The Kansas City Royals have been atrocious this season and were back to losing ways on Friday night, but things went along a different vein in their previous game.
The Royals are playing a series against the Minnesota Twins and managed to pull a win out of the hat on Thursday. With a one-run lead blown after reliever Joel Payamps came on, it appeared that Kansas was headed for another loss after having the advantage.
Fans involved in Kansas sports betting must have groaned after seeing this, expecting their team to lose yet another game.
Instead, the Royals put the brakes on a six-game losing streak, thanks to Scott Barlow. The reliever was the talk of the night, receiving the post-game praise after entering in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and no outs. He got the Royals out of a tricky situation, allowing no runs and throwing a scoreless ninth inning. His 41 pitches saw the Royals take a 3-2 win to give them first blood in the series.
“He’s a warrior for us,” outfielder Whit Merrifield declared on the back of the performance. “That situation in the eighth was pretty incredible, to come in and get out of that jam. We rode him again tonight. He’s just a stud.”
It didn’t seem like the Royals would call on Barlow the way the game was going. Although starter Daniel Lynch posted a solid 5 1/3 innings with six strikeouts, the offense had nothing to show against Minnesota’s Devin Smeltzer as just two hits were struck over the course of seven innings.
However, they put some hits together in the next inning, with Emmanuel Rivera’s one-out single kicking things off before a pinch-hit knock from Ryan O’Hearn. Manager Mike Matheny would pull O’Hearn for the quicker Dairon Blanco as Merrifield went on to drive in two runs for the 200th career double of his career. Bobby Witt Jr. did the rest with a go-ahead double.
“You hope to have that big hit – that’s the thing that’s eluded us more than anything else,” Matheny noted. “The next thing you know, we’ve got an opportunity to walk away with a win.”
That win wasn’t without many nervy moments and close calls. Barlow’s first eighth-inning pitch was a curveball that hit the dirt in front of the plate that catcher MJ Melendez pounced on to save a run from being scored.
“MJ did an amazing job of blocking those,” Barlow pointed out. “The first one, I was so worried about making sure it was down, that it was kind of too down. And it bounced, I think in front of the plate. He did an excellent job with that, and then I kind of had a gauge like that was way too low. Usually, it takes around one pitch, and then, ‘I need to make an adjustment.’”
The 29-year-old pitcher went back to the curveball for a swinging strike before throwing Jose Miranda’s curves and sliders to strike him out. Minnesota would pinch-hit lefty Nicky Gordon with one out.
“It was more of a question of just, in general, contact,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli remarked. “Nick puts the ball in play. Barlow’s tough on everyone. It’s not like there’s, you know, an especially good matchup against a guy like that. He’s good against righties. He’s good against lefties.”
Barlow struck Gordon out with a curveball and proceeded to get Max Kepler to roll for a groundout over a slider.
“That’s what fires you up,” Witt said. “That’s something that maybe it can change the whole entire season or something, just get us going. So it was a lot of fun to see that.”
Witt had his own big night in the second game on Friday night, logging a single, triple, home run, and 3 RBI. But his heroics couldn’t save the Royals from returning to their losing habits as Kansas gave up double-digit runs for the eighth time this season to hand Minnesota a 10-7 win.
The Royals have also given up a league-high 41 runs in the first inning, and stayed right on track on that front, permitting the Twins four runs in the first. Minnesota had 10 men go to the plate for five hits and two walks, which included a home run from Jorge Polanco. The Twins were up 4-0 after one frame.
Witt, Lopez, and Merrifield fought back for the Royals yet their efforts could not prompt a positive result. The teams play again on Saturday.
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