Agitated author aborts alliteration attempt, Royals sweep doubleheader in St. Louis

MLB: Game One-Kansas City Royals at St. Louis Cardinals
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

I couldn’t come up with an alliteration to properly convey what happened today.

The Kansas City Royals had a blast in St. Louis today, scoring 14 runs to take down their cross-state rivals in both games of a doubleheader.

After a grounderfest of a first inning in game one, St. Louis drew first blood in the second frame when Alec Marsh hung a two-strike curveball to Nolan Arenado, who yanked it out to the sparsely populated stands in center field for a homer. In the third, Marsh started the inning by walking Pedro Pagés, a rookie catcher who entered the game with a 66 wRC+, on five pitches. After retiring Masyn Winn, Marsh was again stung on a two-strike breaking ball — he tried to back foot it, but it stayed up enough for Alec Burleson to golf it out to the right field bullpen and give St. Louis a 3-0 lead.

On the other side. Kansas City’s offense floundered early against a fastball-heavy attack from Andre Pallante as they repeatedly beat balls into the ground. For the first four innings, the Royals managed just one baserunner and Pallante needed just 43 pitches to get there. They would finally break through in the fifth. Hunter Renfroe led off the inning by skying a ball down the right field line that bounded over the fence for a ground-rule double. Freddy Fermin then worked the count full before hitting a classic swinging-bunt down the third base line and beating the throw from Pallante, giving Kansas City runners on the corners with nobody out. MJ Melendez then whiffed through a middle-middle fastball before getting one in damn near the same spot on the next pitch. Melendez didn’t miss it, ripping it into the right-center gap for a double, scoring Renfroe and moving Fermin to third. After Nick Loftin bounced out, Garrett Hampson smoked one to the warning track in center field, trading places with Melendez and tying the game.

In the bottom of the fifth, Marsh did what you want your pitcher to do after putting up runs by retiring the side in order on a tidy 11 pitches. With the offense back on the field, the Royals took their first lead of the game when Salvador Perez hit a no-doubter to straightaway center for his 15th long ball of the season. Now holding a lead, Marsh worked a 1-2-3 sixth to finish his day. After allowing the homer to Burleson, Marsh retired the final 11 batters he faced.

After Will Smith posted a scoreless seventh, the Royals got to work extending the lead. Maikel Garcia and Bobby Witt Jr. led off the inning with consecutive singles, with Garcia advanced to third on Witt’s knock. Vinnie Pasquantino hit one deep enough to left to score Garcia, increasing the lead to 5-3. Perez then lined a single to left to easily score Witt, who had advanced to second when Cardinals reliever Chris Roycroft sent a slider to the backstop.

With a three-run lead in tow, Sam Long allowed a blooper to but retired the other three batters to complete a scoreless eighth inning. James McArthur entered for the ninth. After retiring the leadoff man, Paul Goldschmidt went oppo with a flyball that just barely snuck over the wall down the right field line, cutting the lead to 6-4. The tying run would come to the plate after Nolan Arenado singled through the 5-6 hole, but McArthur got Lars Nootbaar to fly out to end the ballgame.

Alec Marsh: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 2 HR

Andre Pallante: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 HR

Salvador Perez: 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI

Nolan Arenado: 2-4, HR, R, RBI

In game two, the Cardinals once again struck first in the second inning. For the second time today, they got an opposite field home run that narrowly cleared the wall, this time off the bat of Nootbar. Unlike in game one, the Royals wasted no time responding, with Melendez swatting the first pitch of the third inning into the right field bullpen to tie the game at one. Just before Burleson flew out to the warning track to end the bottom of the third inning, I realized that Michael Wacha’s jersey was many different shades of gray thanks to sweat. Good thing we got these new jerseys!

The Royals took the lead in the fourth. Witt led off the inning with a flare that dropped into shallow left. Pasquantino then got a fastball down and in and crushed it off the base of the wall in right-center. With runners on second and third, Perez hit a flyball to right that was easily deep enough to score Witt from third. With the Royals now up 2-1, the Cardinals turned to their bullpen. Matthew Liberatore entered and got the second out of the inning, but after getting up 1-2 on Renfroe, he left a slider up that Renfroe deposited into left to score Pasquantino.

