Kansas City Royals

Royals victims of Jason Kipnis walk-off in series opener in Cleveland

The Royals took four innings to get their first hit and first run. Then it took roughly four hours before they scored again. A pair of runs wasn’t enough as the Royals watched the Indians celebrate victory at the end of a 10-inning game Mother Nature turned into a marathon.

Jason Kipnis smashed a walk-off solo home run, the third walk-off homer of his career, to deal the Royals a 3-2 loss in 10 innings Monday night in front of an announced 15,413 in the opener of a three-game set at Progressive Field. The game took 3 hours, 5 minutes, but night also featured a rain delay spanning 2 hours, 23 minutes in the middle of the fourth inning.

The game resumed at 10:15 p.m. Eastern time in front of a reduced crowd, but one that was boisterous after waiting out the storm.

Whit Merrifield registered two of the Royals’ five hits, including the club’s first hit of the game — a solo home run in the fourth inning.

Nicky Lopez’s two-out RBI double scored pinch runner Terrance Gore to tie the score in the eighth inning as the hour approached midnight in Cleveland. That RBI double ultimately sent the game into extra innings.

In the top of the 10th, Royals reliever Wily Peralta (2-4) gave up the game-deciding home run on the second pitch to the first batter he faced, Kipnis.

“In that situation you have to execute your pitches,” Peralta said. “I was trying to go back-door slider there. I missed on the first pitch. Tried to go back to it. Pretty much left it middle-middle, middle-in. He put a good swing on it.”

Royals starting pitcher Brad Keller pitched three scoreless innings and allowed three hits and struck out four before the rain delay brought his outing to an end.

Keller made his second start of the season against the Indians, his first at Progressive Field. The first time around against the Indians on April 12, Keller walked five and allowed three hits. He also struck out 10 in that 6 2/3 innings performance.

On Monday night, Keller maneuvered into and out of trouble in the second inning after a leadoff single up the middle by Jason Kipnis and a double down the right field line by Jose Ramirez put a pair of runners in scoring position with no outs.

Bobby Bradley struck out swinging, unable to check his swing on a slider in the dirt on the third strike. The next batter, Roberto Perez, waved at a third-strike slider in the dirt for the second out of the inning.

Tyler Naquin, whose home run accounted for the only run the Indians scored against Keller in his April start, grounded out to first base to end the inning.

Merrifield’s homer on the second pitch of the fourth inning provided the game’s first run. That blast to left field gave him 11 home runs this year, one shy of last year’s total. He’s hit nine of his 11 home runs on the road, including three homers during the previous road trip to Minnesota and Seattle.

Merrifield’s home run provided the only hit of the top of the fourth, and the game went into a rain delay immediately after Hunter Dozier’s fly ball to center ended the inning. The score remained 1-0 with action stopped in the middle of the fourth for nearly two and a half hours.

“It’s too bad Keller was really sharp tonight too,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Keller’s shortened outing. “The rain allowed us to get four innings, but 45 minutes is quick. Both guys were really throwing the ball well. It’s too bad we couldn’t have lengthened him out today with the stuff that he had.”

Left-handed reliever Brian Flynn took over on the mound when the game resumed. The Indians sandwiched a pair of doubles around a strikeout to start the fourth against Flynn. The second double, off the bat of Jose Ramirez drove in Carlos Santana and tied the game 1-1.

The Indians grabbed the lead in the sixth when Ramirez drew a two-out walk and Bobby Bradley lined an RBI double into right-center field. That made it a one-run game until Lopez’s RBI double in the eighth.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.
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