Could be there are times Royals manager Ned Yost second-guesses himself, but his maligned decision to pinch-hit veteran Carlos Pena on Monday night against Cleveland isn’t one of them.
"It was exactly the way I wanted it," Yost said before the Royals game on Tuesday. "It didn’t work out."
Still, Yost was happy to reflect on the strategy that led to the at-bat by Pena, who struck out looking with one out and runners at second and third in the ninth inning of the 4-3 loss.
Let’s take it from the top of the inning.
"Going into the inning, we knew that if (Salvador Perez) got on, we were going to pinch run, alright?" he said.
So after Perez singled, Chris Getz pinch-ran with Mike Moustakas at the plate against Indians right-handed closer Chris Perez.
When Moustakas walked and was replaced by pinch-runner Pedro Ciriaco, Yost reconsidered the plan to pinch-hit for Lorenzo Cain with David Lough in what suddenly became a bunt situation.
"Can we bunt Cain and keep him in the game in case we tie it up, keep our defense in there, alright?" Yost said. "So (Cain) goes back onto the on-deck circle and starts walking up, and I’m thinking to myself here, this is one of those spur of the moment situations `Alright, I haven’t asked (Cain) to bunt in two years, and I got a kid over here (Lough) that I‘m sure is going to get a bunt down. Is it fair for me to send Lorenzo Cain up there when he wasn’t bunted in two years, in a crucial spot in the game, to ask him to get this done? No, it’s not. Come back here.’ "
"I want my two most experienced (remaining) hitters in the next two spots: Pena, who’s a 10-year veteran, and George Kottaras," he said. "They both have the ability to give you professional at-bats, alright? So now I sit back and I’m thinking, `Alright, I’ve got this situation exactly that way I want it.’ Exactly, alright?
"I want experience in those situations. It’s tough on a young hitter, this time of the year, to get up and be successful as a pinch-hitter. You want experience in that situation. Being a successful pinch-hitter is about the process, not the results."
He considered allowing Dyson, who had been two for three, to stay in the game instead of having Pena hit for him.
"I’m thinking to myself, `OK, if I let Dyson hit, they’re going to bring the infield in, they’re going to bring the outfield in, because Dys hits the ball on the ground and if he does hit it in the air it’s normally shallow, and they’re going to protect for the squeeze," he said. "If I pinch-hit Carlos Pena here, maybe it’s going to scare them to the point where with a base open (they may) walk him."
When they pitched to him, with the infield back, no less, Yost thought, "This is in our favor."
If Pena just puts the ball in play, the Royals have a decent chance to tie. But Pena never took the bat off his shoulder in what surely was one of the most disappointing plate appearances of his 4,890 in the big leagues.
Still, the inning wasn’t over. Kottaras batted for Alcides Escobar and earned a 10-pitch walk to load the bases for Alex Gordon, who had homered earlier only to fly out this time.
Upon further review a day later, it still was the way Yost wanted it but it didn’t work out.