Royals

Alex Gordon’s home run breaks a MLB record. It means little in Royals’ 5-2 loss

Royals starter Ian Kennedy gave up two runs in five-plus innings in a 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Tuesday in Toronto.
Royals starter Ian Kennedy gave up two runs in five-plus innings in a 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Tuesday in Toronto. The Associated Press

Just before 8:14 p.m. on Tuesday, Alex Gordon stepped to the plate at Rogers Centre in the top of the eighth inning and hit a baseball that soared over the wall in right-center field. On any other night, in any other moment in baseball history, the homer would have meant nothing.

A footnote in the Royals’ 5-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on the first night of a three-game series. A number in a box score that described the latest frustrating result. A lone bright moment as a team stumbled to the finish line, falling further and further from contention with 12 games to play.

But this was no ordinary night. At 55 seconds past the minute at 8:13 p.m., Gordon hit the 5,694th homer of 2017, breaking Major League Baseball’s all-time record for homers in a single season. The old mark was set in 2000, at the height of baseball’s so-called Steroid Era. On Tuesday, Gordon, a left fielder who entered the night with just seven homers, cemented a new era of power in baseball.

“I didn’t hit many this year,” Gordon said, sitting inside the clubhouse late Tuesday night. “But I guess I made one count.”

As he spoke, Gordon clutched the record-breaking ball, which had been collected by Royals’ officials in the moments after he barreled a pitch from Toronto reliever Ryan Tepera. It was headed for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. That fact spurred a modest bit of emotion from Gordon in a quiet clubhouse.

“It’s good to be in the Hall of Fame, I guess,” Gordon said.

In some ways, it was an odd scene. The Royals had lost for the fifth time in six games, falling to 73-77 on the season. With 12 games remaining, their playoff chances are all but dead.

On this night, they welcomed catcher Salvador Perez, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and third baseman Mike Moustakas back to the lineup after two days of rest. Yet it meant little against Toronto starter Marcus Stroman, who breezed through seven innings.

And here was Gordon, finishing a postgame workout and discussing a record that sort of meant something and sort of didn’t, swallowing a loss that sort of meant something and sort of didn’t.

“We’ve been trying to get something going,” said Royals starter Ian Kennedy, who allowed two runs in five innings in his first start since Sept. 8. “And it gets stopped. We’ve got some good time left. We gotta get something special going.”

Inside the clubhouse, the Royals understood the math. They understood the time left. They understood the injuries that have taken a toll over the last three weeks. They have won a championship together and they have lost together, and as Moustakas, Cain and Eric Hosmer move toward free agency for the first time, the frustration has set in.

“They’re fighting their tails off,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.

“Push to the end,” Gordon said. “That’s what we’re going to do. Hopefully we’ll see brighter days than what we’ve seen late.”

In another 25 years, perhaps this Tuesday night in Toronto will be remembered as another loss for a fading Royals club that was about to split apart after one of the best eras in club history. If we remember it at all. But it will also be remembered for an otherwise forgettable solo homer.

Gordon’s blast made the score 5-2 after Kennedy, returning from shoulder fatigue, yielded a two-run homer to Darwin Barney in the sixth and the bullpen faltered in the seventh. For Gordon, who finished the night batting .209, it meant another homer in a brutal campaign. For Tepera, it meant a higher ERA. But that was it. It meant nothing — except it came at just the right time.

“To be honest,” Gordon said. “I came in here after Barney hit the home run, and I heard (the announcers) talking about it. So I was kind of aware we were getting close to it.”

A few seconds later, Gordon headed back out to the dugout and forgot about the record, he said. He forgot about the theories of a juiced ball that have contributed to the homer spike. He forgot about the 5,693 homers that would be hit before he stepped to the plate in the seventh. He forgot about all that.

The Royals’ season continued to move toward an unsatisfying end. Along the way, Gordon hit another homer.

“It’s kind of been an up-and-down battle over the past couple of weeks,” he said. “It’s been frustrating.”

Blue Jays 5, Royals 2

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield 2b

3

0

2

0

1

0

.287

Cain cf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.300

Cabrera rf

4

0

0

0

0

0

.284

Hosmer 1b

3

1

1

0

1

1

.323

Perez c

4

0

1

0

0

1

.264

Moustakas 3b

3

0

1

1

0

1

.271

Moss dh

3

0

0

0

0

1

.208

Escobar ss

3

0

0

0

0

1

.250

Gordon lf

3

1

1

1

0

1

.209

Totals

30

2

6

2

2

7

Toronto

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Hernandez lf

4

0

0

0

0

3

.255

Donaldson 3b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.268

Smoak 1b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.278

Bautista rf

4

0

0

0

0

2

.205

Morales dh

3

0

1

0

0

0

.249

Refsnyder pr-dh

0

1

0

0

0

0

.167

Pillar cf

3

1

1

0

0

0

.258

Martin c

3

1

1

2

0

0

.224

Goins ss

3

1

1

0

0

1

.227

Barney 2b

3

1

2

3

0

0

.237

Totals

31

5

8

5

0

8

Kansas City

000

000

110

2

6

1

Toronto

000

002

30x

5

8

0

E: Moustakas (12). LOB: Kansas City 4, Toronto 2. 2B: Moustakas (23), Smoak (27), Pillar (36), Martin (10). HR: Gordon (8), off Tepera; Barney (5), off Kennedy. RBIs: Moustakas (82), Gordon (44), Martin 2 (30), Barney 3 (23). SF: Moustakas.

Runners left in scoring position: Kansas City 1 (Escobar); Toronto 1 (Bautista). RISP: Kansas City 0 for 2; Toronto 2 for 5. LIDP: Hernandez. GIDP: Cain, Perez, Smoak. DP: Kansas City 2 (Cain, Escobar), (Escobar, Merrifield, Hosmer); Toronto 2 (Donaldson, Barney, Smoak), (Donaldson, Barney, Smoak).

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Kennedy, L, 4-12

5

3

2

2

0

2

63

5.39

Moylan

 1/3

1

0

0

0

1

5

3.70

Alexander

1 1/3

3

3

3

0

2

22

2.59

Maurer

 1/3

1

0

0

0

1

7

6.52

Morin

1

0

0

0

0

2

21

5.94

Toronto

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Stroman, W, 12-8

7

4

1

1

2

5

92

3.01

Tepera

1

2

1

1

0

0

16

3.50

Osuna, S, 37

1

0

0

0

0

2

13

3.54

Kennedy pitched to 2 batters in the 6th.

Inherited runners-scored: Alexander 1-0, Maurer 1-1. Umpires: Home, Joe West; First, Mark Wegner; Second, Ben May; Third, Pat Hoberg. Time: 2:27. Att: 33,554.

  Comments