The day after Monday’s disappointing loss brought more rain and, therefore, more time to reflect on the decision by Royals manager Ned Yost to pull James Shields with a one-run lead in the ninth inning.
A day to reflect did nothing to change Yost’s mind that he made the correct move Monday to summon closer Greg Holland to protect that one-run lead against the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
“Absolutely, I’d do it again,” Yost said. “It’s simple. I know it’s great fodder for second-guessing and that everybody wants to talk about it. But it’s a simple choice.”
It just didn’t work.
Holland blew the save by allowing a run, and the Royals lost 2-1 in 11 innings when Kelvin Herrera served up a homer to Jordan Danks. The second-guessing that followed was intense and not unexpected.
Yost’s reasoning comes down to this: He is unwilling to commit to a starter with a one-run lead in the ninth if he has a rested closer who is pitching well — and Holland had not allowed an earned run in his previous nine outings.
It has nothing to do with pitch counts — Shields was at 102 with a two-hit shutout. One-run lead? The game goes to the closer in the ninth unless Yost believes the better option is to live or die with the starter.
“If the first guy gets on,” Yost said, “and then you’re planning to yank — that just doesn’t make much sense to me. Yeah, I could wait until they got two guys on before I brought the closer in.
“You know what? That’s putting him in an unfair position. In a one-run game, you bring in your closer (to start the inning).”
Yost contrasted Monday’s move with his decision Saturday to stick with Jeremy Guthrie in the ninth inning with a 2-0 lead over the White Sox. Guthrie had thrown 97 pitches through the eighth.
Holland warmed up during the ninth but remained in the bullpen when Guthrie worked a one-two-three inning for his first career shutout.
“With a two-run lead,” Yost said, “you give the (starter) an opportunity, if he’s really throwing well — as Shields was (Monday) — to go back out. If a guy gets one, that’s still enough wiggle room for the closer.
“Everything changes from hitter to hitter: If the first guy gets on, Holland comes in. If he gets the first guy, and the second guy gets on, Holland comes in.
“If he gets the first two guys out, I would give him the opportunity, if the third guy gets on, to face the fourth guy. If the fourth guy (also) gets on, then Holland comes in.”
All that said, Yost understands the criticism.
“When you lose a game in the ninth inning,” he said, “they’re always agonizing. Those are the games that really (get me worked up).
“My mind-set is if I send (Shields) back (for the ninth), and he gives up the tying run or the go-ahead run — which I didn’t think he was going to do — I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.
“If I put Holly in there, and Holly gives up the tying run, I (thought I) would sleep better. But as I found out (Monday) night, that’s not true either. You lose a game like that
“People say it was a good homestand at 6-3? I couldn’t give a (spit) about that. I wanted to win that game (Monday). Now you’ve got to move on. Let’s win today.”
In line for more time
Elliot Johnson started at second base in place of slumping Chris Getz, who is batting just .216 overall and is just four for 37 since hitting a homer on April 16 in Atlanta.
“I’m going to start playing Elliot to keep him in the mix,” Yost said. “Mainly at second. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll go day to day with it. I want to get Getzie going a little more. He’s not swinging the bat like I know he can.”
Johnson responded by going two for three and making a diving stop that saved a run for the final out in the eighth inning.
Miguel Tejada also started Tuesday at third base over Mike Moustakas, but Yost characterized that move as an effort to get another right-handed bat against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen.
Moustakas is batting .198 overall but just .160 against left-handed starting pitchers.
“You take the opportunity when guys aren’t swinging well,” Yost said, “to get your bench guys in. Because when (the starters) do swing well, the bench guys are not going to get in. So this is the time to do it.”
Tejada went two for three, which raised his average to .368 (seven for 19). He also had a sparkling defensive play when he robbed Adam Jones of a hit in the third inning.
It won’t lessen the sting of Monday’s 2-1 loss, when the Royals were one out from a three-game sweep over the Chicago White Sox. But it’s probably worth remembering
Entering Tuesday, the Royals are 7-5 in one-run games and 4-1 in two-run games. That’s a .647 winning percentage in one- and two-run games. Only the Yankees are better at .787 (5-1 and 6-2 for 11-3).
OK...the Royals are now 11-7 overall in one- and two-run games after Tuesday’s 4-3 loss.
The Rangers are the only other team that started Tuesday at more than two games above .500 in such games at 9-5 (7-2 and 2-3).
The Royals have converted 10 for 14 save opportunities, a 71.4-percent success rate that, prior to Tuesday, ranked sixth among the 15 American League clubs.
The Rangers were perfect at nine for nine, while the Rays and Angels were tied for the worst percentage at .444 (four for nine).
The Royals also ranked sixth in the league in bullpen ERA at 3.15. The Indians were the best at 2.69, and the Astros were the worst at 4.85.
Ervin Santana is now an 18-1 pick to win the American League Cy Young Award in updated odds posted by Bovada, an online gambling site.
Santana was 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA prior to Tuesday’s scheduled start against the Orioles. That doesn’t include four scoreless innings that got washed out last Thursday in a postponement against Tampa Bay.
Bovada made no mention of James Shields (2-2, 2.52) nor Jeremy Guthrie (4-0, 2.40) in its listing of 16 candidates for the award. The current favorite is Boston’s Clay Buchholz at 11-4.
No Royals are listed among Bovada’s top-15 candidates for the AL Most Valuable Player award. The current favorite is Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera, last year’s recipient, at 2-1.
Right-hander Yordano Ventura continues to overmatch hitters in the Class AA Texas League. He struck out 10 batters for the second straight game Monday in Northwest Arkansas’ 6-1 victory over Arkansas.
Those Pedro Martinez comparisons, which stem from Ventura’s diminutive size and high-octane arm, continue to gain credibility.
Ventura, 21, is 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA in six starts after working six scoreless innings in the victory. He also has 43 strikeouts while allowing just 19 hits in 291/3 innings.
“I think I could be like Pedro Martinez,” Ventura told MiLB.com afterward through an interpreter. “I grew up watching him and he was my idol. I just need to keep working hard and every time I go out there.”
Ventura wasn’t the only Royals pitching prospect who opened the week with a dominant start. Right-hander Bryan Brickhouse worked 62/3 scoreless innings for Class A Lexington in a 2-0 victory at Lakewood.
Brickhouse, 20, was the club’s third-round pick in 2011. His victory Monday was his first after three losses, but a 2.41 ERA suggests a lack of support in previous starts.
It was 39 years ago today that George Brett hit the first of 317 home runs in his Hall of Fame career. It came against Ferguson Jenkins, also a future Hall of Famer, in a 4-2 victory at Texas.