what matters.
I was also happy with Staumont, who got his fastball up to 99, which was great to see. His curve was outstanding. He got five whiffs on eight swings on that pitch. Other than Zimmer, who was very efficient (the only guy of the night), the rest of the pitchers just contributed to the historical game we were unlucky enough to witness last night.
Spin Zone, Night Two
Does anything stand out here? For the second night in a row, Zimmer’s spin is way down, so that’s interesting. Carlos Hernandez’s changeup being way down is something to keep an eye on, but he also only threw two, so I’m not too worried. It’s the same as with Brentz’s sinker. I think Staumont’s decrease is notable and on a different front, it’s nice to see that slider spin rate Duffy talked about finding has carried over to games.
Not too much to see here probably, though Chapman’s slider is at least semi-interesting.
O’Hearn Does It Again
When I’ve been as hard on someone as I have O’Hearn, I think I have to talk about him every time he hits a home run, especially one in the first inning. They hadn’t scored in the first since that crazy Friday night game against the Twins, so when he came up with two outs in the first inning and he hit that home run, it gave the Royals an early lead and it was a hit with a runner in scoring position with Perez having doubled with two outs to get there. It kind of knocked out two big Royals issues with one swing.
I’m going to be honest here and say that I don’t see much of a change in his swing from earlier this season, but I do see that he’s maybe opened his stance a touch this year from last. I don’t think that’s actually done much for him, though, as he’s swinging and missing more than ever and actually walking less than ever, but right now he’s on a tear that he’s carried with him from Omaha. If Perez is going to be out for any length of time (and it seems like they maybe dodged a bit of a bullet), they’ll need to ride this O’Hearn wave as long as they can.