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Déjà vu: Greenberg’s Gems, Surging Royals Sweep Division Leaders, Clinch Playoff Berth

By Larry Lachman, Charles Lachman, 05/28/24, 10:00PM CDT


The Royals entered Sunday needing to defeat the two teams ahead of them for the American League’s top postseason seed.  The stakes were clear – take down the division leaders, or risk a lower seed.  The result:  two stellar pitching performances, an airtight defense, and an explosive 26 combined runs powered a second consecutive Royals’ sweep, extending their winning streak to five crucial games.

For the second consecutive week, Royals’ pitcher, Scott Greenberg pitched 11 innings, delivering a master class on pitching with seven shutout innings despite challenging wind conditions.  There was a perfect symmetry to his two outings:  he surrendered runs in the opponents’ bookend frames – their first and last at-bats – while being flawless in the middle innings, displaying pinpoint control and keeping hitters off balance.  Greenberg pitched his two gems on a day the Royals clinched a playoff berth, knocking off Anthony’s Orioles 10 – 3 and Burk’s Brewers, 16 – 10 to move into second place in the division. 

In the opener against the first-place Orioles, the Royals scored their 10 runs on just six hits by capitalizing on six walks and three Oriole errors.  Playing on field 3 with the wind blowing directly in from left field at 20 mph, Greenberg allowed two early runs – courtesy of an RBI double by former Royal, Ari Loiben, and an RBI single by Aaron Lowenberg – which turned out to be 66% of his total runs allowed in the game.

Trailing 2 – 0, the Royals proceeded to score two runs on only one hit.  Tommy Apligian set the tone as he led off the bottom of the first by drawing a walk.  An error, sacrifice fly, and RBI single by Cameron Dill, tied the game at 2 – 2.

In the bottom of the third, the Royals scored three more runs on just one hit thanks to excellent plate discipline.  Larry Lachman drew a base on balls to lead off, Apligian singled him to second, and then consecutive walks to Drew Waggoner and Charles Lachman forced in the first run of the inning.  A fielder’s choice and an error plated two more, making it 5 – 2.

In the top of the fourth – with the game’s outcome still in question – the game turned wild.  Andy Wetterlin singled with one out, bringing Adwild Perez to the plate.  Perez rifled the ball into the right centerfield gap, splitting the fielders perfectly and rolling to the fence.  As right centerfielder, Chris Stutz reached the ball, Perez blazed around second base with lightning speed.  By the time he rounded third, the Royals’ dugout erupted into a frenzy of anticipation.  Wetterlin scored easily and was ready to embrace his teammate in a jubilant celebration when, moments later, Perez crossed home plate just as Kendal Anthony was receiving the cutoff throw from the outfield, igniting a wildfire of exuberance among players and fans alike.  With the scoreboard now reading 7 – 2, Perez’s inside-the-park homerun had burst the game wide open.

Walks to Chris Peterson and Waggoner sandwiched a flyout to begin the bottom of the fifth.  Peterson eventually scored on a fielder’s choice, and Waggoner came around to score when Dill crushed a 2 – 1 pitch over the left field fence, extending the lead to 10 – 2.

Meanwhile, Greenberg cruised through the second, third, fourth, and fifth innings, yielding only two hits.  One of those base runners attempted to score from second on an errant throw to first, but Wetterlin nailed him at the plate on the 3–2 putout to Larry.  Chase Chambers smashed an inside-the-park homer in the top of the sixth to pull the Orioles one run closer, but the Royals secured the win by making the most of their six clutch hits, sweeping the season series over the O’s.

Game 1 Offensive Stars

Cameron Dill  2 – 3, 1 Run, 4 RBI, HR
Adwild Perez  1 – 2, 1 Run, 2 RBI, HR
Tommy Apligian  1 – 2, 2 Runs, BB
Drew Waggoner  3 Runs, 2 BB
Charles Lachman  BB, SF, 3 RBI,

After an hour-long break, the Royals traveled to field 1 to take on the Brewers, where the wind picked up to 22-mph, howling out to right centerfield.  The Royals entered the game one game behind the Beermakers, who had won their opener, against the White Sox, 6 – 5.  So, a lot was riding on the outcome of this game.  A Brewers’ win would clinch the 2 seed, but a Royals’ win would leapfrog them into second place due to their superior division record.

Apligian doubled to lead off the game, and two outs later it looked like he might get stranded there when Dill belted a long home run to left field.

