Kansas City Royals likely to regret this funky play most after falling to Oakland A’s

·4 min read
Charlie Riedel/AP

For a second straight day, the Kansas City Royals had to feel like they gave one away against the Oakland A’s.

This time — on a mild Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium — it was a funky defensive play that eventually ended up costing the Royals the lead, as Oakland rallied for two runs during the seventh inning in a 5-3 victory to take the series.

“It was a couple of games here in a row we had opportunities ... two of those,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “I feel like those are games we need to walk away with, and we didn’t.”

Let’s reset: The Royals had just taken a 3-2 advantage in the bottom of the sixth, as Carlos Santana delivered a bases-loaded, two-RBI single. Pinch-hitter Edward Olivares followed with a bloop hit that scored one more, and suddenly, the Royals had a one-run edge.

It wouldn’t last, with the turning point coming on an unusual play in the top of the seventh.

Royals starter Brady Singer picked up two quick outs before allowing a single to Chad Pinder. The next pitch started the game-changing moment, as Christian Pache sent a grounder back toward Singer, who haphazardly threw his glove up to try to snag it though second baseman Whit Merrifield stood almost directly behind Singer while shifted toward the middle.

“I didn’t really see it. I feel like I stuck my glove up there and it kind of hit me. Honestly, I didn’t see it come back at me,” Singer said. “I definitely should have made that play.”

Instead, the ball deflected off Singer’s glove and back toward the right side of the infield. A sprinting Merrifield tried to retrieve it, but because of the awkward spin, it scurried by his glove and on into right field. That allowed Pache to slide into second with a double, while Pinder moved to third.

Both advancements were vital, as Nick Allen plopped a single just in front of charging Royals center fielder Michael A. Taylor to score both runs while providing the game-deciding hit.

“Definitely frustrating. I thought that was a good pitch. It was definitely where I wanted to throw that,” Singer said. “He kind of looped that out there to center, and I think that was a big turning point in the game.”

Pache added an insurance run with an RBI single in the ninth, but the Royals are still likely to have the most regret about the contest’s critical moment in the seventh.

Matheny said Singer, in particular, had made a concerted effort this season to look where his fielders are before each pitch. For his part, Singer said he knew Merrifield was right behind him on Pache’s swing in the sixth.

“I usually check where the shift is, because I’ve kind of gotten beaten by that before where I hit one — it’s coming up the middle — and then obviously either Whit’s standing there or somebody else,” Singer said. “But yeah, like I said, I didn’t really see (the ball). So I definitely should have let it go through, but I kind of think I was protecting myself honestly.”

It led to an irritating result on that particular comebacker.

“You feel kind of stupid when it happens, but like I said, it was kind of reaction, kind of panic when it came back towards me,” Singer said. “Like I said, I should have had it.”

Singer hasn’t had the best history when it comes to fielding his position. Last season, he posted negative-six defensive runs saved according to Sports Info Solutions, which was the third-worst mark of any pitcher in the Majors.

His effort Sunday wasn’t without positives, though. He went 8 1/3 innings to help save a gassed Royals pitching staff, allowing five runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and one walk. It was the longest outing of his MLB career.

“He did everything we needed him to do and was efficient and so close,” Matheny said. “When they throw that well, you want to be able to walk off that field and congratulate him, because he gave us every chance that we needed to win.”

The Royals also had opportunities to pull out a victory Saturday; they pulled to within 8-7 on a home run by Michael A. Taylor then put two runners on before Kyle Isbel was thrown out trying to advance to third on a potential wild pitch. Two strikeouts also left a pair of runners stranded in an eventual 9-7 defeat.

KC (26-45) missed out on a chance Sunday to win its third straight series. Before the start of this homestand, the Royals had won consecutive sets on the road against the A’s and Los Angeles Angels.

“We’re fighting every game and competing every pitch. We have to continue,” Santana said. “Tomorrow is a new day, new series and a new week. We’ll see what happens.”

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