TOP OF THE SIXTH: ROYALS 10 (2) – 4 RED SOX
The Royals, the royal, the kingly and queenly lineage of Mr. Tenenbaum, Real Madrid, RC Cola, the top poker flush of all, the Casino and the with-cheese—an e on the tail.
And Kansas City. The American Royal rodeo show. The heartland. The boys in blue, taking the field since ’69, running out before the fanatics, as the best attraction for miles, the show where there is no other, the thing to see and cheer and love and bemoan, the two-time champs, the defending champs, the George Brett, the Bo Jackson, the Hal McRae, the … …. [two-plus decades of joyless void]… … the Eric Hosmer, the Salvador Perez, the Lorenzo Cain.
The team of the now, down two at Fenway Park in the desperate days of August—when a will-we/won’t-we debate flares in the head of every fan player and coach, the September 1st crossroads approach, the final month growls, the humidity clears, the standings thin, the football fans state their internal case to stay or leave, the remainders hope and pray, and the front offices, behind it all, peer into that annual playoffs/failure fog that postpones all pride, blanks all control—the nerves hiking up to a peak with the quick whoosh of each calendar day.
The team down two at Fenway Park. Royals in need of a win. Sox in need of a win. Pitchers drooping. Batters aching. The ballpark itself creaking in the heat of its last summer days, old and irregular and green.
— Fenway Park (@fenwaypark) August 30, 2016
Eduardo Rodriguez takes the mound for Boston, impressing with a mix-up chain of pitches, with three hits allowed through five innings. His first appearance in over a week.
“The only man to reach base in the last three innings,” they say on the Sox telecast, “was on an error, committed by Rodriguez himself.”
And so the Sox are up, Royals are down, and how quickly a game of baseball can change. As if, in basketball, a three-minute spurt might net 14 three-pointers, flip a big loss into a ballooning win. A single counter-attack, in soccer, scoring three goals in one. A kind of super-touchdown, in football, where the clock stops and scoreboard explodes, the quick change too wild to handle—a forty-point swing between commercial breaks.
Eight. Runs. By the Royals. In the sixth. A stadium of sighs, one loud dugout of joy.
The Royals at the bat, eight runs come storming home out of a dog-days slumber. Silencing a happy crowd. Ruining a thousand date nights. Forcing mass channel-flips on the TV sets of the greater Boston area, in living rooms and basements, in bars, in restaurants, in hospital waiting rooms—nurses running down the hall to change it as if medically significant damage might already be done, in fear that some negligent gaffe may just have occurred, leaving on air this eight-run massacre in the sixth.
“Change it!” someone shouts from a bed, from a dinner table, from a gurney. “Change that f*cking channel!”
And the TVs all turn off—leaving the only remaining witness the crowd of 40,000, packed in and sighing, at this royal disgrace of a baseball inning. Eric Hosmer walks, to lead things off, as Dan Shulman meanders through the game call.
Being reassured by Dan Shulman that an 8 run inning is not the worst inning by the Sox staff this year (11) is not very reassuring at all
— Logan Nichols (@LoganNichols11) August 29, 2016
Rodriguez deals a high-outside fastball, Kendrys Morales reaches out for it, and he whacks a hit down the line one-bounced into the stands for a double.
Buster Olney calls him a “guru” of baseball strategy, for that double alone.
Salvadore Perez draws a full count from Rodriguez. Peers out at the mound. Fouls off an inside pitch. And a fastball comes inside to load the bases. John Farrell fence-sits in the home dugout, debating the move. The pitching coach trots out to the mound. And the cameras cut back to Farrell, in front of a live-feed monitor of the Red Sox bullpen, watching Matt Barnes toss warm-ups as he opts for another batter for Rodriguez.
The Royals all grin at each other on the basepaths.
And after a fly-out from Alex Gordon, he’s pulled for Barnes—one out with the bases loaded.
Alcides Escobar steps up and hacks a Baltimore Chop back at the pitcher, what must be the highest infield bounce of the season, up off the dirt and into a slow fall above the mound, as Hosmer scores before it’s into the glove, and Barnes snags it, whips to first, and Escobar’s already there safe. Rodriguez frowns in the dugout. 4-3.
Alright, Esky. That works 👀 pic.twitter.com/AvoJ9qDxE9
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) August 29, 2016
Raul A. Mondesi, son of Raul Mondesi, comes up next. Batting .182 on the season and turned 21 in July. The first pitch he sees: whacked on a rocketing line to centerfield, into the triangle, off the garage door, just short of the 420-ft. sign, and the longest non-homer ball you can hit. His helmet jiggling all the way as he rounds first, falling off at second, kicked on a back swing of his heel as he heads for third and he’s in safe with a stand-up triple. Three runs score. He makes a prayer and checks the screen in center: 6-4, Royals ahead.
In the distracting push of the best TV transitions, the cameras cut to a family in the right-field stands, two kids in the aisle, hoisting blue and yellow signs into the camera’s view: “We skipped school to follow our boys to Boston!!”
The fans nearby smile, half-appreciate that at least one row is at peace, alright with what’s just gone on. On the field, Paulo Orlando’s hit on the forearm. Robbie Ross warms up in the bullpen. And there’s another chopper, from Cuthbert—short and shallow bouncing back to the mound, barehanded by Barnes and shoveled home, a split-second late as Mondesi slides in safe under the tag from Sandy Leon. Rodriguez bites his nails in the dugout. The win long, long, long gone.
Raul dashes home on a dribbler 🏃💨
It’s now a 7-4 game.
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) August 29, 2016
Lorenzo Cain comes up. Looking to keep the line moving. Dials in, and on the first pitch, demolishes a ball to left field, one bounce and off the Monster, for the longest, weirdest type of single around, like a kind of parable metaphor—he hit the ball so hard, too hard, that he couldn’t advance. Orlando scores, and in the words of the Boston TV guys, “The boo-birds are out now at Fenway.” 8-4 Royals ahead.
Farrell comes back out to the mound, Ross in from the bullpen.
And it’s Eric Hosmer, again, nine batters and thirty minutes later. He hits a deep fly ball the other way, to left, the easiest of outs in any other ballpark, and watches it drift back past three-hundred feet on a high arc, the fielder chasing after it, and then sees it shoot down out of the air in a hurry, a carom off the Monster.
Cuthbert scores. The throw goes to second. Cain comes home to score, with the quick jump from first. Young throws to Holt at second, past Bogaerts with the cutoff, and Cain slides in safe by a nose on the mistake. His helmet falling off, grinning, beaming at home, taking a happy rest before hopping upright, with his foot on the bag and a six-run lead.
Stretching out on his back, with head-hanging Leon above him.
Grinning the grin of a Royal.
— #KCMagicNumber (@KCMagicNumber) August 29, 2016