In the sixth inning of a tie ballgame, Joakim Soria gave up a home run to Mets rookie Matt Reynolds. The Mets took a one-run lead and by the time the game was over Soria took the loss.
When a reliever loses a game on a home run, that reliever will get noticed — but Soria didn’t lose the game by himself.
On Wednesday afternoon, Danny Duffy pitched 4 2/3 innings and issued four walks; that’s way too many walks for the time Duffy was on the mound. The Royals could have survived the hits he allowed, but the walks doomed them.
In the fourth inning, Duffy walked the first guy up: Asdrubal Cabrera. Duffy also gave up two singles in the inning. Unless you add something else into the mix — a steal, a sac bunt or a walk — two singles in one inning usually won’t score a run. But because Duffy walked Cabrera to start things off, the Mets shortstop scored on that second single.
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In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Royals had a 2-1 lead and Duffy started things with two strikeouts; then walked Curtis Granderson. That walk brought the go-ahead run to the plate and that go-ahead run — Asdrubal Cabrera again — hit a home run.
Home runs are going to happen; once the pitcher lets go of the ball, things are out of his control. The pitcher can make a decent pitch and still have it hit.
Soria’s pitch to Reynolds was supposed to be down-and-away, but ended up down-and-in. A fastball down-and-in to a right-handed hitter will often result in a groundball to third. Hitting a down-and-in fastball to the opposite field for a home run is pretty unusual.
So don’t fixate on the home runs the Royals gave up; pitchers don’t always control that. Instead, focus on the walks; big-league pitchers should be able to throw strikes when they need to. There are times pitchers work around hitters, but you don’t walk guys to lead off innings and you don’t walk guys to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.
The Royals didn’t lose because the Mets hit two home runs; the Royals lost because two players who drew a walk scored.
Why you manufacture runs against the best pitchers
Not long ago Eric Hosmer talked about the need to manufacture runs against the best pitchers; most of the time it will take three singles to score one run, and Hosmer pointed out that the best pitchers don’t give up three hits in an inning all that often.
Let’s use Noah Syndergaard as an example.
In Syndergaard’s career he’s pitched 241 innings. During those 241 innings he’s given up 204 hits and 43 walks. On average, that’s 1.02489627 hits and walks per inning. So if Syndergaard isn’t going to allow you a whole lot of base runners, you’re going to have to make the most of the ones you have.
You can do that by supplementing your hits and walks with stolen bases and sacrifice bunts, or by hitting the ball for extra bases; on Wednesday, the Royals did a little of both.
In the fifth inning, Syndergaard made a bad pitch with change-up and Cheslor Cuthbert hit it out of the park. Syndergaard gives up a home run about once every 10 innings, so when the next batter — Jarrod Dyson — singled, the Royals played small ball. Despite having one down already, Danny Duffy bunted Dyson to second base and Dyson came around to score after Whit Merrifield singled.
Home runs are nice, but for the Royals those are like finding a $20 bill lying on the sidewalk; you can’t count on them.
When the Royals face the best pitchers, they’ll probably try to manufacture runs.