The main thing any hitter does is make outs, so it makes sense to make some productive ones. A productive out is an out that advances a base runner 90 feet and in the fifth inning, that’s just what Mike Moustaskas did.
It’s pretty simple: Get a lead and give the ball to Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. As you watch the rest of the season, pay attention to what happens in the sixth inning. Thats might be when the ballgame is decided. The Royals are now 61-5 when they have a lead after six innings. Sunday afternoon, the Royals’ formula success worked once again, and they beat the Detroit Tigers 5-2.
It’s pretty confusing even for someone who was there, witnessed the play and talked to the people involved, but here is what happened in the sixth inning when the Royals had the go-ahead run taken off the board. Maybe.
How hard will the Kansas City hitters make the Detroit starting pitchers work? If the Royals start swinging away, they better get some hits; otherwise the Tigers starting pitchers will be getting outs and keep their pitch count low. And if the Detroit starting pitchers keep their pitch count low, the Detroit bullpen does not get exposed.
On Sunday against the Boston Red Sox, Royals manager Ned Yost did not bring relievers Kelvin Herrera or Wade Davis into the game and got roasted for it. On Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox, he did and the move didn’t work. Now ask yourself: What would have happened if Yost had once again refused to pitch Herrera or Davis out of their accustomed roles in that Tuesday game and the Royals lost? He would have been hammered by fans and the media.
Remember when Ned Yost was criticized for refusing to bring Kelvin Herrera into a game in the sixth inning? Well, since that game, Yost has changed his policy. He brought both Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis into Tuesday night’s game earlier than usual … and it didn’t work. Herrera and Davis gave up three runs and the Royals’ 5-4 lead and the Chicago White Sox beat Kansas City 7-5.
With one down in the ninth inning and the Royals down by one run, Mike Moustakas came to the plate facing a left-handed shift. Mike—who has said he intends to hit the ball through or over the shift—took a 94-MPH fastball to the opposite field and doubled. That’s how the Royals rally started. Jarrod Dyson pinch ran for Moustakas and that’s when speed changed the game.
When you’ve got Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland in your bullpen, the goal is to get through six innings with a lead. If you do that, your odds of winning are very good … 59-3 good. The Royals were one out away from giving the ball to Kelvin Herrera in the seventh inning with a lead, but Boston’s Daniel Nava hit a grand slam, the Red Sox took a 7-4 lead and the Royals never got the ball to Herrera.
Ned Yost used a new lineup Saturday; one that put speed at the top of the lineup. Alcides Escobar hit first, Nori Aoki was second and Lorenzo Cain was hitting third. The speed lineup paid off immediately. The Royals’ speed put pressure on the Red Sox defense and the Red Sox defense didn’t handle it very well. When you’re not hitting playing station-to-station baseball isn’t a great idea; swinging away isn’t working. When you’re not hitting, run the bases more aggressively.
Friday night the Royals faced a pitcher who came into the game with an ERA over 6.00. The pitcher with the bad ERA was pitching for a last place team. This is the kind of game good teams have to win, but the Red Sox beat the Royals 4-2. Until the Royals start hitting, the pitching and defense need to be almost perfect. Too many mistakes and not enough offense led to another Royals loss.
Kansas City pitchers walked five batters, hit one and the defense made three errors. Two of the Red Sox runs were unearned. The Royals’ winning formula requires the starting pitcher and defense to keep the score low and for the offense to scratch out enough runs to get the ball to the best relievers with a lead. If the starting pitcher gets knocked around, the ball goes to middle relievers and that often requires the offense to come up with enough runs to get the lead back.
The Royals have three Gold Glove defenders on the team and at least two more players who should be in the discussion. They’ve got one of the best defensive teams in the game. They have a solid starting pitching staff and the best bullpen in baseball.
After the Royals lost the first two games in this series to the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday night’s game became one of the most important Kansas City has played since 1985. It was only fitting that the Royals started “Big Game James” in their biggest game of the season, and on Wednesday night, James Shields showed us all exactly why he has earned that nickname. Shields was absolutely dominant in the Royals’ 2-0 win.
Trying to do too much in big situations usually turns out poorly. When the Royals get in big at-bats with runners in scoring position, watch the hitters’ pitch selection. Good ballplayers will tell you that in a big situation, the guy who can back off a bit usually wins. Tuesday night, the Royals went one-for-10 with runners in scoring position. It wasn’t for lack of trying. It might have been a case of trying too hard.
Jeremy Guthrie was falling behind hitters from the start and eventually surrendered six earned runs; all in the third inning. The two unearned runs came the inning before when Gold Glove first baseman Eric Hosmer made two errors on one play. Bottom line: the Royals need to pitch and defend better than this.
Over the weekend, the Royals won two games with a total of three unearned runs and took the series from the New York Yankees. Manager Ned Yost was asked whether he was concerned about his offense, and Yost said a W is a W: “I’m on top of the world.” The truth is, it’s always something.