The Orioles stormed the gates of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City on Saturday night, expecting to face fierce resistance from the losers of the 2014 World Series. What they encountered instead was a bunch of shambling sacks of meat which, between the lot of them, could barely muster even one iota of interest in playing a baseball game. The O's took down these zombie Royals by an 8-3 score.
It's rare to see a game where the O's opponent just looks so thoroughly nonchalant in nearly every phase of the game. There's really no other way to describe the effort put into this game by the Royals than disinterested.
At one point in the broadcast, MASN's Gary Thorne wondered whether the Royals were too busy admiring the item given away to fans to be paying attention to the game. It was a fair rhetorical question.
That was how it went for a lot of the night. There were half-hearted would-be double play throws, low-effort strolls through the outfield to attempt to field bloopers, and perhaps most significantly, Royals pitchers were so careless about throwing strikes that they managed to walk Adam Jones three times in the course of the game. This was the 1,254th game of Jones's career and the first one in which he walked three times. That's hard to do.
The lackluster effort carried over to the offensive side of the game for the Royals as well. Though they were able to score a few runs thanks in part to a Tyler Wilson mistake, they were also all too willing to breeze through a few innings the way that Wilson wanted them to.
Wilson, making his first start of the year, actually had cleared through four innings while throwing only 46 pitches - only one pitch more than it took Yovani Gallardo to get through two innings yesterday.
Our friend the BABIP Dragon
The O's staked Wilson to an early 2-0 lead by scoring a couple of runs in the second inning. The first came in the most Oriole of ways: A flick of the wrists by Chris Davis and a not-particularly-pretty swing resulted in a ball taking a drink in the fountains. They grabbed the second run with a little two out rally: J.J. Hardy drew a walk, Jonathan Schoop hit a single, then Hyun Soo Kim blooped a little single into center field to drive home Hardy. That was the first RBI Kim has gotten with the O's.
It's about damn time the BABIP Dragon turned his fire against these dudes, wouldn't you agree?
That 2-0 lead actually didn't last long. Salvador Perez tied up the game with a two run home run. Alex Gordon reached base before Perez with a two out single.
However, the O's, unlike some other games, did not decide to stop scoring after having gotten some runs in one inning. They got right back on the board in the third inning, helped again by some BABIP luck.
After the first of Jones's walks (was that as weird a phrase for you to read as it was for me to type?), Davis grounded a ball up the middle that could have turned into a double play ball ... except that the ball ricocheted off of second base and into the outfield. Hoisted on their own petard! It's about 18 months late, but it's something. Mark Trumbo added a single right up the middle of his own to score Jones and put the O's back on top 3-2.
They led for the remainder of the game, though that was mostly thanks to taking advantage of a Royals mistake to pile on more runs in the fourth inning. Though Jonathan Schoop led off the inning with a single, that was nearly all they got. After Kim struck out, Joey Rickard hit what should have been a double play ball, 6-4-3, but Rickard beat out the relay throw as the fielders were in no rush.
The Royals wave their gloves like they just don't care
Things got really fun from there. Manny Machado lined a ball to left field, the domain of Alex Gordon, a four time Gold Glover. Instead of playing like a Gold Glover, Gordon went full Felix Pie (never go full Pie!) on the ball, completely duffing the play by first starting in and having the ball sail over his head, then wildly throwing over the head of the cutoff man. Rickard scored on the play. It was scored a double for Machado. They walked Jones again afterwards.
Next came a dying quail off the bat of Davis, bouncing in no man's land down the right field line. Machado scored easily, but then, oops! Davis got caught in a rundown trying to take second on the play. The Royals had him dead to rights, except when Davis stopped and the ball was thrown back to the first baseman, no one was covering second. Davis took the base.
This chased Royals starter Kris Medlen. Long relief man Dillon Gee had no better luck with the bloopers. Trumbo also dropped one down the right field line just barely on the fair side of the chalk. They all count. Two more runs scored.
Later in the game, things briefly got interesting. Wilson was relieved one batter into the sixth inning after a Davis error put Lorenzo Cain on first base. Recently-activated Brian Matusz strode in from the bullpen for the first time on the season. Matusz retired one of the three batters he faced, which meant that after the purported lefty specialist walked Gordon, a lefty, the bases were loaded and the tying run was at the plate.
The ineffective Matusz was replaced in turn by strikeout machine Mychal Givens, who heading into tonight had faced 36 batters and struck out 14 of them. That's pretty good. Givens struck out the next two batters he saw to defuse the threat, though he made us sweat a little, throwing nine pitches to Perez and going to a full count on Omar Infante. Still, the trouble was over.
No Royals reached base after Givens came on. Brad Brach eventually relieved Givens and recorded the final five outs of the game. Givens may still be available tomorrow, though Brach is presumably not.
Beyond this point, most of the fun was over, but there was still some left. Jones drew his third walk of the game to lead off the ninth, and after that, Davis got his fourth hit of the night. That's a lot of hits. After that, Trumbo doubled over Cain's head in center field, collecting his fourth RBI of the night in the process. That's a lot of RBI.
It was a pretty good night at the plate for most of the team. Everyone safely reached base at least once except for Matt Wieters. Davis, Trumbo, Machado, Schoop, and Kim all had multi-hit games.
Of course, it's just one game in a 162 game season, and only one game of a three game series. They'll still leave Kansas City as series losers if they don't get another win tomorrow, when Mike Wright will be on the mound for the O's in the 2:15 game.
Still, tonight was fun.