When you don’t know where to begin, you can do worse than beginning at the beginning. (And yes, I get paid actual American money to write sentences like that. But if it makes you feel any better, I don’t get paid all that much.)
Kris Medlen continued a string of mediocre starts by Royals starting pitchers when he threw a total of two innings and gave up four earned runs Tuesday in a 10-7 loss to the Yankees in New York. To start the third inning, Medlen gave up his sixth hit and third walk and Ned Yost came to get him.
When a starter doesn’t have it, managers will usually stick with them for a while, because if the starter gets pulled too early it chews up the bullpen in a game the team is likely to lose anyway.
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But in this case the Royals scored some early runs and still had the lead when Yost went to get Medlen. Long reliever Dillon Gee had saved the bullpen the night before with 5 1/3 innings, so Yost had a rested pen and what appeared to be a deep desire to not lose another game.
After the game Medlen was interviewed on TV and looked like a guy with a deep desire to punch something, but knows with his luck he’ll break his hand. When he was asked about getting pulled early, Medlen said of course he wanted to stay out there, but also said he hadn’t earned the right.
It’s easy for fans to say a pitcher ought to fix his problems in side sessions or in the minors, but sometimes a guy needs to face big-league competition to figure out what’s wrong. A pitch can look great when there’s nobody standing at the plate or when it’s thrown to an overmatched minor-leaguer; but a major-league hitter might let you know that pitch wasn’t as good as you thought and you need to go back to the drawing board.
That’s why Medlen wanted to stay; he needs to pitch against big-leaguers to get straightened out, but he was honest enough to also say he hadn’t earned that right. When your team has a chance to win, the manager can’t let you fritter that chance away while you tinker with your mechanics on the mound.
So that gets us to Brian Flynn.
He replaced Medlen and promptly threw a wild pitch, moving two runners up, and then walked the batter he was brought into face. With bases loaded and nobody out, Flynn threw an 0-1 slider to Didi Gregorius, who threw his rear end one direction and his bat the other and flared the ball into right-center field.
Lorenzo Cain went to his left to field the ball and what happened next has been described as a “misplay” by Cain and went into the scorebooks as a double; all three runs scored and the Yankees took the lead back.
OK, this takes some explaining: when you see those nice patterns in the grass, you should know those patterns are achieved by mowing the grass in different directions. That makes the grass lie in different directions, which can also make a ball “snake.”
It’s called snaking because a bouncing ball will slightly change directions each time it hits a different pattern.
Cain is an excellent outfielder and when an excellent outfielder fails to make a routine play you might ask yourself why. To my eye (and I’ve watched the video half a dozen times) the ball was slicing toward right center, hit the grass and straightened out, hit the grass once more and kicked slightly to Cain’s right.
But I’m not in New York and I can’t ask if that’s what happened, so I plan to reach out to Rusty Kuntz today.
All right, time for an executive decision. So many goofy things happened in this game that I’m going to post more than one column on it today. Stay tuned for the rest of what went wrong in New York — and find out whether Rusty responds to my text.