MILWAUKEE (TNS) — Reclined in his office chair at Miller Park this week, Royals manager Ned Yost reminisced about his bullpen of old as he compared it to the Brewers’ formidable relief corps.
The Brewers entered Wednesday’s game with a 2.74 bullpen ERA, the fourth-lowest in baseball. Their relievers, tied for 11th in baseball in terms of workload, had allowed a stingy .218 batting average in 282 1/3 innings.
“It’s fun to have a good bullpen,” Yost said wistfully, before turning his attention to Milwaukee’s Josh Hader. The left-hander’s 1.13 ERA was sixth-lowest among relievers who’ve pitched at least 20 innings this year. Hader’s strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate of 18.00 entered Wednesday ranked best in baseball among all pitchers.
But Adalberto Mondesi got the best of him in the seventh inning. Hader, the third pitcher of the frame, threw the switch-hitting Mondesi a fastball in on the hands. Mondesi didn't hesitate to jump on the pitch and drilled a two-run single to the left-field wall, breaking a tie in the Royals' 5-4 win over the Brewers.
"I know he’s pretty good," Mondesi said. "Lefty, throws hard, I need to be ready for that one. He gave me a good pitch, I put a good swing on it and got a good result."
Mike Moustakas led off the inning with a homer against starting pitcher Brent Suter, who'd only allowed three Royals to reach base in the first six innings. The right-field blast opened the floodgates, as the next three Royals reached base and Brewers manager Craig Counsell made a pair of pitching changes.
The Royals sent nine hitters to the plate in the seventh, scored five runs in a frame for the first time in almost a month, and gathered two damaging hits against against the Brewers’ best reliever. Hader hadn't allowed two hits in one inning all season.
And the Royals hadn't scored more than four runs since they lost to the Angels 9-6 on June 4. They last scored four times in a 7-4 loss to the Astros on June 17.
In all, the Royals had averaged 2.08 runs per game this month.
Then Mondesi singled, setting up Lucas Duda’s sacrifice fly ball to center field and Whit Merrifield’s run-scoring single.
One offensive outburst won’t reverse the effects of this month’s nightmarish hitting. But it could well serve as a catalyst, especially as the Royals anticipate the reinstatement of Jorge Bonifacio, whose 80-game suspension ended after Wednesday’s game.
"Mondi, that was huge," Yost said. "It was a great move to bring in Hader. They’re trying to slam it right there. But Mondi with the huge hit to get two runs. You could sense a sigh of relief from our offense."
Another stellar start: Royals pitcher pitcher Danny Duffy, who was visited on the mound after feeling his back leg cramp when pitching to Manny Pina in the sixth, exited his outing after six innings and 95 pitches.
Duffy allowed just one run on a Jesus Aguilar homer and struck out seven. He earned the victory for just the fourth time this season, and pitched a one-run ballgame for the fifth time in his last seven starts.
“I feel like I got my feet under me and am starting to pitch the way I know how," Duffy said. "Everyone goes through ruts and it won’t be the last time. But I feel like I have a good feel for what I’m doing right now.”
The lead almost disappeared in the ninth inning when rookie reliever Tim Hill allowed a three-run homer to Brad Miller with no outs. But Wily Peralta got his second career save after inducing a double-play ground ball from Ryan Braun with a runner on first base.
To get the win, the Royals had to challenge first-base umpire Jerry Layne's call. He thought Braun was safe getting to the bag.
“Oh yeah, for me, I thought he was safe. He looked safe off the naked eye," Yost said. "We check it all, of course. When Dale (Sveum) said challenge, I said ‘Challenge? What’s Billy (Duplissea) feeling.’ And Dale said, ‘We normally don’t challenge unless (we’re sure) he’s out.’ So I said, ‘Oooh, good.’”
Salvy removed: Royals catcher Salvador Perez was removed from the game in the ninth after getting hit in the right arm by a foul ball. He said after the game he was OK and that his hand temporarily went numb.
Up next: The Royals, who improved to 25-55, will head to Seattle for a three-game series that begins at 9:10 p.m. Friday.