KANSAS CITY — Royals right-hander Jakob Junis was more dominant than his final pitching line will indicate.
Junis held the A’s to one run and four hits through seven innings while striking out a career-high nine, but it wasn’t enough as the Royals fell 5-1 in Sunday’s rubber game at Kauffman Stadium.
The A’s rallied for four runs off Junis and reliever Buch Smith in the fateful eighth inning.
The inning started when Junis threw a changeup down and in that Dustin Fowler blooped into no-man’s land in center field.
“One of the few changeups I do throw,” Junis said. “It was a good pitch and he blooped it off the end of the bat. Just didn’t fall my way there.”
One out later, Fowler stole second when catcher Salvador Perez whiffed on catching a 1-0 changeup to Jed Lowrie.
Junis then fell behind 3-0 to Lowrie, though each appeared to nick the outside corner. Junis then threw a sinker that caught too much of the plate and Lowrie lined an RBI single to center, giving the A’s the lead.
“The second [pitch] where they stole, I think that one [was a strike],” Junis said, “but there’s so much movement [with the catcher getting up to throw].”
As for the pitch to Lowrie on 3-0, Junis said he wasn’t about to issue a walk.
“He’s a pretty aggressive hitter,” Junis said. “He wants those RBIs. I was going to take my chances and maybe he pops out or grounds out.”
Both Smith and Kevin McCarthy had been warming up in the bullpen, but manager Ned Yost opted for Smith once the Royals fell behind.
“We had guys going everywhere down there [in the bullpen],” Yost said. “We had Timmy Hill up for [A’s first baseman] Matt Olson, we had Burch Smith up if we gave up the lead. My mindset was that Khris Davis was going to be Jake’s last hitter and then Timmy for Olson, whatever we could do to get to Kelvin [Herrera] in the ninth with the score tied.
“I wasn’t going to use Mac down one and not have him for tomorrow.”
Smith walked the first hitter he faced, and fell behind 3-0 to Olson, who then got the green light and belted a three-run home run. The home run was estimated to have traveled 454 feet, per Statcast™.
Jon Jay hit his first home run of the season for the Royals in the third inning, tying the score at 1.
“He just brings a consistent presence every single day,” Yost said of Jay. “He’s just been a great addition to our team.”