Well that was annoying, as in even more than originally anticipated.
What started as the Royals quickly and brutally staking an early lead on a out-of-whack Chris Sale was perked up by the rare brawl not immediately sparked by a physical confrontation. The Sox and Royals went to blows after Yordano Ventura very clearly hollered "F*** you" to Adam Eaton while fielding a comebacker to the mound ended the seventh. Preceded by seemingly accidental but also rather scary plunkings of Jose Abreu and Mike Moustakas, and reports of jabbering between both sides preceding it, the benches cleared, the bullpens emptied, pushing and shoving and wild punches followed. Yordano Ventura, Lorenzo Cain and Edison Volquez were tossed. Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija were sent off as well; Sale for raging around like he wanted at someone in the middle of the mob, and Samardzija for looking like he actually got to some people, albeit after stumbling over a Royals coach while attempting to thrown down with Cain.
There can and should be suspensions on both sides, particularly Ventura and Samardzija. Samardzija runs hot and this hasn't been his first, nor will it be his last fight, but can't hope to match Ventura's spree of running afoul of nearly a third of the AL in three weeks. His role in needlessly stoking this is undeniable, just as the Royals' consistently antagonistic attitude toward their peers. They had a miraculous run to being one base away from a championship last season, and have picked right up playing the part of conquering heroes in every aspect except their readiness to let their play do the talking. Perhaps they're trying to clue us in on something.
Then, because April 2015 is an unforgiving hellscape, the Sox got embroiled in a close, low-scoring game against the Royals and got Close, Low-Scoring Game Against the Royals results: every late scoring opportunity slammed into their brick wall bullpen, and soon enough, the smallest of sparks (one man on first with two outs in the 13th) became the smallest of fires (Jarrod Dyson sliding in to score from first on what was basically a single for the go-ahead and game-deciding)
- Because Chris Sale is great, lacking command against a red hot Royals lineup did not immediately bury the Sox hopes. Sale's slider was mostly a memory Thursday night, and he had to scatter nine hits around and depend on four double plays to hold Kansas City to two runs through seven innings. It was 30th percentile Sale, but would be the start of the year to date if it came from the back half of the rotation.
- After achieving the amazing feat of planting an RBI double over Lorenzo Cain's head in center field, but also hitting two stupid singles, Jose Abreu's ISO vs. the American League slugging percentage has gotten a little less competitive at .373 vs. .396, but he also wound up reaching base four times.
- Scoring against the Royals bullpen is no easy task, but if the Sox are wondering how they let this team walk in cocky, treat them like dirt and dance away laughing with a victory in a Chris Sale start, they don't have to look past going 2-13 with RISP, highlighted by 0-8 between Avisail Garcia, Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera. Garcia in particular has looked awful for the past week in terms of pitch recognition and contact with high-quality fastballs, and has pretty much eradicated any progress from the start of the year. Pitching around the heart of the order and pumping him with high fastballs is a good strategy
- In the post-mortem, Royals leadership has seemed damned decent about moving forward from this fracas. On the other hand, it does lend nicely to the theory of Yordano Ventura as a single, irrational actor.
- Aside from the whole rapscallion act, Yordano Ventura was brilliant, striking out eight over seven innings with brilliant stuff that only got erratic for a bit after a collision with Micah Johnson at first. The Sox had to scrap and claw to draw even at 2 against him, but the early season funk is going to start bringing pressure on the less built-in pieces to perform. It pains me to say it, but if Conor can't hit soon, he can't play. If he's getting on base 1-2 times per night before Beckham blows him out of the water defensively in the late innings, it keeps up appearances better.
- They took the loss, but the Sox bullpen through six innings, struck out five, allowed just five baserunners, and David Robertson is police custody on suspicion of murder again.
- After he ran into Ventura at first--who was misstepped because he was rushing to respond to the speed of the play--and nearly beheaded Avisail Garcia at in short right on a bloop single, I am investigating the possibility that Micah Johnson is an actual bowling ball, though that wouldn't explain the low slugging percentage.
- How much data on Alexei Ramirez being a terrible bunter needs to be collected before it's not worth spoiling an inning to force him into doing something Robin Ventura would like him to be able to do? Apparently it was worth sabotaging his at-bat in the 11th after a leadoff walk to Beckham. While we're at it, I think Jose Abreu needs to be made into a basestealing threat, and might need to learn on the job.
Next game is Friday night at 7:10pm CT on WGN