Royals

Royals beat Brewers 3-2 as Ned Yost becomes winningest manager in club history

The Royals' Alex Gordon was tagged out at home by Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy on a hit by Salvador Perez to end the third inning during Thursday's baseball game at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals' Alex Gordon was tagged out at home by Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy on a hit by Salvador Perez to end the third inning during Thursday's baseball game at Kauffman Stadium. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

Ned Yost once managed for a city that ridiculed him, in an industry that so often treated him as a punch line, for bosses who he thought might fire him. But a few minutes before 10 p.m. on Thursday, soon after he set the Royals franchise record for managerial victories after a 3-2 triumph over Milwaukee, Yost whittled his list of worries to two.

Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar lurked at the far end of the dugout. In their hands they lugged a Gatorade jug filled with ice water. Yost watched the duo as he completed a postgame television interview. He tried to sprint away as they approached, but they still soaked him. The remnants of a Kauffman Stadium crowd of 36,318 delighted in the moment. 

“I shouldn’t have ran,” Yost said. “I broke the microphone, and ruined the interview.”

It was not the last time his players would drench him. Inside the clubhouse, after four victories in a row over the Brewers, a celebration awaited. The team doused Yost with Dom Perignon. General manager Dayton Moore delivered a toast and a history lesson, how Yost passed Dick Howser (404 victories) last week and Whitey Herzog (410 victories) on Thursday night.

The road to Victory No. 411 was bumpy, but it also relied upon the formula Yost honed nearly to perfection en route to last fall’s World Series. The offense notched a few runs early. The defense remained resolute throughout. The bullpen trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland bested their opponents. Yost never visited the mound or even departed the dugout.

Yost hid his emotion when Davis loaded the bases with one out in the eighth. The sole evidence of his anxiety manifested as he paced between pitches. He was stoic when Davis popped up veteran Aramis Ramirez, after falling behind in the count, 3-1. When Davis froze second baseman Scooter Gennett with a hanging curveball for the third out, Yost pumped both his fists and dissolved into the joyous dugout. Holland secured Yost’s milestone three outs later.

“I don’t really look at it as an individual achievement,” Yost said. “First of all, I don’t feel like I’m in the same class with Whitey Herzog and Dick Howser. Two, this is an organizational achievement.”

He thanked the scouting department, the development staff and the big-league coaching staff. He praised the players “and how good they’ve gotten over the last couple years, to provide all the victories.” He saluted Moore and owner David Glass for creating a stable atmosphere. On several occasions, Yost admitted again on Thursday, he thought Moore “could have sent me down the road.”

“But,” Yost continued, “he didn’t.”

The Royals (38-25) have benefitted from their trust in Yost. He guided the club to its first playoff berth in 29 years. The team appears poised for another October run again this year. With eight victories in their last 10 games, Kansas City owns the best record in the American League, and could win its first Central crown in franchise history.

When Kansas City stumbled earlier this month, Yost and his players preached patience. Yost considered this a learned skill, something he could not always practice when he first became a manager. The team credited him for loosening the reigns and trusting his roster.

“I just respect the fact that he’s really adapted and changed,” said Jeremy Guthrie, who logged six innings of two-run baseball on Thursday. “Just like every player has to do. Just like a front-office person or a scout. They have to be able to learn, grow in whatever role they do. And Ned has done that in a way that I think is very, very visible for us 25 players in the clubhouse.”

Yost learned his trade as a coach on Bobby Cox’s staff in Atlanta. He tried to enforce Cox’s edicts – no music in the clubhouse, no fraternizing with the other team, no joy allowed to emerge from the monotony of the big-league marathon – during a failed stint in Milwaukee and again during his first few years in Kansas City.

Yost cannot pinpoint an exact date, but he felt the need for change at some point in 2013, the year James Shields arrived in Kansas City and the Royals experienced exponential growth. He could not force the players to behave as he did. He knew he needed to learn to let them be themselves. If that meant blasting rap music before taking batting practice, fine. But please, he asked the players, make sure the singers don’t swear too much.

The players obliged. Yost called fewer meetings. He let his players work their way through slumps. The atmosphere lightened, which coincided with more and more victories.

“It was obviously a process,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “And early on in his managing career with Kansas City, and in all of our careers, he had to do a lot more to teach us what a routine was and how to prepare for a game. But I think the more that time went on and the more time we had up here, he slowly put that trust in us that he knew we would be able to do what we had to do to prepare for a game.

“When your manager puts trust in you like that, and lets you be yourself here, that makes it fun to come to work every day. And that’s a guy you want to go out there and play for.”

The pitching staff of the Brewers had a restorative effect on the Royals lineup this week. The venue did not matter. The Royals bashed the Brewers for two games at Miller Park and then again these past two days at Kauffman Stadium. Good teams feast on the weak, and the Royals gorged themselves with 25 runs in the first three games. 

Thursday was more of a slog. Alcides Escobar notched three hits and scored twice. Lorenzo Cain provided a sacrifice fly in the first and Kendrys Morales followed him two batters later with an RBI double. A run-scoring single by Mike Moustakas in the second inning was Kansas City’s last pitch of scoring.

