The Kansas City Royals‘ dynamic rookie duo of Bobby Witt Jr. and MJ Melendez every crushed home runs, but it wasn’t enough because the Houston Astros exploded for four home runs of its own in a nine-run burst.
Royals starting pitcher Zack Greinke, who pitched for the Astros from the 2019 trading deadline through the end of the 2021 season, allowed six earned runs on 10 hits and two walks in five innings. He gave up two home runs, both in the fifth inning.
The Astros scored three more runs, including two more home runs, against Royals reliever Jackson Kowar en route to give the Royals a 9-7 loss for an announced 28,762 on Tuesday night in the second game of a four-game set on Minute Maid Park.
The Royals (29-50) lost the first two games of the series after the Astros won Monday-afternoon’s opener on a walk-off homerun.
Witt hit 2 for 5 with three RBI’s and his 12th home run of the season, but left the game after getting hit on the hand by a pitch in the ninth inning. Melendez went 1 for 3 with a walk. Whit Merrifield and Kyle Isbel both hit triples for the Royals. Leftfielder Andrew Benintendic (1 for 3, walk, RBI) was on base twice.
“He’s usually the best judge of himself, and I know there were some off-speed pitches that he wasn’t happy with,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said of Greinke.
“He is a perfectionist so he holds himself to a very high standard. The guys kept fighting for him and did a great job of keeping us in the game the whole time. †
The Astros played a video acknowledging that Greinke was part of their recent streak of success, which included a pair of AL pennants and another year progressing to the ALCS.
“That was good,” Greinke said of the video. “The Diamondbacks decided to show they hit a couple of my home runs and then paid tribute. So it was more fun to do it before the race, a fun way to do it.”
While Greinke wasn’t too sentimental about his return to Houston, he was disappointed that he gave the Astros lineup so many miscues to take advantage of on record.
Greinke had allowed one point in each of his previous two appearances since returning from the injured list. He also threw six innings in each of those two starts and gave up a total of seven hits in those 12 innings.
“Command wasn’t so good,” Greinke said. “My gear felt pretty sharp, but I made a lot of mistakes and didn’t really make many quality shots. I think about—I think I had 10 hits—probably at least eight mistakes.
“They hit a few balls hard when I performed, but just about all of their hits were on mistakes. So I made too much of it.”
The Royals scored the first two runs of the game thanks to a Witt’s RBI single in the first inning and a solo homerun by Melendez in the second inning.
Melendez has now hit three homeruns in two games at Minute Maid Park.
“I feel really good on the record,” Melendez said. “I feel the best I’ve felt this year, relaxed, confident and looking to continue that.”
Greinke couldn’t silence the bats of the Astros for long. The hosts answered with a pair in the bottom of the second after Greinke gave up back-to-back hits to start the inning, including a leadoff double by Bregman. Both runners came by to score, the first on an RBI groundout and the second on a sacrifice fly.
Witt’s two-run homer in the third inning, which followed a single by Benintendi, restored the two-run advantage. But the Astros again broke off at Greinke.
With two outs in the fourth, Greinke gave up three consecutive hits. The third goal, a Jake Meyers RBI single, brought the Astros within one run. After former teammate and number 9 batter Martin Maldonado walked to load the bases, Greinke stranded the bases to maintain a one-run lead.
But in the fifth inning, the Astros took the lead. First, Pena hit a solo homerun to start the inning. After Alvarez singled, Bregman hit a slider from the first pitch for a two-run homerun to give the Astros a 6-4 lead.
The Royals came in a run, 6-5, when Isbel tripled and scored on Nicky Lopez’s RBI single in the seventh. But they didn’t get any closer, as the Astros scored three runs in the seventh and eight innings against Kowar.
The eighth inning gave the Royals a chance to turn the game around. A hit pitch, a replay review that reversed a double play, left two men with no outs and a walk for Melendez and a basesloaded walk for Michael A. Taylor to force a run.
However, with two outs, Lopez flied out deep into left field with the bases loaded. The ball was caught by Alvarez, who struck out in time to tag Hunter Dozier and score from third base.
“We want to get in at least that one run and get us in one,” Matheny said. “But you get the back of their pen. They won’t give up much. A close play and a good throw made all the difference.”