Scoring 11 runs covers up a multitude of sins. (I have no idea why sins come in multitudes; mine usually come in six-packs.)
So where were we? Oh, yeah … the Royals won big on Labor Day, but they also made some mistakes that need to get cleaned up as quickly as possible.
Forgetting to cover home
In the fourth inning, Eddie Rosario doubled, and with Kansas City up by a score of 3-2, Eduardo Escobar laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Rosario to third. Three Royals converged on the ball: catcher Salvador Perez, pitcher Ian Kennedy and third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert. When Cuthbert saw Perez get to the ball, he headed back toward third; Kennedy stopped dead in the water and watched Perez make the play at first base.
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Here’s a baseball rule of thumb: If you’re standing still, you’re in the wrong spot. There is no play in which a player is encouraged to stand and watch his teammates. There’s always a place a player should be going.
In this case, Kennedy should have gone to cover home because Perez was busy making a play. But it’s also the catcher’s job to yell instructions to everyone on the infield. Pitchers get so locked in on making pitches they can drift off to La-La Land after delivering a pitch to home plate.
So, yeah. Kennedy should cover home and Danny Duffy can’t forget to cover first base, but Perez needs to be shouting and reminding them to do their job.
Lack of communication in the outfield
With a Twins runner on first, a fly ball was hit to Jarrod Dyson in center. The runner was all the way around second base when Dyson caught the ball, but Jarrod seemed to be unaware he had a chance for an out at first base. That’s on his teammates, not Dyson.
Dyson was concentrating on making the catch; his teammates need to let him know where to throw the ball afterwards. Lack of communication cost the Royals a chance at an out.
Failure to come in hot
In the third inning, with Paulo Orlando on first base, Eric Hosmer hit a rocket to right field.
It bounced off that stone balcony high on the right-field wall, and Logan Schafer played the carom. When watching the game on TV, you only get to see what they choose to show you, and if they showed the Twins’ defensive alignment, I never saw it.
In any case, the throw came into second base, not the middle of the infield, and it appeared third-base coach Mike Jirschele tried to take advantage of the throw going to the wrong base; it looked like Jirschele was waving Orlando home.
But being aggressive only works if you run the bases hard and come in hot — hit the bag and make a good turn. If the coach needs to get you stopped, he will.
If you assume you’re going to stop at third base and slow down (and it looked like that’s what Orlando did), you have to get back up to full speed. And that costs you time and distance.
I’m not there so I can’t talk to Orlando or Jirschele to get their point of view, but you can’t have a runner thrown out by so much he comes into home plate standing up.
The Royals won; isn’t that enough?
In a word: nope.
If the Royals are going to pull off this Harry Houdini act (Google him, kids), they can’t afford to give away ballgames by making mistakes. This past homestand saw the Royals lose some tough games, but some of that was their own fault.
▪ They lost a game to Detroit when Alcides Escobar was standing in the wrong spot; he was supposed to be back on the grass, but was positioned at double-play depth.
▪ They lost another game when they threw a down-and-in fastball to Justin Upton. I checked out Upton’s 2016 hot zones and he hadn’t hit down-and-in very well this season, but he’s batting .239 overall — he hasn’t hit any zone well in 2016. But I’ve since learned that over his career Upton is considered a low-ball hitter.
▪ With runners on third and fewer than two outs, Royals hitters have chased pitches down in the zone before they have to. They’ve also struck out when in a ball in play would have turned into a run.
▪ The Royals lost a chance at a run when Alex Gordon was thrown out trying to steal second base with two outs and a runner was already in scoring position.
▪ They miscommunicated on what appeared to be a double-steal attempt.
It’s great that the Royals beat the Twins 11-5 on Monday, but if they had scored four runs, those mistakes would seem like a very big deal. The Royals cannot afford to lose any more games by making fundamental mistakes.
And while they’re at it, they might want to quit throwing Brian Dozier hittable fastballs.