There are plenty of reasons why there is no run rule in Major League ball but, man-o-man, this red-tide annihilation Friday when the I-70 Series resumed at Kauffman Stadium isn’t one of them.
St. Louis scored four runs in the first inning against an ineffective Vin Mazzaro, who failed to retire any of the first six batters. And if the truest blue believers remained willing to wager on a comeback, a six-run second inning effectively snuffed that hope.
The final score was all Cardinals at 11-4 and deceptive at that. It wasn’t that close.
“I didn’t really give myself a chance to get into a groove,” said Mazzaro, who pitched six scoreless innings against the same Cardinals just a week earlier. “I was up in the zone a lot. All of my pitches were pretty much up tonight. Just an off-night. A bad night.”
Carlos Beltran made a triumphant return in his first game at The K since a white-flag trade on June 24, 2004, sent him to Houston. His two-run double in the first opened the scoring, and his two-run double highlighted the knockout second.
“I feel great, honestly,” he said. “This place brings a lot of good memories for me.”
Both of Beltran’s doubles came against Mazzaro, who saw his ERA zoom from 2.57 to 5.24 after surrendering seven runs in 1 1/3 innings.
“He was totally different tonight,” manager Ned Yost said. “He just didn’t have his good stuff. He didn’t have command. He didn’t have an exceptionally good fastball, and his slider was near as sharp as it was in St. Louis.
“It was just one of those nights when he struggled to get anything going.”
As a result, it was over before dusk settled — and the sellout crowd of 37,902 soon divided itself between those reveling in the early fireworks and those waiting for Friday’s traditional postgame version.
The Cardinals finished with 17 hits, including three by Matt Holliday and David Freese. Every St. Louis starter had at least one hit by the end of the fourth inning. Beltran finished two for five with those four RBIs.
“You know what?” Beltran said. “(The fans) got to see the young Beltran and the old Beltran, so I guess it's good.”
There was one major positive for the Royals: catcher Salvy Perez returned from a season-long stay on the disabled list by getting a single in his first at-bat and a two-run homer in his second.
“I feel great to be back,” he said. “This is a family. All of my friends are here. That was nice. I just went in there trying to see the ball and to hit the ball hard.”
For the Royals, that was about it.
The Cardinals’ early outburst paved the way for rookie Joe Kelly, 1-0, to gain his first big-league victory. He wobbled at times, while allowing three runs and nine hits in six innings, but it just didn’t matter.
“It feels pretty awesome,” Kelly said. “I didn't have my best stuff, and my team, basically they carried me.”
Sam Freeman, Eduardo Sánchez and Fernando Salas closed out the victory, which opened a three-game weekend series. The Royals won two of three when the teams met last weekend in St. Louis.
Mazzaro, 3-2, set the tone when he began the game by walking Rafael Furcal and hitting Jon Jay. A bloop single to right by Holliday loaded the bases for Beltran, who sent a drive into the sun that carried past left fielder Alex Gordon for a two-run double.
“It just kept carrying,” Gordon said, “but it’s a catch I should make and just didn’t.”
The Cardinals kept coming.
Yadier Molina punched an RBI single, and a walk to Freese reloaded the bases. Mazzaro finally got an out when Matt Carpenter hit a sacrifice fly to left, but the run made it 4-0.
The Royals answered with one run in their half of the first after Yuniesky Betancourt sent a one-out hopper into center field. Billy Butler’s liner struck Kelly in the leg and caromed into right field for a single that moves Betancourt to third.
“It got me really good,” Kelly said. “It was tingling there for a little bit. I'm just happy it didn't tighten up on me or anything.”
Eric Hosmer sliced an RBI single to left, but the chance for a bigger inning fizzled when Jeff Francoeur grounded out and Mike Moustakas struck out.
Mazzaro failed to make it through the second.
Furcal led off with a single and went to third on Jay’s single. The runners held on Holliday’s pop to short center, but both scored when Beltran drove a two-run double into the right-center gap.
“Now you’re just trying to survive,” Yost said, “and not use your whole pitching staff.”
Roman Colón replaced Mazzaroand, immediately anyway, things got no better.
Molina singled to right, and Freese pulled a drive to left that landed just fair for a two-run double and an 8-1 lead. Carpenter’s single through the right side moved Freese to third. Tyler Greene followed with a two-run double over Jarrod Dyson’s head in center.
That made it 10-1.
The Cardinals stretched their lead to 11-1 on doubles in the fourth by Carpenter and Skip Schumaker, but Colón did save the bullpen by working 4 1/3 innings — although it might cost him a spot on the roster. The Royals might now need a fresh long reliever.