Brandon Moss walked into the left-handed batter’s box as the Royals’ potential game-winning run Monday, and after adjusting his helmet, he tilted his head toward a former teammate on the mound.
In 2014, Moss’ final year with the Oakland A’s, power-throwing Sean Doolittle had enjoyed his most successful season as a big-leaguer and his first as a closer.
Three years later, the top weapon in his repertoire was unchanged.
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“His fastball is his best pitch,” Moss said. “There’s no reason to be up there looking for a breaking ball.”
He was right.
It didn’t matter.
Doolittle struck out Moss on four pitches. The final out of the game ended the Royals’ best offensive threat in Monday’s home opener. The A’s prevailed 2-0.
True to form, Doolittle unleashed only one pitch in the meeting among former teammates — the fastball. Moss took the first pitch high, swung and missed for strike one, fouled off strike two and swung through strike three. All four pitches hovered around 94 miles per hour in the lefty-lefty matchup.
Moss has one hit in his first 16 at-bats of 2017.
“I got three heaters blown by me,” Moss said, adding, “I was just hoping to be ready for a heater and hopefully he misses middle or middle in with one, and he really didn’t.
“Tip your hat and move on. He challenged me with his best pitch, and he won.”
Moss hit .232 against lefties in 2016 with the Cardinals — a tick higher than he fared against right-handers. But his power declined significantly in the lefty-lefty matchups. He hit only three of his 28 homers off southpaws.
The Royals had right-handed options — most notably Cheslor Cuthbert — sitting on the bench for the final at-bat. But with the wind was blowing to right field all afternoon, made evident when Khris Davis hit a ball into the jet stream for a two-run homer, Royals manager Ned Yost elected to send Moss to the plate.
“Left-handed pitching does not suppress Moss’ power,” Yost said. “That’s what we needed at that point. If he could’ve gotten a ball up in the air and into the wind stream, maybe something good could’ve happened.”