It’s August 11th and the Royals are in first place in the American League Central. That’s not a typo.
The Royals won their eighth straight game tonight with a 3-2 victory over the Athletics at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Meanwhile, the Tigers lost 11-6 to the Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. As a result, the Royals are now a half-game ahead of the Tigers in the division. It’s quite a turnaround when you consider that they were eight games out of first place on July 21. They have gone 16-3 since.
The Royals and Athletics were tied 2-2 tonight before shortstop Alcides Escobar delivered a go-ahead single off Sonny Gray in the seventh inning. Yordano Ventura allowed two runs over six innings before Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland combined for three scoreless innings to lock down the victory. The back end of that bullpen is really something. After making the catch for the final out of the game, center fielder Jarrod Dyson provided the exclamation point by doing a post-victory backflip. Fun times in Kansas City.
The Royals haven’t been to the postseason since 1985. This is the latest they have been in first place in a season since 2003.
The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.
Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.
The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.
The Pirates and Cardinals will switch things up for Sunday’s series finale, moving from the spacious PNC Park to the renovated Minor League confines of BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field. Normally the home stadium for the Phillies’ Short-Season Single-A Williamsport Crosscutters, Historic Bowman Field will set the stage for an unusual — and unprecedented — matchup between the NL Central rivals as they take the field for the first-ever MLB Little League Baseball Classic.
The game will cap a packed day for Major League and Little League participants alike, as four Little League double-elimination games will be played in the morning and afternoon before the Pirates’ Ivan Nova and Cardinals’ Mike Leake face off at 7:00 PM ET. Despite drawing national attention, the Classic will be invitation-only, and its projected 2,366 attendees will comprise the lowest capacity attendance figure in Major League history.
The event is designed to spark more interest in the sport, especially among young players, and Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny called it “grassroots marketing at its finest.” “We all fell in love with the game and started dreaming about playing on a field like this at the age of these kids we’re going to go see in Williamsport,” he told reporters prior to Sunday’s game. “I hope there are some kids that we can encourage and maybe give a different look of the game and create some lifelong baseball fans that might not have been there otherwise.”
Judging by the excitement that infused the pregame festivities among the players, it looks like they’re already on the right track.