Well that didn’t take long, did it? On Thursday, I wrote about the Royals playing good baseball and before the day was over, they gave a game away to the Cleveland Indians. To understand where things went wrong we have to start with Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
On Tuesday, Royals reliever Scott Alexander came in to pitch the ninth inning with a six-run lead. When a pitcher is given a mop-up role, the job is pretty simple: throw strikes and let your defense play. It’s hard for the other team to get back in the game if you don’t help them by walking batters and making errors.
Alexander gave up a double, then walked two batters. After a coaching visit to the mound Alexander struck out the next batter, but then coughed up a single. A run scored, the bases were still loaded and the tying run was on deck. That made it a save situation and Wade Davis came in to finish the game.
So Davis pitched on Tuesday and again on Wednesday; when relievers pitch two days in a row, they often get the next day off. You could push them ask for three days in a row, but if they wind up really sore you might lose a reliever for a couple days or maybe that soreness develops into something more serious. Push a pitcher too hard at the beginning of a season and you might not have him at the end.
If Alexander got the job done on Tuesday, Davis would have been available on Thursday. But Alexander didn’t get the job done, Davis wasn’t available and Joakim Soria came out to close Thursday’s game against the Indians.
Paulo Orlando can’t dive for that baseball
Ninth inning, one-run lead and Soria gives up a single to Carlos Santana. Royals right fielder Paulo Orlando makes an error that puts Santana into scoring position. Michael Martinez comes out to pinch run and Jason Kipnis’ sacrifice bunt moves him to third.
One down and the tying run is 90 feet away from scoring.
When a ball is put in play things happen very quickly; there’s no time to think things through after a ball is hit to you, so you have to think about what you’ll do before a ball is hit in your direction.
When Francisco Lindor hit a sinking line drive to Orlando’s right, Orlando needed to concede the tying run on third base and keep the winning run out of scoring position. If you have to dive to catch a ball, you’re not going to get up in time to throw out a runner tagging at third base. The tying run was going to score even if Orlando made the catch.
But Orlando didn’t make the catch and the ball got past him, went to the wall and Lindor — the winning run — was on third with one down. Play his sinker liner for a single and he would have been on first base.
Should Soria pitch to Napoli?
Soria had the winning run on third, but he also had two empty bases to work with.
When you look at matchup numbers for relievers they’re often incredibly small sample sizes so might have to take other factors into consideration. Coming into the ninth inning of Thursday’s game, Mike Napoli was 1 for 5 off Soria, on deck-hitter Jose Ramirez was 1 for 2. Now add in the fact that Soria has struck out Napoli three times in five at-bats and the case for pitching to Napoli gets stronger.
But Napoli leads the Indians in RBIs and good RBI guys tend to be good situational hitters. They understand what it will take to get the job done and with the count 0-2, Napoli got what he was looking for: a pitch up in the zone that he could drive to the outfield.
Napoli’s sac fly gave the Indians a 5-4 win.
The problem with baseball
If baseball teams played once a week I could have said the Royals were a good fundamental team and by the time they blew a game you might have forgotten I ever said that. But baseball teams play almost every day so the last thing I wrote is still fresh in a reader’s mind.
On the other hand; no matter how badly you played you get a chance to win a game the next day and the Royals get that chance Friday night.
I’ll try not to climb out on another limb before game time.