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Royals can't find winning relief mix vs. Angels

Grimm bested on curveballs in a decisive 2-run 8th inning
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals had the Angels right where they wanted them with a two-run lead and the relievers -- Tim Hill, Brad Keller and Justin Grimm -- that have emerged in manager Ned Yost's circle of trust to set up closer Kelvin Herrera.

But the Angels nicked Keller for one run in the seventh and pushed two across against the suddenly struggling Grimm in the eighth for a 5-4 win on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.

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KANSAS CITY -- The Royals had the Angels right where they wanted them with a two-run lead and the relievers -- Tim Hill, Brad Keller and Justin Grimm -- that have emerged in manager Ned Yost's circle of trust to set up closer Kelvin Herrera.

But the Angels nicked Keller for one run in the seventh and pushed two across against the suddenly struggling Grimm in the eighth for a 5-4 win on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.

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The game ended when Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield, last year's American League stolen-base leader, was thrown out trying to steal second base by Angels catcher Rene Rivera.

Yost said Merrifield had the green light.

"Whit had a great jump," Yost said. "We had [closer Keynan Middleton] at 1.45 [seconds] to the plate. Catcher made a great throw."

Video: LAA@KC: Rivera gets Merrifield stealing to end game

True. According to Statcast™, Rivera's pop time was 1.89 (the MLB average is 2.01). Rivera's throw was 81 mph.

Merrifield said afterward that he just wanted to get in scoring position for Mike Moustakas, whom he called the team's best hitter.

"If that situation comes up again, maybe I let Moose get ahead in the count," Merrifield said. "If he falls behind, then I take off. That's the only thing I would change…. I'm an aggressive player, not afraid to make a mistake. But looking back on it, you learn from situations from that."

Yet Merrifield's caught stealing may have never materialized had the Angels not jumped on two hanging curves from Grimm.

Grimm, who hung a curveball that Kyle Seager belted for a two-run home run on Thursday in the Mariners' 4-2 win, got beat on a 2-2 curveball by pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena that resulted in a game-tying RBI single. Earlier, Shohei Ohtani singled on a 2-2 curveball to put the tying run in scoring position.

Ian Kinsler hit a sacrifice fly later for the go-ahead run, scoring Ohtani.

Video: LAA@KC: Kinsler lifts a go-ahead sac fly in the 8th

"Not the two-strike curveballs that I envisioned," Grimm said. "They made good adjustments and stayed up the middle with it. I'm throwing the ball really well. Results aren't showing it. That's OK. The frustration isn't about me. It's about everyone else in the clubhouse. ... I just have to keep chucking it and it will all come together."

Royals starter Jason Hammel went 5 1/3 innings and gave up two earned runs. Though he allowed eight hits, four of those had a sub-80 mph exit velocity.

"I'm sure there's some frustration [in the clubhouse]," Hammel said. "Naturally there should be frustration. But it's a very long season and we got the guys to turn it around."

Angels first baseman Albert Pujols had two hits, including his third home run this season and the 617th of his career. He is now 13 hits shy of 3,000.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Gallagher bloop: The Royals have been searching for some good fortune on offense for most of the young season and they finally got some. After Paulo Orlando delivered a one-out RBI single to tie the score at 2, catcher Cam Gallagher came up with runners on first and third and one out. He sent a seemingly harmless popup to short left field, but Justin Upton couldn't make the catch. Lucas Duda scored from third and Orlando scored when shortstop Andrelton Simmons threw wildly to home plate. That gave the Royals a 4-2 lead.

Video: LAA@KC: Two runs score on Gallagher's single, error

Hill vs. Ohtani: The rookie lefty had a tough assignment when he entered the game with one on and one out in the sixth inning to face Ohtani with the Royals up, 4-2. Hill promptly got Ohtani to hit a soft chopper for the second out and then he struck out Simmons.

"I thought about pitching to him all week," Hill said. "Lefty versus lefty. I got him to swing ahead in the count and hit the grounder. That was perfect."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Royals center fielder Abraham Almonte made a terrific catch on a deep drive to center field off the bat of Martin Maldonado. According to Statcast™, the ball had a hit probability of 89 percent and an exit velocity of 103.5 mph.

Video: LAA@KC: Almonte ranges to make nice grab at the wall

HE SAID IT
"The repetitiveness of autism and the repetitiveness of baseball kind of go hand in hand. It's great to be able to marry those two." -- Royals special advisor Reggie Sanders, on outfielder Tarik El-Abour, who is believed to be the first player with autism to sign a Minor League contract More >

Video: LAA@KC: Royals sign El-Abour, OF with autism

UP NEXT
Right-hander Jakob Junis (2-0, 0.00 ERA) will take the mound for the Royals in Game 3 of the series at 6:15 p.m. CT on Saturday at Kauffman Stadium. Right-hander Garrett Richards (1-0, 4.20) will pitch for the Angels. Junis has worked 14 straight scoreless innings with nine strikeouts.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Cam Gallagher, Justin Grimm, Jason Hammel, Tim Hill, Whit Merrifield, Paulo Orlando