KANSAS CITY — Right-hander Jakob Junis was largely able to keep the Cubs’ powerful lineup in check on Monday night. The Royals’ bullpen, however, was not.
Junis allowed one run on a wild pitch and five hits across five innings in the Royals’ 3-1 loss to the Cubs at Kauffman Stadium, a promising outing spoiled by a homer surrendered immediately after he was pulled from the Interleague series opener.
“I thought it was better than a lot of my previous outings I’ve been having,” Junis said. “Finally commanded my fastball and got ahead of hitters, and let my slider play off that. So all in all, it was pretty good.”
Junis threw just 87 pitches, but manager Ned Yost knew better than to push him.
“By the end of the fifth inning that was it,” Yost said. “You could tell he was starting to labor there. But he made big pitches. Slider was really, really good — strike-to-ball, it starts on the corner and fades away, and guys bite on it.
Javier Baez was 0-for-2 against Junis heading into the sixth, but when reliever Kevin McCarthy came on, Baez took over. On the first pitch, Baez hammered his 25th home run to deep center on an 84-mph slider. Statcast™ projected the homer to travel 414 feet with an exit velocity of 106 mph.
“It was just a bad pitch,” McCarthy said. “Cement-mixer slider that stayed down the middle and he got it.”
Baez did more damage against the bullpen in the eighth, sending an RBI double down the left-field line off Jason Hammel to make it a two-run lead. That run was charged to Brian Flynn.
The Royals’ lineup continued to struggle against Cole Hamels at home, mustering just one run in six innings against the newly acquired ace. In four career starts at Kauffman Stadium, that’s the only run Hamels has allowed in 26 innings, and it came off the bat of Alcides Escobar, who knocked in Rosell Herrera with a single to left field in the second inning for the game’s first run.
In the fifth, the Royals got something going with singles by Drew Butera and Alex Gordon before Hamels plunked Salvador Perez on the left foot to load the bases with two out. But Hunter Dozier grounded out to first to end the threat and Kansas City managed just two singles over the final four innings.
“He’s tough on us,” Yost said of Hamels. “Good fastball, not overpowering, but spots it extremely well. Pounds fastballs in, cutters in, good curveball.”