On Sunday, the Royals beat the San Francisco Giants 7-4 and swept the three-game series. Kansas City finished the day at 63-53. After the game, when asked to reflect on his team’s recent success, manager Ned Yost said he couldn’t be distracted by what already has happened or what is going to happen in the future.
The focus is always on the present: Win this game, today.
Lately, the Kansas City Royals have been doing a pretty good job of that. This was their seventh win in a row. On Monday, the Royals start a four-game series against the Oakland Athletics, and once again, Yost will be focused on winning the game his team is playing.
Focusing on winning today has the Kansas City Royals 10 games over .500 and in playoff contention.
A 5-4 record every nine games probably will get you to the playoffs
Take 162 games and divide them by nine, you get 18. Now take that 18 and multiple it by five. That gets you 90. So if you think of a baseball season as 18 nine-game chunks, and you go 5-4 every nine games, you get to 90 wins and a probable playoff spot.
Now do the math for a team that goes 4-5 every nine games. They win 72 games, and people will be calling for the manager to be fired. That’s how fine a line it is between success and failure in the big leagues.
What you do when a catcher takes a foul tip off his throwing arm
Both Salvador Perez and Giants catcher Andrew Susac took foul tips off their throwing shoulders, and both showed they were in pain. When a base runner sees that, if he has any chance at all, he might want to think about stealing a base and testing the catcher’s arm.
Susac gave up seven stolen bases, but you couldn’t put all of them on him. With runners at second base, the Giants’ pitchers were using a full leg kick, and that made for a slow delivery home. That slow delivery allowed the base runners to get tremendous jumps, and a couple times a runner stole third with no throw.
Billy Butler: the difference between a double play and a double
If you’ve been following this website all summer, you know pitchers have been going after Billy Butler with sinkers and off-speed stuff down in the zone. The idea has been to get Billy to pull the ball on the ground, especially if the double play is in order.
In the first inning with one out and first base open, Giants starter Tim Lincecum walked Salvador Perez and set up a double play. Billy Butler then got the predictable off-speed pitches — slider, changeup, curveball , slider — but didn’t chase the first three pitches. With the count 1-2, that fourth pitch, a slider, was slightly up. Instead of pulling the ball for a double play, Butler went the other way and doubled.
When Billy was scuffling, he was chasing pitches down and pulling the ball. Now that he’s hot again, you might see him get pitches up in the zone and go the other way more often.
Why Alex Gordon is hot
Alex Gordon homered again on Sunday, but according to Ned Yost, it had nothing to do with Husker Night or Alex Gordon Bobblehead Day, even though that makes a good story. Ned said he thought Alex was seeing the ball better and not missing hittable pitches.
And don’t forget the pitchers who threw those hittable pitches.
Bad signs for Lincecum
If you want to know how a pitcher’s throwing, watch the catcher’s mitt. If it’s moving all over the place, the pitcher is missing spots and might have a short day. Another bad sign is when a pitcher spikes a fastball, which Lincecum did. It’s one thing to bounce a breaking pitch in the dirt. It’s another to miss by that much with something straight. And a third bad sign is when someone is warming up in the bullpen in the second inning.
All three were bad signs for Lincecum.
Three lefties in a row
On Sunday, the Royals lineup featured Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas and Raul Ibanez hitting back to back to back. When a lineup has three left-handed hitters in a row, that would seem to be an invitation to bring in a left-handed reliever and get three outs.
But if the middle guy in that row of lefties has a right-handed alternative, the manager on offense can pinch-hit and force the other manager to use three relievers to get three outs or let his left-handed reliever stay in the game and have a bad matchup with a pinch hitter.
But if the offensive manager already has the runs he needs and likes the way his defense is set up, he might not pinch hit at all.
Dyson on defense
It was pretty hard to miss Jarrod Dyson on offense — three hits, three stolen bases — but he was even more spectacular on defense. If you watched the game on TV, you probably didn’t see where Dyson was positioned before he started running after a fly ball, but in some cases he was starting in one gap and making the catch in the other.
After the game, I asked starting pitcher Danny Duffy how many runs Dyson saved on Sunday afternoon. Danny laughed and said, “About eight.”
Danny said that with this kind of defense behind him, he can just let it go and watch his teammates play.