KANSAS CITY — Here are three takeaways from the Royals’ 5-4 loss in 14 innings to the Indians on Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Jose Ramirez homered in the top of the 14th inning off left-hander Brian Flynn. Flynn, Kansas City’s eighth pitcher in the game, left a 2-1 sinker over the plate and Ramirez hammered it into the left-field seats to snap a 3-3 tie.
1) Montgomery improves
Royals left-hander Mike Montgomery, making his second start since being acquired from the Cubs for catcher Martin Maldonado, was on a 60- to 65-pitch limit. Montgomery hit that, throwing 64 through five solid innings.
Montgomery allowed a home run to Francisco Lindor on the first pitch of the game, a four-seamer. But he then settled down and held the Tribe scoreless for five innings. Montgomery yielded five hits and one run, while walking one and striking out none.
“You get punched in the mouth right away, and it makes you understand that they’re going to be aggressive,” Montgomery said. “I feel like I used that aggressiveness against them. I was able to keep my pitch count low, get some early outs.
“And that first pitch really wasn’t that bad of a pitch. He just went out there and got it. It is what it is. I thought from the last outing I was a lot better. The team battled for 14 innings tonight. Give them credit.”
Montgomery’s main mission was simply continue to build up his arm strength. Next outing, he should be able to stretch out to 80-85 pitches.
“I thought I made some good strides from the last one,” Montgomery said. “I definitely still got a long way to go. I think, physically, I’m starting to get my legs under me a little bit better.”
2) Staumont’s debut
Royals manager Ned Yost had said repeatedly since rookie right-hander Josh Staumont got called up Saturday in Cleveland that he preferred to wait for a low-leverage situation for Staumont to make his MLB debut.
But as Yost was forced to use up his bullpen, Staumont’s debut came in extra innings. He came in for the 11th inning and got two quick outs. Staumont yielded two singles but then got the dangerous Carlos Santana to ground out.
“It’s one of those things that you just can’t imagine,” Staumont said of his debut. “There are very few things in life that you do for the first time that you put [so much] dedication, blood, sweat and tears into. And when it comes to fruition, even if it’s just standing there for the first time, it’s definitely an experience that you just can’t put into words.”
Staumont said he told himself not to get too nervous and just play the game of baseball he has his whole life.
“I think that’s the easiest way to do it,” Staumont said. “It is just a baseball game. It doesn’t matter what name is on the back of my jersey. I’m playing for what’s on the front of it. I’m blessed to be here with the Royals. I’m thankful for the Glass family, the entire front office and everyone. No matter how much I worked for it, I had to have some things fall in place first, so it’s a huge blessing.”
Staumont got out of an even bigger jam in the 12th inning. A one-out double by Ramirez, an intentional walk and another walk loaded the bases. But he got Jake Bauers on a three-pitch strikeout and Greg Allen on a routine flyout.
“Thankfully, I’ve got some innings under my belt [in the Minor Leagues],” Staumont said. “It’s not the first time I’ve had the bases loaded. It won’t be the last.”
3) Merrifield’s streak continues
Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield’s franchise-record streak of going 126 games without going hitless in back-to-back games seemed in jeopardy. But he got a seventh plate appearance in the 14th inning and singled sharply to right.
Merrifield’s streak is the fourth longest in the American League since 1946.
“You never want to go hitless,” Merrifield said. “Mixed it in with a little luck tonight to get seven plate appearances. To go on any kind of streak, you have to have a little good fortune. I try to be consistent. The last couple of games, I haven’t felt great at the plate. But you try to do other things: take a walk, lay down a bunt. There’s more than one way to contribute.”
Despite the loss, Merrifield said he was impressed with the renewed spirit of the Royals, who are now 9-4 since the All-Star break.
“I think this team is figuring out how to win games, which is a good sign,” Merrifield said. “You could just feel it in the dugout. We expected to win that game, which is a different vibe that we had earlier this season.”