The moon shot soared through the Busch Stadium air at 106 mph. The crowd noise swelled. Within moments, Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill was on the top step of the Cardinals dugout, tipping his helmet to the announced crowd of 42,140.
The rookie, the Cardinals' No. 3 prospect, had just recorded his third extra-base hit since being recalled on Friday. The three-run homer came in the third inning against Royals starter Ian Kennedy and effectively sealed the Royals’ fate, as they lost 6-0 to the Cardinals on Monday night at Busch Stadium.
"I mean, I didn’t know he had that pop the other way," Kennedy said. "Threw another good pitch off the plate and on that he got for a double. He’s a good young player. It’s just like I said that one big swing of the bat that took us out of the game."
Kennedy labored from the start. He needed 27 pitches to get through the first inning, allowing a double and walk as he went. By the end of the fourth, he had allowed four runs and thrown 83 pitches.
In all, Kennedy surrendered five runs, all of them with two outs, and yielded nine hits while throwing 108 pitches.
“Two quick outs in the third and just couldn’t get that last out," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "But outside of trying to get that third out, he was pretty darn good. He made a little minor adjustment and was pretty good. ... In the third, he just elevated."
Some other key moments:
Double trouble: Kennedy and Jon Jay led off the top of the third inning with a single apiece — yet only Kennedy reached third base. Jorge Soler grounded into a double play. Mike Moustakas flew out to end the inning.
It was the Royals’ best chance to score against Cardinals starting pitcher Miles Mikolas, who’s excelled in his first MLB season following a three-year foray in Japan. The Royals struck out nine times and reached base just six times against the 29-year-old. His season ERA dropped to 2.24 after limiting the Royals to four hits in a shutout.
The Royals lead baseball in two categories: They’ve hit into the most double plays (51) and they’ve allowed the most runs (266 total/252 earned). Entering Monday, the Royals also owned the highest ERA (5.55) in baseball.
“We had an opportunity in the third and of course we bang into a double play," Yost said. "I think that’s the 22nd time we’ve hit into a double play with runners in scoring position."
How else they lost: Before O’Neill shattered the Royals’ chances — a deficit of four runs has spelled disaster for the Royals this season — Soler committed a gaffe in right field on a ground-ball single by Marcell Ozuna. Soler had to double back to grab the ball, allowing Ozuna to reach second base on an error and Matt Carpenter to score from second, the Cardinals' first run.
The Cardinals cushioned their advantage on O'Neill's RBI double in the fifth off Kennedy and Carpenter’s leadoff homer in the seventh off reliever Jason Adam.
The Royals are 6-28 when opponents score four or more runs in a game.
Up next: The Royals, who fell to 14-33, continue this three-game series on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. Jason Hammel will make his 10th start.