BALTIMORE -- Count Whit Merrifield among those bummed. The Royals originally blocked off their off-day Thursday in Cleveland as a special one. They planned to spend the day together huddled in a room at the team hotel holding their fantasy football draft.
Merrifield has the third overall pick, and now he’ll have to wait a bit longer to reveal his hand.
“Couple different options. I don’t want to give away my secrets yet,” Merrifield said. “We’ll just push it back.”
The need for the delay comes because of the peculiarity of the Royals’ next 48 hours. After the series finale Wednesday night at Baltimore, Kansas City will take off for Boston, where the teams will resume an Aug. 7 game that was suspended because of weather, tied 4-4 in the 10th inning. Both the Royals and Red Sox will sacrifice an off-day to make it happen, with the former heading to Cleveland after the suspended game is completed and the latter to San Diego.
What in the world is happening?
At 12:05 p.m. CT on Thursday, the Royals and Red Sox will throw the second first pitch of a game that began two weeks prior. An utter downpour hit the Boston area late that night. The teams initially played through it, but the tarp was pulled out at 10:47 p.m. ET, and Kansas City was on a plane to Detroit one hour, 47 minutes later.
MLB rules dictate that a game can be deemed “official” once the visiting team has made 15 outs (five innings) and the home team is leading, or once the home team has made 15 outs, regardless of score. But since this contest was halted in a tie later than the fifth inning, the game was suspended and a mutual off-day had to be found. That game was the last of a three-game series, and the Royals had no more travel planned to Boston -- and vice versa.
So Aug. 22 was deemed the most appropriate time. Both teams are off, and the Royals will jet up to Boston late Wednesday night, play as long as is needed on Thursday -- whether 30 minutes or two hours -- and then head to Cleveland for three games. The Red Sox finish a home series against the Phillies on Wednesday, so their travel will come only after Thursday’s game ends, albeit across the country.
How is this going to work?
Meibrys Viloria will step into the box for first pitch Thursday already ahead in a 2-1 count against Red Sox hurler Josh Taylor with no outs yet recorded in the 10th. The teams will resume play as if it had never ended. If the Royals plate a run and hold the Red Sox scoreless the next half-inning, victory goes to Kansas City. Or Boston can walk it off.
“Ideally, you would like to score, bring in [closer Ian] Kennedy and get it over with,” said Royals manager Ned Yost on Wednesday.
Jake Newberry, who pitched a scoreless ninth, is the pitcher of record for Kansas City.
Can players “re-enter” the game?
No. Any player already used is ineligible to re-enter after the game resumes Thursday. For the Royals, that means starting pitcher Glenn Sparkman and relievers Tim Hill, Kevin McCarthy and Scott Barlow cannot be used. For the Red Sox, that list includes starter Eduardo Rodriguez and relievers Darwinzon Hernandez, Nathan Eovaldi and Brandon Workman.
Neither team used a bench player on Aug. 7. To the Royals’ luck, they have the valuable Alex Gordon, who wasn't in the starting lineup that day, ready to come in and play.
What’s the plan?
Neither manager intends to reveal his hand too much. Think about it this way: To them, they are living their lives like it’s perpetually the top of the 10th inning. There doesn’t seem to be any intention to use a starting pitcher, since the game could end quickly after it resumes.
But Yost did give a small peek behind the curtain. Boston has four left-handed hitters lined up within its next five batters. With the righty Newberry on the mound, he could be pulled in favor of matchups -- depending on how Red Sox manager Alex Cora plays it. If length is needed, the Royals have Jakob Junis on four days’ rest and Jorge López scheduled to throw a bullpen session, so he could provide a few innings.
What about guys who aren’t on the team?
A handful of other players have moved since Aug. 7. Catcher Cam Gallagher was placed on the injured list a day later, and righty reliever Kyle Zimmer was optioned to Triple-A Omaha shortly thereafter. Righty Jacob Barnes and outfielder Brett Phillips have been called up since. For the Red Sox, infielder Michael Chavis and left-handed starters Chris Sale and David Price have been placed on the IL since Aug. 7.
Each team will be able to use players called up as if they were on the roster then.
How do the Royals feel?
Not great, understandably, and not just because of their fantasy draft. Off-days are at a premium this time of year, so the need to make two flights in a span of about 24 hours is less than desirable.
“Would have really loved to have a full day off,” said Merrifield, whose career game No. 500 is listed as the suspended game. “Feel a little worse for them. We were going to Cleveland for an off-day; they were going to San Diego. They are missing out on a day off in San Diego. That sucks.”
Merrifield doesn’t remember much about the game on Aug. 7, but he does remember sitting in the Fenway clubhouse checking radars and hour-by-hour forecasts on his phone just hoping there would be a small enough break in the clouds to be able to finish it out.
“You can’t control the weather,” he said.
Gordon, for his part, had more gripes about the several quick turnarounds the Royals -- and their aching mid-August bodies -- will need to endure.
“Kind of stinks. I wish all travel days would be day games,” Gordon said. “It’s the way it should be. … Sleep is a big part of it. You just never know how a night game is going to go and get in the middle of the night or even the next morning and have to play the next day. It wears on guys.”
Regardless, the goal is clear.
“I hope we score in the first inning and get out of there as quickly as possible and enjoy the day off,” Gordon said. “One inning, and we’re out of there.”
This is weird, isn’t it?
Yes, but consider what happened to the Royals in 2014. An Aug. 31 home contest against the Indians was suspended with Cleveland ahead 4-2 after the top of the 10th inning, and the game was completed at Progressive Field on Sept. 22 with the Royals still serving as the home team. Cleveland held Kansas City to one run in the bottom of the 10th to escape with a 4-3 victory.
The infamous George Brett pine tar incident on July 24, 1983, also became a suspended contest when the Royals won their protest. That game was completed Aug. 18, 1983, at Yankee Stadium, and the Royals won, 5-4.
If I am in the Boston area, can I go?
If you are over 18 and have $5, the Red Sox will open their gates to you. Fans under the age of 18 can attend for free, and kids will be able to run the bases after the game. There will be reduced prices on concessions, and all proceeds from the $5 tickets will be donated to the Jimmy Fund.