Benny's walk-off throw, Dozier's HR stand out

Close play at plate in 9th secures Royals' 3rd straight win over AL West leaders

August 19th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- knew that when Jose Altuve roped a single into left field in the top of the ninth inning, the only way he had a chance to throw out Chas McCormick at home plate was if he could field the ball on one hop and make the best throw he’s made all year to catcher .

On what was a close play, that’s exactly what Benintendi did to keep the Astros from tying the game and sending the Royals to a 3-2 win on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

“Does it get more exciting than that?” manager Mike Matheny said.

At that moment, though, Matheny was focused on what the Royals were going to do if the call didn’t go their way. The Astros challenged, but the call was ruled as stands after a 1 minute, 12 second review. Matheny said he got word that it was going to be inconclusive, so the initial call certainly helped the Royals win their third game in a row against the American League West leaders with Thursday’s matinee finale on deck.

“He looked out, he looked safe, he looked both,” third baseman Hunter Dozier said, accurately describing the emotion that washed over The K for a few minutes at the end. “I don’t know. You never know when they review those calls.

“Really great throw, really great tag, and a great way to end the ballgame.”

It was the Royals’ first walk-off outfield assist since Sept. 14, 2013, when Alex Gordon -- who else but the eight-time AL Gold Glove Award-winning left fielder? -- nabbed Prince Fielder at the plate to preserve a 1-0 win.

“That’s something I think Gordo spoiled everybody with, how easy he made it look with how he charged [the ball] through,” Matheny said. “But that was very Gordo-esque. That’s probably the best throw we’ve seen [Benintendi] make.”

The throw secured one of the better all-around wins for the Royals this season, with another young starter turning in a good outing, timely hitting from the offense and a lights-out play by the defense.

Starter Brady Singer was excellent in 6 2/3 innings in his second start since coming off the injured list earlier this month. It wasn’t until the seventh that the right-hander faced trouble against the vaunted Astros lineup, when he recorded two outs and then loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. Jason Castro’s pinch-hit, two-run single knocked Singer from the game.

Singer struck out six and mixed in four changeups to go along with his sinker/slider combination. Of the 43 sinkers he threw, 19 were called strikes (44 percent).

“I think getting the glove side with the sinker made it better all around,” Singer said. “I’ve been struggling with that lately, getting out there and trying to get it with my glove side. I had it tonight, and it fed off the other pitches.”

After the Astros took a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh, Benintendi answered with a leadoff double against reliever Blake Taylor.

Dozier took a slider from Taylor for a ball and then fouled off a fastball on the inside corner. The next pitch was a slider, but in the same spot as the fastball, and Dozier crushed it for his 10th homer of the season. It left the bat at 105 mph and went a Statcast-projected 425 feet, landing on the left-field concourse in front of the Royals Hall of Fame.

“In those situations, when you try not to do too much, it’s amazing when you have that kind of ability and strength, the ball will jump,” Matheny said. “The more you try and get pull happy and loft the ball, often times, bad things happen. But he’s shortened up his movement, overall, his head movement. And I think he’s seeing better. You’re seeing better takes, seeing less swing and miss, and all of that is leading to the direction that’s allowing him to find the barrel.”

It was Dozier’s second homer in three days -- on the heels of a 29-game drought (100 at-bats) without one. He also had his first multi-RBI game since July 21 in Milwaukee, and he has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games, a stretch in which he’s hitting .317 (13-for-41).

Dozier hit .174 with eight home runs in the first half of the season, acknowledging the thumb injury that he sustained on Opening Day caused him to get out of his normal swing more than he thought it would. When he was finally healthy, he didn’t adjust the way he needed to, leading to one of the worst slumps in his career.

His average has been climbing since the start of August, and he has hit above .200 since the start of the homestand against the Yankees.

“I’ve really been feeling pretty good at the plate,” Dozier said. “I do a lot of early work a lot of hitting in the cage. I’ve been doing it all season, but I think the stuff we’re working on is just slowly transferring over.

“For whatever reason, I got in a pretty bad habit earlier in the season and couldn’t get out of it. But I’m continuing to work hard, and the swing is feeling pretty good.”