Royals’ not-so-clutch hitting spoils Ventura’s sensational outing
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The starting pitching was fantastic. The bullpen was rather exceptional, too.
But it was all wasted by a dismal effort by the Royals’ hitters, who loaded the bases three times in eight innings — twice with less than two outs — yet couldn’t push a run across and thus dropped a disheartening 1-0 decision to Tampa Bay.
Yordano Ventura, the young phenom, was brilliant, going six innings while allowing just two hits and no runs. He walked none and struck out six, including former Royals prospect Wil Myers three times.
All for nothing, although some good came out of Tuesday: Mike Moustakas ended his 0-for-21 slide to start the season with a groundball single to center to start the ninth.
"Hopefully, that will get him going," manager Ned Yost said.
Naturally, though, the Royals didn’t advance Moose past first base.
— The kid can pitch. Clearly the star of the game, Ventura manhandled Tampa Bay. "He just had great command of his fastball, had it in the upper 90s, hit triple-digits a few times," Yost beamed afterward. "Had a really good changeup tonight, too. Just a great job."
— The defense. Left fielder Alex Gordon made a sensational grab to end the second inning when he leaped and crashed into the padded wall in foul territory near the fair pole on a long drive by Matt Joyce. Gordon somehow held onto the ball, fell to the ground and got up while hobbling. He was OK and stayed in the game.
— Esky stays hot. The hero of Monday’s win, Alcides Escobar, got two more hits Tuesday. Esky’s three-run double was the difference Monday, and he singled in the third and fifth innings Tuesday. He also drove a ball fairly hard to right field in the ninth for an out.
— Danny’s starting debut at 2B. The only run of the game was a cheap one by the Rays in the ninth on a ground ball up the middle by James Loney that eluded Danny Valencia, who got his first start at second base in place of Omar Infante. Valencia appeared to get a late break and dived for the ground ball but was unsuccessful in knocking it down, and the run scored. "It was a tough play for any second baseman," Yost said. Valencia twice had a chance to be a hero at the plate. He came up with the bases loaded in the sixth and two out, and grounded out to third. He again had the bases loaded in the eighth but struck out looking. Ouch.
— Where’s the big hit? The Royals’ big issue offensively last season was failing to get the clutch hit; they constantly left tons of runners on base. That was the case again Tuesday. They had the bases loaded in the third with just one out, but Eric Hosmer rolled into a double play to end the inning. Sal Perez led off the next inning with a walk, but Billy Butler rolled into another double play. They had the bases loaded and one out in the sixth, but Gordon popped out and Valencia grounded out. Butler had runners on first and second and one out in the eighth but fouled out to the catcher. Double ouch.
— Moose’s miscue. Moustakas wasn’t charged with the error, but it was his misplay that allowed the winning run on base in the ninth. Myers rolled a soft grounder toward short that Moutakas cut off, but Moose couldn’t get the ball out of his glove to make a play. That runner scored. "It’s too bad because (closer) Greg (Holland) made a great pitch there and I wasn’t able to do my job," Moose said. "Should have been an out." Holland, though, later shrugged his shoulders. "It isn’t the first ball that was softly hit that wound up being a hit," he said.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email email@example.com.