Brewers beat Royals 6-2 despite Jason Hammel's good outing
For the second night in a row, a Royals starting pitcher deflected a comebacker off a body part.
Jason Hammel was the victim Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium.
The perpetrator: former teammate and current Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain.
Cain turned Hammel’s 92 mph two-seam fastball, a pitch Hammel has rediscovered this season in an effort to limit the fly balls that upended his first campaign in a Royals uniform, into a land missile.
The ball popped off Cain’s bat at 109.5 mph, with the back of Hammel’s left leg in its crosshairs. As he went down, Hammel somersaulted off the mound. Shortstop Alcides Escobar made quick work of the play, throwing Cain out at first base for the last out of the third inning.
Perhaps pinning the Royals’ 6-2 loss on as friendly a foe as Cain is extreme. Cain did no damage against Hammel, going 0 for 5 against his old team. And Hammel remained in the game for a total of 6 2/3 innings.
Later, as he showed off a red welt on his calf, Hammel downplayed the line drive's effects.
"I’ve been lucky, I guess, in the times I’ve been hit in my career and it’s caught a decent amount of meat even though I’m skinny," Hammel said. "I still somehow found a way to get hit in a good spot."
Still, the play cast a dividing line in the game.
Hammel had retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced before the fourth inning. Then the Brewers scored four of the runs they needed to saddle the Royals with their 12th loss in 14 games.
Christian Yelich drew a leadoff walk and scored when fellow left-handed hitter Travis Shaw ripped a double under the glove of diving first baseman Lucas Duda at the line and into right field for a double.
Hammel almost retired Domingo Santana on a sacrifice fly that scored the Brewers’ second run. But Jorge Soler, who has made strides in the outfield, seemed to anticipate his next move before he’d captured the ball. The ball popped out of the tip of his glove and trickled onto the grass.
The error allowed Santana to reach base — and bit the Royals again, as he later scored on an RBI ground-out before the inning’s end.
"It was in the tip of my glove," Soler told The Star in Spanish. "I never had it."
The inning undermined an otherwise quiet outing for Hammel, whom the Brewers touched for just five hits and four runs (three earned). He retired eight of his final 10 batters and enticed relatively weak contact — if you don’t count the batted balls Cain, Yelich, Ryan Braun and Shaw hit with an average exit velocity of 96.5 mph in the fifth inning.
"Even walking out to take him out, I still hadn’t made my mind up until I got to the mound that I was gonna get him in that situation," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "But it was a two-run game, and Yelich up with a runner in scoring position. I just thought we’d bring in a lefty there."
The Royals flailed at a rally. Mike Moustakas drilled his seventh homer of the season in the fourth inning, and Salvador Perez drove in Jon Jay on an RBI force-out in the sixth. In the eighth, Escobar was stranded at third base despite leading off the inning with a scorched double to left field. Brewers reliever Josh Hader, who entered with one out and runners on the corners, struck out Moustakas and Salvador Perez in back-to-back at-bats to end the threat.
The Brewers had already tacked on a pair of runs (one earned) against Royals rookie Eric Stout, who made his major-league debut in relief of Hammel in the seventh.
And for a Royals offense that entered the game having scored only eight runs in Hammel’s previous 25 1/3 innings, the four-run gap proved insurmountable. The Royals stranded six men on base and were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
"Their bullpen has been really, really good," Yost said. "It wasn’t just tonight. They’ve been doing it for the better part of the year."
The Royals dropped to 5-17, one night prior to welcoming the Chicago White Sox for a five-game series in which both teams will attempt to climb out of the American League Central cellar.