The Royals lose a "clunker" 9-2

07/23/2013 12:58 PM

07/23/2013 12:58 PM

In his postgame press conference, Ned Yost said that anything his team could have screwed up, they did

screw up. Start at the beginning: Wade Davis walked the first batter of the game. Three pitches later, Mike Moustakas whiffed on what looked like a double play ball. In the third inning, with a runner on third headed for home, second baseman Miguel Tejada bobbled a groundball and had to take the out at first base instead of preventing the run from scoring. In the fifth inning long reliever Luis Mendoza threw a wild pitch with runners on first and second; even though Salvador Perez cut down the runner trying to advance to second base, a runner did make it to third and then scored on a fly ball. The Royals also allowed the leadoff batter to get on base in seven out of nine innings.

It was pretty much three hours and 13 minutes of misery. After the first three batters came to the plate in the top of the sixth inning, there wasn’t a lot of doubt about the outcome—the Royals weren’t doing a lot with Orioles pitcher Scott Feldman—but they still had to play the final four innings; there’s no mercy rule in the big leagues. In the words of Ned Yost: this one was a clunker.

Baltimore 9, Kansas City 2.

Without Cain’s catch, it could have been worse

The highlight of the game for Royals fans was Lorenzo Cain’s diving catch of an Adam Jones line drive in the second inning. Cain was playing relatively shallow, had a long run and laid-out to make the grab. He caught the ball toward the very end of his glove and then skidded on to the warning track.

At that point the bases were loaded and there were two outs. Had Cain not made the catch, it’s very likely three more runs would have scored. In other words, the Royals

could

have lost this one 12-2.

Wearing it

Going into the club house after a bad loss is no fun for anybody. The media has to ask uncomfortable questions and the players who contributed to the loss are expected to stand by their lockers and "wear it." They know they have to talk to reporters and try to explain what happened.

Monday night both Mike Moustakas and Wade Davis "wore it": Moose said he just flat missed the double play ball on a hop as "routine as you can get." Mike said missing that ball cost Wade 20 extra pitches in the first inning (it was actually 18) and had he made the play, the game might have gone differently.

Then we all drug ourselves over to Wade’s locker to hear his version of events and he insisted Moose could not take the loss on himself. Davis said he was inconsistent and struggled with command. He hadn’t pitched in 11 days, but he wasn’t using that as an excuse. He said it was on him and he had to be better.

Game notes

*Watch for errors made when fielder has to do something immediately after making catch: like turning a double play or throwing a runner out at the plate. Players will sometimes get in a rush and that’s what Ned Yost thought Mike Moustakas did in the first inning; turning to start a double play and taking his eye off the ball.

*By my count Davis threw 27 pitches in the first inning, the Orioles starter, Scott Feldman, threw 11. That meant Wade was right back out there before getting much of a blow. By the end of the second inning, Wade had thrown 56 pitches and Feldman had only throw 20. Feldman was getting to rest between innings, Davis wasn’t.

When Wade went out for the third inning, I made a note that he’d be lucky to get through five—he didn’t make it out of the third. Davis had problems of his own creation, but the fact that the Royals offense couldn’t get enough of a rally going to allow him to rest between innings didn’t help.

*The Orioles lead the league in home runs and probably would have hit more than one had this game been played in their park. A couple of the doubles hit here might have been out of Camden Yards.

*.In the fourth inning Luis was Mendoza was in the game and throwing his sinker down and in to right-handed hitters. The Royals infield was swung around to the pull side of the field. Eric Hosmer checked his positioning with Miguel Tejada and Miggy moved Hos a step or two further off the bag. Eddie Rodriguez is in charge of infield positioning, but having a veteran out there doesn’t hurt—he can help the younger guys get to the right spot.

*You can see what throwing one inning at a time can do for a pitcher: Luke Hochevar was hitting 97 on the gun. If a pitcher knows he’s only going to be out there for one inning, he can let loose. A starter has to pace himself.

Score one for the infield

Wanna know why Miguel Cabrera made an error in the first inning of Sunday’s game?

