The Royals completed a sweep of the Houston Astros and are now back to .500 with a record of seven wins and seven losses. James Shields got his first win of the season by pitching eight innings and giving up just one run. Shields also struck out 12, while giving up two walks and four singles—and two of them were infield singles. That’s some pretty good pitching.
It was easy for Royals fans to be down after their team got swept by the Twins and it’s easy for Royals fans to be pumped after their team swept the Astros—the hard part is keeping an even keel. I’m not great at math, but I’m pretty sure there are 148 games to go. If you have a great team you’re going to still lose 60 to 70 ballgames; you can’t climb out on the ASB Bridge every time it happens. Same goes for winning; it’s a whole lot better than losing, but guess what—you gotta do it again tomorrow.
Be like the ballplayers and keep an even keel.
The Royals beat the Astros 5-1 and start a three-game series with the Twins at 7:10 on Friday.
Game notes In the top of the first with a runner on third, Astros manager Bo Porter brought his infield in to cut down a run at the plate. When you see the infield in that early, it means the manager thinks pitching is going to dominate and one run is important. On the other hand, Wednesday night Porter pinch ran for a runner who was already on third base with two outs in the 10th inning, so maybe I’ve got no clue what’s going through the guy’s mind. Astros rookie right fielder George Springer had an error in the first inning, letting a ball off the wall get past him. When guys first get to the big leagues, the game comes at them too fast. It’s no coincidence that Springer got picked off first base the night before; his mind is probably all over the place. It’ll take a while for the game to slow back down. In the bottom of the first Jose Altuve hit a groundball single just a few steps to Alcides Escobar’s left. Go back and watch the replay and you’ll see how the ball got through; Escobar never got up on the balls of his feet or shuffled forward—he was standing flat-footed, hands on knees when the pitch was delivered. If an infielder takes a pitch off—if he doesn’t get ready by shuffling forward—and the ball is hit to him, he won’t be as ready as he should be and he’ll get a bad jump on the ball. In the bottom of the second inning Alex Presley hit a groundball to Omar Infante and beat it out—temporarily. The call was protested and overturned. Infielders have to know the foot speed of the guy at the plate and play accordingly. If a guy is known for busting it down the line, infielders can’t lay back on groundballs and lob throws over to first—they better play the game as hard as the guy who’s hustling out of the batter’s box. If you look a bit deeper into some of the results we see, there’s a logical explanation behind them. Ryan Lefebvre was talking about lack of run support for James Shields and then pointed out that Shields is a number one pitcher who—at least at the start of the season—will face other number one pitchers. In the fifth inning Nori Aoki stole second base, but never looked into home plate. Omar Infante had two strikes and when a guy has two strikes, he can’t take a pitch (although Infante did so it shows how much I know). Anyway, stealing without looking in when the hitter has two strikes puts you at risk of getting smoked by a line drive. They showed a play from Wednesday night’s game when an Astros batter swung and fell across home plate as Salvador Perez was throwing the ball to second base. Sal threw around the batter and the ball was thrown away. The veteran move would have been to throw the ball at the batter and start yelling for an interference call. Here’s another bit about catchers: at times Perez was receiving the ball with one knee on the ground. That’s a great way to take a foul tip off your cup. When both knees are up, a catcher has a better chance of protecting himself and his chances of fatherhood. One more thing about catching: the Astros were complaining about calls and when that happens, a smart catcher might set up off the plate. Umpires don’t appreciate all the whining and a pitch just off the plate gives the umpire a chance at retaliation. You think the umpire feels like doing the hitter any favors after the hitter barked at him?
Billy Butler drops down in the order
As I write this (it’s Thursday afternoon) Billy Butler is hitting .149 without an extra-base hit. Ned Yost decided to drop Billy down in the order and that led some fans to call for Butler to be sent back to the minors or dropped from the lineup entirely, which brings up a question:
How the hell do ballplayers put up with us?
There’s whole bunch of things Billy Butler can’t do on a baseball field, but he’s always been able to hit. Over the course of 1,028 big league games, Billy Butler has hit .296 with an on-base percentage of .362 and a slugging percentage of .455. Now some fans want to get rid of him because of what he’s done over the last13
games. Apparently patience is a virtue unless you’re a baseball fan. History would suggest that Billy Butler will eventually hit and it would take a lot more than 47 at-bats to suggest that he won’t.
(Billy went 1 for 3 with a walk in Thursday night’s game.)
"Throwback: A Big League Catcher Tells How the Game Is Really Played" is an inside look at our national pastime, co-authored by Jason Kendall and Lee Judge. The book will be in stores on May 13th, but can be pre-ordered right now.