Judging the Royals

The Twins have the worst pitching in the AL; the Royals need a sweep

Kansas City Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales rounded the bases after hitting a three-run home run off Minnesota Twins pitcher Pat Light on Tuesday.
Kansas City Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales rounded the bases after hitting a three-run home run off Minnesota Twins pitcher Pat Light on Tuesday. The Associated Press

As of Wednesday morning, the Minnesota Twins bullpen is ranked second-to-last in the American League. After the last two games against the Royals, it’s kinda hard to believe there’s a worse bullpen out there.

On Monday, Twins starter Jose Berrios gave up five runs in five innings, but the Twins were still in the game. Once the ball went to the bullpen, the Royals scored six more runs and put the game away. Tuesday’s game followed a similar pattern; Ervin Santana allowed three runs, but once the Twins bullpen got involved, the Royals scored seven runs and put the game out of reach.

And as bad as the Twins bullpen has been, their starters have been even worse; they rank dead last in the AL.

Wednesday’s starter is Kyle Gibson. He has a 5.31 ERA, so maybe the Royals can do some damage off Gibson early, but if the Royals are behind going into later innings, just be patient; the Twins bullpen has a good chance of coughing up a lead.

(If you were wondering what bullpen has a worse collective ERA than Minnesota, it’s Texas.)

Running on Kurt Suzuki

In 2013 catcher Kurt Suzuki threw out 33 percent of would-be base stealers and that’s very good. But this season Suzuki is throwing out 19 percent of would-be base stealers and that ain’t so hot.

I haven’t watched enough Twins baseball to know if his pitchers are giving him the necessary help — holding runner and slide stepping — but either way the Royals have been running on Suzuki. If he’s behind the plate Wednesday night, look for that to continue.

Delayed steals

One of the Royals steals on Tuesday night was a delayed steal, and the guy who pulled it off was Paulo Orlando.

Orlando has worked at the delayed steal because while he’s fast, he doesn’t have that first-two-steps explosiveness you see from Terrance Gore and Jarrod Dyson; it takes a while for Orlando to get up to top speed.

Just in case you wanted to know, here’s how a delayed steal works:

As the pitcher delivers the pitch, the middle infielders check the runner on first base to see if he’s stealing. On a delayed steal they see a runner shuffling off the bag, extending his lead. They then turn their attention back to home plate in case the ball is put in play. Once the pitch is delivered the middle infielders are supposed to recheck the runner and if they don’t — if they get lazy — they’ll be caught by surprise and late covering the bag on a delayed steal.

Having a left-handed hitter at the plate helps and Tuesday night that left-handed hitter was Eric Hosmer. The lefty blocks the catcher’s peripheral vision and once again that can make him slow to react. If the catcher likes to “stick it” — hold the pitch in place for the umpire — or puts his head down (something Salvador Perez has a habit of doing) that will also delay the throw to second base.

A straight steal is preferable, but if a guy can’t pull one off he can work on learning the delayed steal and that’s what Paulo Orlando has done.

Terrance Gore and life-changing speed

A few games ago, Terrance Gore stole second base, did a pop-up slide and the tag was applied after he was standing up. Afterward, Eric Hosmer talked about that steal and called Gore’s running ability “life-changing speed.”

If you want to see how incredibly fast Gore is, check out the video of him scoring in the top of the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game: Gore slides across home plate and then just keeps sliding until he reaches the grass. The dude only weighs 165 pounds so when he gets going, he needs to pop a chute to slow down.

It’s been a while since I slid into a base, but the last time I did I had the same trajectory as a lawn dart. My speed was also life-changing: I quit playing baseball.

The Royals need to sweep the Twins

Going into last week’s Yankees series people were saying the Royals needed to win each series left on the schedule; but the Royals lost two to the Yanks and two to the Tigers, so they now need to sweep a couple series to get back on pace.

After two wins in Minnesota, the Royals are in a position to get one of those sweeps on Wednesday night.