I couldn’t swear to this, but it

might

have been because of the new infield. During the All-Star break the Kansas City grounds crew replaced the Kauffman Stadium infield. That happens once or twice a year and the All-Star break is a good time to get it done. They go from a cool weather grass at the beginning of the year, to a warm weather grass for the hottest months. Once they roll out the Bermuda grass, they "top-dress" it with sand; that basically means filling in the seams and depressions. The sand trickles down and fills in the gaps, but it also makes the infield slower. In other words, balls lose energy faster than they did before the infield was changed.

So when Billy Butler hit him a groundball in the first inning of Sunday’s game, Cabrera probably expected the ball to come and give him a good hop; it didn’t. It skidded, hugged the ground and went under his glove. Cabrera came up too soon—expecting the old, bouncier hop—and the ball went under his glove.

Kansas City infielders will have an advantage—for a while. Teams that haven’t been here since the change might make a mistake because of the change in infield speed, but they’ll adjust as a series goes on. They’ll take batting practice and infield and see that balls are behaving differently.

The effect may not last that long—word will get around—but for now; score one for the infield.

A reader’s comment

Lee, I understand you’re not a proponent of playing Tejada more than 3 days consecutive, fearing a fall off in his production, but don't you think he still allows us to bench Escobar for a week or two? We are getting zero production from Escobar anyway.

And, do you think moving Lough up to 2nd in BA, and moving the rest down 1 spot, would improve our run scoring? I know it defies Ned's desire for these LH vs RH hitting opps, but with our hitters, does that really matter? We have no power, and no one is afraid to pitch to any of our hitters. I'll bet BB for instance already has 2 years of 0 and 2 counts already this year.

My response

Actually, I’m not a proponent of anything: I just reported what I’d heard: some people think Miguel Tejada is not an everyday player anymore, but I’ve also heard some disagreement (although Bob Dutton, who has much better connections than I do, says he hasn’t heard anyone argue that point of view). I don’t think I’m qualified to judge, but Miggy’s 39—so there’s that. I also don’t think the Royals are considering benching Escobar for any length of time. Ned Yost has expressed the opinion that even when he’s not hitting, Esky helps you win games with his defense. Ned once said, "His RBIs are in his glove."

But Ned has also said they’re working with Escobar to keep his bat flat: Alcides has gotten a little loopy with his swing and is hitting too many balls in the air. (He hit two more Monday night, but one was a sac fly.)

I’m also unqualified to make out a lineup: I don’t know if Lough in the two-hole would increase or decrease the chances of scoring runs. But I do think pitch selection has been a problem, mainly because smarter people than me have said so. The theory goes this way: the Royals continue to get pitched soft in fastball counts when there’s a runner in scoring position and until they start "sitting soft" and hit those pitches, the same thing will keep happening.

And while I don’t believe Kauffman Stadium is the only reason the Royals haven’t hit a lot of home runs, I do believe it’s a big one.

Lorenzo Cain’s base running

Last Saturday night with Mike Moustakas on first and LorenzoCain on second, David Lough hit a ball in the right-center gap. It was the fourth inning and there were no outs. Moustakas got a good read on the ball, Lorenzo Cain didn’t. Moose looked like he was going first to third, but then had to slam on the breaks when he realized Cain had gotten a bad jump and wasn’t going to score.

So what went wrong?

There are base-running rules of thumb and one of them is that you go back and tag second when a fly ball is hit to the outfield

if

there are no outs. Here’s why: if the batter makes an out, at least wind up on third with one down; then you can score on a groundball or sacrifice fly. If the ball drops for a hit, you might only advance 90 feet, but there are still no outs and you have multiple runners on base.

But for every rule of thumb there are exceptions.

I talked to third base coach Eddie Rodriguez about the play and here’s what he said: going back to tag second wasn’t the right play for two reasons 1.) if the ball were caught it probably wasn’t going to be deep enough to tag and advance and 2.) the ball wasn’t going to be caught. It split the gap between the outfielders pretty well.

Moustakas read that and was planning on going first to third; Cain didn’t read that and went back to tag second. Luckily Mike picked up Eddie’s stop sign and scrambled back to second base. Eddie said trail base runners should "mirror" the runners in front of them.

Lorenzo Cain was trying to do the right thing—tag second with nobody out—but didn’t do it at the right time.

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