Welcome back, Triston McKenzie. Making his first big league start since June 12, McKenzie was dominant, pitching seven shutout innings in a 2-1 win over the Kansas City Royals that ended in walkoff fashion for the second night in a row, this time courtesy of a Bobby Bradley home run.
On a night when offensive fireworks were in short supply for both teams, McKenzie put on a show. He only allowed one hit and one walk over seven innings of work, racking up nine strikeouts. It was the longest outing of his big league career, and the 23-year-old became the youngest Cleveland pitcher to go seven innings with nine strikeouts and one hit or fewer since Dennis Eckersley accomplished that feat back in 1977. McKenzie’s fastball command was elite and his velocity was consistent from his first inning through his last. He also complemented his four-seam fastball with a filthy slider that finished the night with a 44% CSW%.
It was the type of performance Cleveland has not seen in weeks from a starting pitcher.
Unfortunately, Cleveland’s offensive performance was all too familiar. All they could manage against Kansas City starter Brad Keller were four hits, four walks, and one run. That one run came in the second inning on an RBI single by Bradley Zimmer. Cleveland clung to that tenuous 1-0 lead until the eighth inning, when Emmanuel Clase served up his first home run of the season at the worst time. Jorge Soler took him yard to left-center, knotting the score at 1-1.
Cleveland seemed poise to retake the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning after Daniel Johnson dropped a leadoff single into left-center and then advanced to second on a wild throw to first. Cesar Hernandez followed with a single into left field, putting runners at first and third with no outs. Then Amed Rosario came to the plate and things took a bizarre turn.
On a ground ball to the shortstop, Johnson broke for home and got caught in a rundown, eventually making his way back to third. Hernandez rounded second and went for third as both ended up at the bag at the same time. Royals catcher Salvador Perez tagged Johnson as he appeared to be coming off the base, then tagged Hernandez while he was on the base, and then tagged Johnson again for good measure. Perez’s — and the third base umpire’s — interpretation of the play was that Johnson was entitled to the bag, so Hernandez was out even though he was on the bag. The umpire evidently did not see that Johnson was off the bag on the first tag, so he called Hernandez out on the second tag and then Johnson out on the third tag.
Tag is still on as Johnson leaves the base and before they tag Hernandez. The lead runner no longer owns the base. He is out and Hernandez is safe. Thanks for coming to my Ted talk. @Indians pic.twitter.com/7HDKgaskEV— Monica (@MonicaCle_) July 10, 2021
Manager Terry Francona and third base coach Jim Sarbaugh both lit into the third base umpire after a lengthy discussion, and Francona was ejected.
Fortunately, Bobby Bradley’s walk-off home run rendered the call at third base moot.