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Lyles’ Complete Game, Ninth-inning Rally Spoiled by Early Error


By Jared Wyllys,


CHICAGO – In a 4-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon, the Royals did nearly everything necessary to secure a win. But against teams with playoff ambitions, the margin for error between a win and a loss is often very narrow.


Starter Jordan Lyles pitched eight innings and scattered five hits while walking just one batter, and the defense was solid behind him.

In the third inning, Bobby Witt Jr. ranged from short to make a sliding catch on a popup from Mike Tauchman in shallow left, covering 108 feet. In the fourth, MJ Melendez dove to catch a fly ball from Dansby Swanson in left-center. Then, Matt Duffy threw out Christopher Morel in the fifth from third base on a grounder that Morel scorched for a 106.5 mph exit velocity.

But one defensive misplay in the first inning proved costly. Kansas City scored first in the top of the frame on a pair of singles by Witt and Michael Massey, but then gave that run back in the bottom half. Kyle Isbel’s error on Ian Happ’s fly ball to center field allowed Nico Hoerner to score and Happ to move to third. That set him up to score on a sacrifice fly from Cody Bellinger in the next at-bat, giving the Cubs an early 2-1 lead.

“[Isbel] got stuck in no-man’s land there, whether to dive or not,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “It provides a run. They still had to earn it with the sac fly.”

Those runs proved even more crucial when the Royals put together a two-run rally against Cubs closer Adbert Alzolay in the ninth inning to draw within a run.

Lyles kept the Cubs from getting baserunners, allowing only three after the first inning. If not for a pair of misplaced sliders to Seiya Suzuki and Miguel Amaya, Lyles would not have allowed an earned run, and the Royals’ two runs in the ninth inning would have been enough to take the lead.

“We were in the zone a good amount, early and often,” Lyles said. “And then I thought we threw it to the corners pretty well, early in counts. Especially to lefties [with] up-and-in cutters. And then their right-handers, other than the two home run balls, we had some decent sliders down and away.”

Until the ninth inning, the Royals’ lineup struggled to get much going against Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks. After scoring a run in the first, the Royals got into scoring position just three more times off Hendricks until he left with one out in the seventh. Kansas City finished 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

“[Hendricks] had two changeups working, going both directions,” Quatraro said. “Stayed off the barrel. The at-bats were competitive, we just had trouble squaring him up.”

Still, there was a shot for the Royals in the ninth inning. Down 4-1, Nelson Velázquez was hit by Alzolay’s 1-2 fastball and then moved to third on a single from Isbel. Maikel Garcia, who has been out of the lineup since leaving Friday’s game early with left upper body discomfort, pinch-hit for Duffy and came through with an RBI single.

Quatraro said he planned to let Garcia sit out unless he represented the tying or winning run, and as the ninth inning unfolded Sunday, that moment arose. Garcia got to second on a groundout, putting him in scoring position with two outs, but Dairon Blanco grounded out to end the Royals’ comeback bid.

Still, the Royals can take a lot of positives from their comeback bid. 

“Guys [are] just competing,” Massey said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job lately in the second half of when we’re down, not folding in the ninth inning and giving away at-bats. Everyone just coming together and putting together a good mindset and going out there and trying to make that guy earn it. Make them earn that ninth inning.”

The Royals’ 8-11 record in August marks their best winning percentage in any month this season. While it may take time for changes to reflect in the win-loss column, Kansas City’s recent stretch of close games gives the young squad hope that things are starting to change.

“The way we’re playing overall as a team is a sign of progress,” Quatraro said. “The at-bats have been better, we’ve been getting better starting pitching, defense has been better. So overall, all the pieces have been better, so the collective has been better and we’re winning more games. Not at a pace that we’re happy with, but it’s better than it was.”