St. Louis answered in the bottom of the inning. Goldschmidt just missed one on a flyout to the warning track, but Nootbaar then rocked one off the wall in right for a double. After Arenado popped out, Nolan Gorman smashed a hanging curveball to left-center that bounded over the outfield wall for a ground rule double, scoring Nootbaar. 3-2 Royals.

Kansas City small-balled their way to a couple in the fifth. Isbel singled up the middle with one out. With Adam Frazier batting, he swiped second. Frazier hit a soft grounder that just snuck through the 5-6 hole, forcing Isbel to wait before advancing to third. He was sent home anyway and dove to the plate just ahead of the tag by Willson Contreras. Frazier made a heads up play by going all the way to third as nobody was covering the bag. This proved important as Witt followed that with a flyball to right field that was easily deep enough to score Frazier. It was 5-2 Royals after Pasquantino flew out to end the inning.

Befitting of this game, St. Louis answered in the bottom of the frame. With two outs, Contreras singled. Burleson then crushed a meatball of a first-pitch changeup, narrowly missing a homer to center. There may have been a play at the plate to throw out Contreras, but Witt’s relay throw was well off line, allowing the run to score and Burleson to advance to third. They got another when Goldschmidt followed with a swinging bunt down the third base line that nobody had a play on. Pasquantino made a great play on a ball down the first base line by Nootbaar to end the inning, but the lead was cut to 5-4.

Can you guess what happened next? The Royals immediately scored! Like, as immediately as possible. I’m talking before the scorebug had even fully loaded on the broadcast, Salvy was crushing the worst pitch in MLB history over the left field bullpen for his second homer of the day. Michael Massey followed with a grounder that somehow got under Gorman’s glove for a single and that was all she wrote for Liberatore, pulled from the game with as many hits allowed as outs recorded.

Wacha’s outing was done, having gutted through five innings with nowhere near his best command. Angel Zerpa was first out of the pen and he worked a stress-free 1-2-3 inning. Ryan Fernandez, who had retired the last three Royals in the prior inning, could not do the same in the seventh. Isbel walked on five pitches before moving to third when Witt slapped a single to where the second baseman would typically be playing. St. Louis turned to John King to stanch the bleeding. He failed as Pasquantino grounded one to where the shortstop would usually be playing. He wasn’t playing there, obviously, so it got through and scored Isbel to make it 7-4 Royals.

Because this is actually a college baseball game, the Cardinals immediately started a rally in the bottom of the inning when Dylan Carlson led off the inning with a hard single. This was followed by Brendan Donovan hitting a chopper up the third base line just out of Garcia’s reach, giving St. Louis runners on second and third with nobody out. John Schreiber was summoned to squash the rally. Contreras bounced one to short and the Royals traded a run for the out. Schreiber then punched out Burleson and Goldschmidt to maintain a 7-5 lead.

A funny thing happened in the eighth. Or rather, a funny lack of things — each team went down in order. That took us to the 18th inning of this silly doubleheader. Isbel started things off with a liner over the wall in right for his seventh homer of the season. The next three batters went down in order, taking us to the bottom the ninth with Kansas City holding an 8-5 lead. McArthur entered for his second inning of the day. Winn led off the inning with a single on a bouncer that likely would have been a double if not for a great lunging stop by Garcia at third. But McArthur clamped down, recording the last three outs without drama to secure the 8-5 victory.

The doubleheader sweep improves the Royals to 51-43. This is the first time the Royals have won a series in St. Louis since 2018. They will get tomorrow off before heading to Boston for a three-game set against the Red Sox.

Michael Wacha: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR

Gordon Graceffo: 3.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HR

Kyle Isbel: 2-3, HR, BB, 3 R, RBI

Lars Nootbaar: 2-4, HR, 2B, 2 R, RBI

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Title: Agitated author aborts alliteration attempt, Royals sweep doubleheader in St. Louis
Author: Greg Walker

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