For nearly two and half hours this evening, the Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals fought and clawed through a pitchers duel that was all over in the blink of an eye. Royals first basemen Kila Ka`aihue took the second pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning off Angels reliever Michael Kohn deep to right center field to give the Royals a 2-1 win and their first victory of the 2011 season.
Left-hander Jeff Francis made his debut in a Royals uniform and was superb, pitching seven full innings and giving up just one run on five hits. He also struck out four while walking one. The lone Angels run came in the top of the first inning as the second batter of the game, Howie Kendrick hit a home run to center field. Throughout the evening Francis was able to keep the ball down and routinely change pitch speed. The pitching helped allow the Royals to turn three double plays on the evening.
Dan Haren was equally impressive for the Angels, also going seven strong innings, allowing one run on six hits. He struck out six and walked none. Kansas City got on the board against Haren in the bottom of the fourth, after Ka`aihue and Billy Butler both singled, Jeff Francoeur grounded out allowing Butler to score and knot the game at 1. Francoeur also flirted with a home run, flying out deep to left field in the sixth on a solid at the wall catch by Vernon Wells.
Robinson Tejeda held the Angels at bay in the eighth, before Joakim Soria entered to pitch the ninth for Kansas City and pitched a quick inning getting a ground out and then two pop outs.
After Jordan Walden pitched the eighth for Los Angeles, he then gave way to Kohn and we know how the story shaped up from there.
Overall you have to be impressed with the pitching on both sides, and I was also pleased with the Royals defense up the the middle. The Royals did commit two more errors this evening, but they were by Mike Aviles and Brayan Pena. The Royals now have five errors in just two games, two by Aviles.
Erick Aybar was 2-for-4 to lead Los Angeles, along with Kendrick's solo home run. Alex Gordon improved to 2-for-4 after going 0-for-5 yesterday, while Ka`aihue also went 2-for-4 and easily provided the biggest contribution for Kansas City. Soria picked up the win, while Kohn took the loss. The game boxscore from this evening can be seen here.
The Royals improved to 1-1 on the young season, while Los Angeles fell to 1-1. Game time tomorrow is 12:10 with Kyle Davies facing Ervin Santana. After the game tomorrow is the highly publicized Futures Game, which will pit the AAA affiliate Omaha Storm Chasers against the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The game will feature many of the young prospects in the Royals' prized farm system.