Judging the Royals

Lee Judge breaks down the Royals, game by game.

Salvador Perez covers an earlier mistake

07/09/2014 11:56 PM

07/10/2014 12:04 AM

If Salvador Perez had not hit a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning, fans might be focused on the grand slam Kevin Kiermaier hit in the bottom of the fourth. Some questionable pitch calling by Perez might have helped Kiermaier. Here’s a breakdown:

How the Kiermaier grand slam happened

Kevin Kiermaier, came to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning to face Yordano Ventura, who had fallen into some trouble. Ventura had given up a single to Evan Longoria and walked both James Loney and Jose Molina to load the bases with two down.

Kiermaier came to the plate and Ventura threw him a first-pitch change, which fell in for a strike. Ventura threw another changeup, which Kiermaier swung at and missed, getting Ventura ahead 0-2. Ventura threw a third-straight changeup, which Kiermaier fouled off. Perez set-up for a chase-pitch away, and Ventura hurled a 100-mph fastball high and outside, which Kiermaier took to go 1-2.

Major league hitters are so good that if you give them the same pitch, at the same velocity, in the same spot enough times in a row, eventually they’ll time one and you’ll be watching it sail over the wall. Kiermaier had taken the first change, whiffed on the second, and fouled off the third. He was gradually timing the changeup, and Ventura had slowed his bat down.

And Kiermaier didn’t swing at the fastball, so it didn’t affect his timing.

Ventura gave him one more change which stayed out over the plate, and Kiermaier pulled it hard into the right field seats, giving him his first career grand slam and handing the Rays a 4-2 lead. Perez and the Royals’ pitching staff have had issues this season with falling into predictable pitch-calling traps, and Kiermaier was able to make them pay for doing it again on Wednesday night.

But when you have All-Star-level talent like Salvador Perez does, sometimes you can make up for your mistakes with one swing of the bat. And Sal did just that, lifting an 0-1 fastball just over the left field wall for the game-winning three-run shot in the top of the ninth.

— Paul Judge

Game notes

First inning: When hitters over-swing, their heads will often move with the swing. It usually happens in hitter’s counts — 2-0, 2-1, 3-1 — when the guy at the plate expects to get a fastball and tries to crush it. Eric Hosmer got a first-pitch fastball, crushed it for a home run, but kept his head down on contact.

Second inning: Raul Ibanez caught Jose Molina’s fly ball for the third out of the inning, but didn’t know it was the third out. If an outfielder catches the final out of an inning, but comes up ready to throw, it’s a pretty good sign he lost track of the number of outs.

Third inning: Be aware that when a big league pitcher falls behind a good hitter, he may not "give in." That means the pitcher still pitches to the corners — he doesn’t "give in" and throw something over the heart of the plate — and if he walks the hitter, he’s OK with that. It appeared that’s what Yordano Ventura did with Ben Zobrist in the third, but Ventura walked three other guys so maybe his control was just off in this game.

Top of the fourth inning: Third base coach Mike Jirschele declined to send Salvador Perez home from second base when Billy Butler singled. A good call: nobody was out and you don’t want to get your All-Star catcher blown up on a play at the plate.

Bottom of the fourth inning: Before Kevin Kiermaier hit that grand slam; Ventura walked Jose Molina who finished the game with a .187 batting average. There are good walks — working around a good hitter—and bad walks. This one appeared to be a bad walk.

Ninth inning: Down 4-2 in the ninth inning Jarrod Dyson led off the ninth with a single and I was almost positive he wouldn’t steal; the Royals were down by two and Dyson wasn’t the tying run — wrong again.

Dyson took off and made it, but looked like he took a knee in the head during the slide.

Why Ned didn’t use Wade Davis on Tuesday night

Ned Yost was asked why he didn’t use Wade Davis on Tuesday night when the Royals were down 2-1 in the eighth inning. Ned said it was because that’s not Wade’s job; Davis pitches the eighth when the Royals are ahead in a close game or — depending on the situation — when the game is tied.

As usual, there’s a bit more to the story.

Most managers would probably by happy if they never had to talk to the media again — especially after a loss. Ned has said the last thing he feels like doing is talking to the media after his team loses. He’s got the "ass" (baseball slang for being in a bad mood) and doesn’t really feel like dissecting how his team lost, but he also knows he has to — it’s part of the job.

But being a part of the job they don’t enjoy, most managers and players are pretty short with their answers after they get beat. And in fact, the media doesn’t really want long answers; we’ve got deadlines to beat. So between the questioner and the questioned wanting to cut things short, the answers can get pretty terse and that means some nuance and behind-the-scenes information gets left out.

Like:

It’s not Wade Davis’ job to pitch when his team is behind in the eighth because relief pitchers can throw two, maybe three, nights in a row and then they need a day off. So managers want to maximize the innings of their best relievers: have them throw when it will do the most good — and that’s not when their team is behind.

A reliever can pitch lights out, but the other team’s best relievers are going to get the ball in the eighth and ninth and the odds of a comeback are not very good. So you use up an inning of quality relief, the offense doesn’t score and you might as well have sent your worst reliever to the mound — if you’re going to lose who cares if it’s by run one or six?

And by using that inning of quality relief in a spot where the odds didn’t favor a comeback, you lose an inning of quality relief two days later. You throw your set-up guy in a loss on Tuesday and then might not have him to protect a lead on Thursday or Friday.

If anyone had known the Royals were going to score two runs in the top of the ninth inning on Tuesday night, I’m sure Ned Yost would have appreciated a heads up. Ned played the odds just about every other manager would play.

Exceptions to the rule

Go back to the first game of the season and Wade Davis and Greg Holland were used in a tie game against the Detroit Tigers. Davis had runners on first and third with one down in the ninth when Holland came in to relieve him. Greg gave up a game-winning hit and Yost was asked why he used his closer in that situation.

Ned — who probably had the "ass" again — gave another terse answer: he said he really wanted to win the game. That comment got roasted by some people on the Internet. Didn’t Ned want to win all games?

What the people ridiculing Yost failed to recognize was the day off that followed Opening Day. Ned could use Holland and Davis knowing they’d get their day of rest and be available for the rest of the Detroit series.

So when a player or manager gives a post-game answer to a question and that answer doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, remember; the player or manager might be in a bad mood after a loss and the media really doesn’t want a long-winded answer.

Give us a short quote — whether it tells the whole story or not — and we’re good to go.

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