Pitching and defense have been the Royals’ calling card all season.
But a rare defensive miscue turned what looked like a victory into a loss as the Colorado Rockies scored four unearned runs in a 5-2 win over the Royals on Wednesday night.
Third baseman Christian Colon, playing for Mike Moustakas, fielded a hot grounder with two outs and none on in the sixth and promptly threw the ball into the dirt to first baseman Billy Butler.
Butler couldn’t make the scoop, and after a squib hit up the middle and a walk, Matt McBride pounced on a first-pitch fastball from Royals starter Danny Duffy and lined it over the left-field fence for a grand slam.
"Danny pitched a great game," manager Ned Yost said on the FOX Sports Kansas City postgame show. "I had no doubt he would pitch his way out of that. But he didn’t."
It was a stunning turn of events and a loss for the Royals, who nonetheless remain a game ahead of Detroit in first place in the American League Central.
— Gordo’s bomb. Too bad the rest of the Royals didn’t pounce on Jorge De La Rosa like Alex Gordon did. Gordon jumped on the first pitch in the second inning and blasted his 14th homer of the season to give the Royals a 1-0 lead. Gordon then belted a deep fly in the fourth to move Josh Willingham to third in his next at-bat. He also led off the seventh inning with a walk, but that was it as the Royals’ offense couldn’t get him another trip to the plate.
— Kratz battles. Backup catcher Erik Kratz filled in for Sal Perez, who was resting his sore right knee. And Kratz had a great at-bat in the fourth with Willingham on third and one out. Kratz battled De La Rosa and fouled off several pitches before sending one deep enough to right field for a sacrifice fly. Hat tip to general manager Dayton Moore for bringing Kratz in for light-hitting Brett Hayes.
— Duffy start. Duffy, outside of not battling past Colon’s error, pitched a good game in the high altitude. Duffy went seven innings and gave up one earned run as well as five hits and one walk. He fanned six.
— The error. Colon has been a great addition since being called up by the Royals, and he made a great play on a grounder earlier in the game, but his bad throw cost the Royals a game Wednesday. "He made some super plays earlier," Yost said.
Duffy had retired eight straight, and thought he was out of the sixth when third baseman Nolan Arenado hit a sharp grounder right at Colon, who made a nice stop. Colon had all night to make the throw, but he seemed to hurry it and threw a low one-hopper to Butler, who could have made the scoop, but didn’t. "Just a tough hop for Billy," Yost said.
The Rockies then got a squibber up the middle for a hit, a walk and McBride’s homer. Stunning.
— The double-play bug. The Royals didn’t do that much against De La Rosa, but they had chances. Those chances were snuffed by four double-play balls. Willingham ruined a rally in the first with two on by bouncing a routine DP grounder to third. Butler had a runner on first and one out in the third and hit into a DP. The Royals got their leadoff man on in the seventh, but Kratz bounced into a DP. Then in the eighth with one on and one out, Colon, trying to make up for his error, instead rolled into another DP. Yikes.
"(De La Rosa) was effectively wild with his fastball," Yost said. "And he was able to get his changeup over."
— Duffy’s toughness. What you’d like to see after a rare error by the Royals’ great defense is the pitcher picking up his defenders by pitching out of the inning. But Duffy made matters worse in the sixth. He gave up a squib single, then walked a left-handed hitter, Corey Dickerson, though we should note that two of the pitches called balls looked like strikes.