KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Whit Merrifield slid under the tag to give the Royals the lead with two outs in the eighth inning, Brewers manager Craig Counsell immediately challenged the bang-bang call and his counterpart Mike Matheny probably groaned.
You see, it was just two days ago in Chicago that a controversial call at the plate was upheld — Kansas City has requested an explanation — which resulted in a White Sox run and ultimately doomed the Royals to a loss.
So, was Matheny nervous during another review Tuesday night?
“Nope,” he said, tongue planted firmly in cheek. “I have the utmost trust and respect in the replay process.”
This time, the process worked in Matheny’s favor. The safe call stood, the Royals tacked on another run when Luis Urias committed an error on a groundball by Salvador Perez, and Kansas City went on to a 2-0 victory.
“When they did the replay, it looked close,” said Andew Benintendi, whose single sent Merrifield charging home from second base. “I think in that situation the initial call was huge.”
The Royals’ Kris Bubic, who had been working in relief but got the start when Danny Duffy headed to the injured list, threw six innings of one-hit ball.
The bullpen did the rest with Jake Brentz (1-0) getting the last out of the eighth inning to earn his first career win and Josh Staumont handling the ninth for his fourth save.
Meanwhile, Brandon Woodruff (2-2) had little to show for a mostly masterful night.
The Royals are now 19-22.
The Brewers starter allowed just two hits before walking Merrifield and plunking Carlos Santana with two outs in the eighth. Counsell called on Devin Williams to face Benintendi, whose single gave Merrifield just enough time to score.
“I mean, we’re going to sing this song for as long as replay is around,” Counsell said. “There’s no reason to answer these questions about replay. What are we supposed to say about it? I mean, look, he called him safe.”
As if that didn’t spoil the night for Milwaukee, Avisail Garcia was tossed in the ninth for arguing balls and strikes by plate umpire Brian Gorman with a 2-2 count and two outs. Counsell also was thrown out for defending his hitter, leaving Daniel Vogelbach to swing wildly at Staumont’s pitch for the game-ending third strike.
“I just don’t think a player can be ejected simply for throwing his hand in the air in the ninth inning with two outs,” Counsell said. “The umpire has to know there’s emotion going on at that point. That was my point. … He took an emotional point in the game and put it in his hands and that was disappointing.”
Most of the game amounted to a pitch-for-pitch duel between two young starting pitchers.
Woodruff’s only hiccups before the fateful eighth inning came in the second, when he gave up a couple two-out singles, and the fifth, when the Royals gave up a couple outs on the basepaths. Woodruff otherwise cruised right along, keeping impatient Kansas City hitters baffled by his fastball and sinker.
Bubic, who made 10 starts last season, struck out four and walked two.
Both starters were helped by a stiff breeze out of right field and thick, soupy air that kept a couple of potential homers in the park. The spring weather also produced a popup shower in the second inning that led to a 21-minute delay.