The Royals are on an instant-replay roll.
Entering Friday’s game against the Mariners, the Royals had won four straight challenges, pushing their record in replay reviews for the season to 13-6.
They nailed all four on their just completed road trip, two in Chicago and two in Detroit.
A secret to the success: Manager Ned Yost often knows he’s on the right side of the debate before he ever leaves the dugout.
The process happens quickly. Bill Duplissea, the Royals’ replay guy, monitors the play from several angles from a room near the dugout. Upon reaching a conclusion, he’s on the phone with bench coach Don Wakamatsu, and the information is relayed to Yost, at the top of the dugout step, with a thumb’s up or down.
Thumb’s up triggers a challenge.
“I try to stay as close as I can to the dugout, because a lot of times we’ll have the answer before I go out,” Yost said. “It has to be fast. I try not to delay the game. I don’t want to run all the way out there and not have it go our way.”
Like all other teams, the Royals have grown more comfortable with the process. Still, some calls are too close for an immediate answer.
“If it takes too long, I’ve got to go out because I can’t let the hitter get in the box or the pitcher get on the mound,” Yost said. “If we’re in the field, a lot of times I tell my pitcher to stay off the freakin’ mound until I get an answer.”
The rule says a manager can’t issue a challenge once the pitcher toes the rubber and the batter steps into the batter’s box.
“We work it the way it’s supposed to be worked,” Yost said.
Braving 90-degree temperatures, fans congregated outside Gates A and E more than an hour before they opened, hoping to score a coveted seat for the Big Slick Celebrity Classic, a campy softball affair featuring Paul Rudd, Rob Riggle, Jason Sudeikis, Eric Stonestreet and David Koechner along with a few dozen famous friends.
This year, that list included Sudeikis’ uncle, George Wendt, who bellied up to a table behind home plate much like his famed character Norm did during 11 seasons on “Cheers.”
The fortunate fans who made it past the “velvet ropes” for the game saw heartthrob James Marsden, who plays Cyclops in the X-Men movies, crack a towering home run and laughed as actor/director Michael Ian Black charged the mound after leaning into a pitch from Sudeikis.
Chiefs quarterbacks Alex Smith and Chase Daniel also participated in the fun along with punter Dustin Colquitt. Big Slick regular Kevin Pollak, Johnny Knoxville and “Glee” star Dianna Agron also were among the celebrities on hand for the event.
Boo birds sing to Cano
A change of uniform didn’t change Royals fans’ opinion of Robinson Cano, who was booed during his plate appearances on Friday.
The attitude dates back to 2012 and the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game. As captain of the American League sluggers, Cano was responsible for the lineup, and Royals fans thought Cano had said he would include a hometown choice.
But when Billy Butler was selected to the All-Star team, Cano didn’t include him in his Derby lineup.
During the Derby, Royals fans loudly booed Cano, who went without a home run.
Cano was jeered in subsequent trips to Kauffman Stadium as a Yankee, and apparently it has become a Kauffman Stadium tradition.
Right fielder Nori Aoki sat Friday and rested a nagging going injury. Yost said that Aoki, hitting .347 in his last six games, probably would return the lineup Saturday and that Lorenzo Cain would get the day off.
Left fielder Alex Gordon returned to the lineup after a day off to rest from flulike symptoms.
Rare full house
Other than opening day, Friday’s sellout was the first at Kauffman Stadium since last Sept. 21. That was the Royals’ second-to-last game home game of 2013, when 36,575 showed up on Fan Appreciation Night to see the Royals fall to the Rangers.