In the bottom half of the frame, the Royals’ reliable defense faltered as the gale force winds transformed the field into a swirling vortex of chaos, where routine fly balls became high-stakes adventures.  Five runs came across from the Brewers (four unearned), putting the Royals in a quick 5 – 2 hole their prolific bats would soon erase.

The Royals’ response was immediate and ferocious.  In the top of the second, the Royals cycled through their lineup for the sixth time this season, sending 14 batters to the plate and scoring nine runs, effectively extinguishing the Brewers’ momentum. 

There are only so many ways a human being can describe an event that occupies fewer than five seconds of their life, a fact that was repeatedly put to the test as three different Royals dialed long distance.

Ryan Greenberg led off the inning with a towering moonshot to left field that high-fived the clouds, caught the jet stream, and just kept on going as the Brewers’ left fielder, Grayson Vick – who appeared to have a beat on it, tracking it to the fence – just ran out of room, watching Greenberg’s blast sail past him and land completely outside of Spirit Park.

Wetterlin followed with a single but was still on first two outs later.  The Brewers were one out away from taking a 5 – 3 lead into the bottom of the second when the Royals’ bottom of the order ignited an epic two-out rally where every hit was clutch.  Larry Lachman singled, putting runners at the corners.  Peterson’s booming 2-run double scored Wetterlin and Lachman, tying it at 5 – 5, and turning the lineup over.  Apligian singled sharply, bringing the red-hot Waggoner to the plate with runners at the corners.  During the Royals' five-game win streak, the Royals’ shortstop/left centerfielder has been scorching at .647, .700 OBP, 1.882 slugging, and mashing six homers.  The tension mounted as Jon Banta delivered a full-count pitch to the Royals’ slugger.  As Waggoner barreled it, there was little doubt of the ball’s destination as it traced an arc through the cloudless, sundrenched sky, slamming 4.4 seconds later into the netting behind the fence for a go-ahead 3-run blast.  Clearly, Waggoner took some batting practice with the Aliens during his five-year hiatus.  But the Royals weren’t done.  Charles Lachman singled and scored on Dill’s second homerun of the game.  While his first homerun looked like it had been shot out of a rocket launcher, this one was a soaring golf shot out to left field, the third Royals'  homerun of the inning.  It’s supposed to be hard to hit low pitches.  It’s why Banta aimed there.  It should be even harder when those pitches are below the knees and out of the zone.  Don’t tell Cameron Dill.  10 – 5.  And yet, the Royals were still not done.  Scott Greenberg singled and scored on Ronel Martinez’s ringing RBI double, capping the nine-run outburst that flipped the game.

Greenberg followed the Royals’ nine-run explosion with a shutdown inning, and the Royals added five more runs in the third, highlighted by 2-run singles by Apligian and Charles, pushing the lead to 16 – 5.  Once again it was the bottom of the Royals’ order that sparked the 5-run rally as Perez and Aaron Bartelson singled, and Peterson drew a one-out walk to load the bases and flip the lineup.

While Greenberg followed the Royals’ 5-run third with another shutdown inning – aided by the 6–3 double play started by Charles – the Brewers finally solved the Royals’ ace for five earned runs in the bottom of the fifth with Shane Scott’s 3-run homer the key to the inning.  However, the Royals’ 17 hits, including eight for extra bases, were too much. 

At 15 – 9, the Royals hold sole possession of second place, one game behind the Orioles with one week remaining in the regular season.  A tie with the Orioles would give the Royals the tiebreaker by virtue of sweeping the season series with the Birds.  The Brewers, sharing the same record as the Royals, split their season series, but the Royals hold the best divisional record tiebreaker over them at 11 – 5 versus 8 – 8.  Greenberg's brilliant pitching, coupled with the Royals’ relentless offensive barrage and stingy defense, powered the crucial sweep that seized the inside track on the 2 seed and positioned them well for a championship run. 

Game 2 Offensive Stars

Cameron Dill  3 – 3, 2 Runs, 5 RBI, 2B, (2) 2-Run HR
Tommy Apligian  3 – 3, 3 Runs, 2 RBI, 2B
Charles Lachman  2 – 3, 2 Runs, 2 RBI
Drew Waggoner  1 – 3, 1 Run, 3 RBI,
Chris Peterson  1 – 3, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, BB, 2B
Ryan Greenberg  1 – 3, 1 Run, 1 RBI, BB,
Scott Greenberg  1 – 3, 1 Run, BB
Andy Wetterlin  1 – 3, BB

Déjà vu:  Greenberg’s Gems, Surging Royals Sweep Division Leaders, Clinch Playoff Berth