From there, it was up to the pitching staff. Guthrie (5-4, 5.55 ERA) gave up two runs in the fifth, but otherwise flooded the zone with strikes. He needed only 67 pitches for six frames. Still Yost turned to the bullpen. Formulas work for a reason.

“Big night for Guthrie,” Yost said. “I thought he threw the ball great. I hated taking him out of that ballgame after six. But when you’ve got a one-run lead and you’ve got a fresh Herrera, Davis and Holland down there, the decision was easy.”

Davis provided the lone bit of drama. He gave up a leadoff single to Gerardo Parra. Alcides Escobar could not corral a hard-hit grounder by Ryan Braun two batters later.

At this point, Davis lost the plot. He loaded the bases with a four-pitch walk to Adam Lind. He fell behind, 3-0, before Aramis Ramirez finally saw a strike. Ramirez popped the next pitch up.

“I felt a little bit off,” Davis said. “I was a little bit too strong on my front side. Couldn’t really relax it for the whole inning.”

One out away from an escape, Davis faced Gennett. He pumped six consecutive fastballs. Then he tried to bounce a curveball in the dirt. The pitch soared high, instead, and handcuffed Gennett. Umpire Jeff Nelson pumped his fist.

As Davis’ pitch whistled toward the plate, Yost stood in the dugout with his left arm slung over the railing. He propped his chin in his hand, like a baseball sculpture crafted by Rodin. Another bit of good fortune – a misplaced pitch that still falls for a strike – was about to come his way.

Luck will always play a role in the story of Ned Yost and the Kansas City Royals. They trailed Jon Lester and the Oakland Athletics by four runs in the eighth inning of the American League Wild Card Game last year. So much of the organization’s future felt fragile on that night.

Yet you know how the story ended. The Royals rallied. Yost dissected his managerial competition the rest of October. The team returned for 2015 hungry for the championship they so nearly claimed. And now, with Yost at the top of the Royals managerial leaderboard, the group can continue to write their own history.

“This team is wonderful to be around,” Yost said. “It’s a joy to be their manager. It really is.”

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.


Royals 3, Brewers 2

Brewers

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

G.Parra cf

4

0

2

1

0

0

.281

Lucroy c

4

0

2

1

0

0

.230

Braun rf

4

0

0

0

0

0

.249

Lind 1b

3

0

0

0

1

1

.274

Ramirz dh

4

0

1

0

0

0

.210

Gennett 2b

4

0

0

0

0

3

.202

Segura ss

4

1

1

0

0

0

.270

Petersn lf

4

1

1

0

0

2

.270

H.Perez 3b

4

1

2

0

0

1

.227

Totals

35

2

8

2

1

7

 

Royals

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

A.Escobar ss

4

2

3

0

0

0

.270

Moustakas 3b

3

0

1

1

1

1

.323

L.Cain cf

3

0

1

1

0

0

.292

Hosmer 1b

4

1

2

0

0

0

.297

K.Morales dh

3

0

1

1

1

0

.283

A.Gordon lf

4

0

2

0

0

1

.271

S.Perez c

4

0

1

0

0

1

.284

Rios rf

4

0

1

0

0

0

.220

Infante 2b

3

0

1

0

0

1

.228

Totals

32

3

13

3

2

4

 

Brewers

000

020

000

2

8

0

Royals

210

000

00x

3

13

1

LOB: Milwaukee 8, Kansas City 8. 2B: H.Perez (1), A.Escobar (11), Hosmer (14). RBIs: J.Lucroy (10), G.Parra (19), Moustakas (24), L.Cain (30), K.Morales (43). SF: G.Parra, Cain.

Runners left in scoring position: Milwaukee 2 (Gennet 2); Kansas City 3 (S.Perez, Gordon, A.Escobar, K.Morales). RISP: Milwaukee 1 for 5; Kansas City 3 for 9. Runners moved up: G.Parra, C.Gomez, Moustakas, Hosmer. GIDP: Lucroy, Hosmer. DP: Milwaukee 1 (Gennett, Segura, Lind); Kansas City 1 (Moustakas, Infante).

Brewers

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

Nelson L, 3-8

5

11

3

3

2

0

88

4.64

Blazek

1

1

0

0

0

2

16

1.24

W.Smith

1.1

1

0

0

0

2

17

1.48

Jeffress

0.2

0

0

0

0

0

3

3.34

Royals

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

Guthrie W, 5-4

6

7

2

2

0

4

67

5.55

Herrera

1

0

0

0

0

0

7

2.16

Davis

1

1

0

0

1

1

23

0.31

Holland S, 12

1

0

0

0

0

2

12

3.31

Holds: K.Herrera (9), W.Davis (7). WP: Blazek, W.Smith. Inherited runners-scored: W.Smith 1-0. WP: Fiers 3.

Umpires: Home, Jeff Nelson; First, Laz Diaz; Second, Chris Guccione; Third, Clint Fagan. Time: 2:38. Att: 36,318.

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