How a potential KC win slipped away in one play

May 14th, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- It took Christian Yelich about 15 seconds to dash from first to home in the third inning Sunday afternoon, taking advantage of two Royals errors to tie the game.

But the unraveling of the Royals’ eventual 9-6 loss to the Brewers at American Family Field started earlier than that.

Given a three-run lead to begin the bottom of the third inning, Royals starter walked the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters in the Brewers' lineup, issuing eight pitches to Tyrone Taylor and five to Joey Wiemer to put runners on first and second with no outs for Christian Yelich, who tormented the Royals in this series sweep.

The former MVP went 6-for-11 at the plate with three homers, including a 433-foot blast in the first inning Sunday.

“You don’t want to have two guys on base when he’s up there,” Lyles said. “Swinging good or not swinging good, who cares? It’s still Christian Yelich up there. I didn’t afford myself any good chances today.”

Lyles threw a 2-0 changeup -- the same pitch Yelich crushed earlier in the game -- down in the zone, and Yelich pulled it into right field to bring the Brewers within one. On Lyles’ second pitch to Jesse Winker, an elevated cutter, Yelich took off for second base. Royals catcher fired a perfect strike to shortstop Maikel Garcia, but the ball bounced out of Garcia’s glove and into center field.

“It hit the top of my glove,” Garcia said. “I was trying to be too quick [with the tag].”

Yelich scrambled to his feet and took off for third. Center fielder Nate Eaton, who is known for his cannon of an arm, fired a throw that way. But the ball bounced in the dirt and arrived at the bag at the same time Yelich was sliding in, so third baseman lost it in the chaos.

“At that point, I’m not going to make the play and tag him out,” Dozier said. “I’m just trying to block it and not let it pass me. And I didn’t do that.

“He can run really well, so there wasn’t much of a chance.”

The ball bounced off Brewers third-base coach Jason Lane’s foot as Yelich scrambled to his feet and sprinted toward home. Dozier raced after the ball, but the flip to Perez was too late.

“Kicked by the third-base coach and a comedy of errors at that point,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “…The walks really came back to hurt us. It wasn’t a very clean inning defensively or pitching. They earned it with some well-hit balls, but we definitely helped.”

Five days after Lyles threw a 112-pitch complete game, he was pulled after 2 1/3 innings and 60 pitches on Sunday.

“Unnecessary walks,” Lyles said. “Eight, nine coming up in the bottom of the third. Needed to be more aggressive, and I was trying to do that. But I just wasn’t over the plate enough. That led to those two walks. And it spiraled after that.”

The Royals signed the 32-year-old Lyles to a two-year deal this offseason to give them reliable innings, but those innings haven’t been effective through his first nine starts as a Royal. Lyles is 0-7 with a 7.14 ERA. 

The Royals have not won a game he has pitched.

After Yelich tied the game in the third, Lyles walked Winker, then allowed a single and the go-ahead double to flip a three-run lead into a deficit. Brice Turang’s three-run homer off reliever was the dagger in a game the Royals likely should have won.

“It’s disappointing,” Quatraro said. “We got swept. So, that’s not ideal in any way. There were some positives that we saw on the mound and with the bats, but just not good enough.”

The Royals have now homered in 13 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak in the Majors and longest streak since the 2001 Royals homered in a franchise-record 15 straight games. Perez hit a first-inning homer Sunday to propel Kansas City to a fast start; they scored four in the first three innings to build their lead.

But after the third-inning meltdown, the offense didn’t record a hit until Dozier and hit home runs in the ninth inning.

“Maybe we felt a little deflated, but the guys, I can tell you and assure you, they were into every pitch, they were going up there and taking quality at-bats,” Quatraro said. “... The energy didn’t seem different in the dugout.”