Saturday night, 35,114 people seemed to think so. And why not? James Shields started and finished the game, a nine-inning shutout against the San Francisco Giants. In the postgame news conference, Royals manager Ned Yost said Shields had everything going. He was commanding every pitch in his arsenal.
Shields was so dominant, he only needed one run to win this one, and in the fifth inning Alex Gordon supplied it: a home run over the right-field wall. Two innings later, the Kansas City offense tacked on four more runs, and the Royals cruised to a 5-0 victory.
Are the Kansas City Royals a legitimate playoff team? You would have a hard time convincing anyone who attended this game that they’re not.
Why Shields pitched the ninth, and what it means for the bullpen
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The first part is easy. Shields pitched the ninth inning because his pitch count was low, and he seemed to be in complete control of the game. Yost said sending Shields out for the ninth was a no-brainer and wasn’t even discussed in the dugout.
And because Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland didn’t throw, it’s possible they will be available for the next three games. If the bullpen is a factor on Tuesday against the Oakland A’s, remember what Shields accomplished on Saturday.
A complete game on Saturday can win you another game three days later.
A few numbers to ponder
The Royals supply all kinds of information to the media before every game, and here are a few numbers of interest:
When the starting pitcher throws more than six innings, the Royals are 36-21.
When they score first, they’re 43-17.
When they score more than three runs, they’re 51-8.
When they hit at least one home run, they’re 37-11.
Saturday night, the Royals did all four. Their odds of winning were pretty good.
Lefty-on-lefty didn’t work
In the Royals’ four-run seventh inning. San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy brought in a left-handed reliever, former Royal Jeremy Affeldt. Bringing in a left-handed reliever made sense. The Royals had Raul Ibanez, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Jarrod Dyson due up, and three of those guys bat left-handed.
Ibanez hit into a double play, but Moose doubled and Escobar singled. Both drove in runs. Then Jarrod Dyson put a nail in the coffin with one more RBI single.
The Royals beat the lefty-on-lefty odds and put the game on ice.
Aoki and outfield depth
I watch at least half of the Royals game on TV, and that allows me to see some things much better, such as the pitcher and catcher. But it isn’t so hot if you want to see things like outfield positioning. The telecast will show a wide shot once in a while, but you have to take what you can get.
In any case, the Royals have just come off a road trip, and outfield coach Rusty Kuntz informed me that they have started playing Nori Aoki closer to the infield. That might be why he threw out two San Francisco base-runners on Friday night. He’s closer to third base and home plate.
We still will see Nori play back with two outs and a runner on first. The Royals don’t want that runner scoring on a double over Aoki’s head. But with a runner on second, Aoki probably will play shallow. On a single to right field, he might need to throw that runner out at home plate.
Why Rusty talks
If you follow this website, you know I talk to Rusty Kuntz on a regular basis. He knows a hell of a lot of baseball. and I always come away better informed.
But why does Rusty talk? What’s in it for him?
Rusty believes if the members of the news media have good information, they will be less likely to spread bad information. Baseball managers, players and front-office executives have to spend a lot of time debunking unsubstantiated rumors and half-baked theories. The better we understand the game, the better our questions. And then when we are critical, at least it will be informed criticism.
That’s why Rusty talks — and we all should be glad he does.