On Sunday afternoon the Royals beat the White Sox 2-0. Chicago’s starting pitcher was Chris Sale and he allowed eight hits over eight innings pitched. I’m not exactly Stephen Hawking, but even I can figure out that’s an average of one hit per inning. (It is, isn’t it?)
So if you’re only going to average one hit per inning, you better move the few runners you have around the bases with small ball or make that one hit a home run. Oddly enough, the Royals went the long-ball route: Kendrys Morales and Eric Hosmer hit solo homers.
Both Hosmer and Morales hit their homers on first-pitch fastballs. Sale has nasty secondary pitches, so swinging at the first good pitch you see isn’t a bad idea; you don’t want to fall behind in the count and have to face his slider. In 2016 opponents hit .313 when they put Sale’s first pitch in play; if they watched that first pitch go by for a strike they hit .182.
Over the last couple seasons the Royals have shown they can be successful by swinging early in the count and Sunday’s win over the White Sox was just one more example.
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Patience isn’t always a virtue.
How the Royals picked off Adam Eaton
In the bottom of the first inning Ian Kennedy picked off Adam Eaton and a lot of the credit goes to Hosmer. Instead of setting up with one foot touching first base, Hosmer sets up off the bag, closer to the pitcher; that shortens the pitcher’s pickoff throw.
And instead of trying to tag the runner’s hand as he dives back to first base, Hosmer shortens the tag by going straight to the runner’s body. Because of Hosmer’s technique, runners need to shorten their lead and if they don’t, they risk getting picked off.
With Hosmer at first and Salvador Perez behind the plate, no team in the American League is harder to steal on; the Royals have caught 46 percent of would be base-stealers, the No. 2 team is Cleveland with 38 percent.
Chris Sale and the throwback uniforms
I never got around to writing about it when Chris Sale decided to go Jack-the-Ripper on some throwback uniforms, but I can tell you I’ve never met a big-league player who liked wearing them.
Nobody wants to be disrespectful about the teams of the past, but part of being a big-leaguer is looking good and the players I’ve talk to don’t like wearing baggy, poorly-fitted uniforms.
On the other hand, wearing throwback uniforms is also part of being a big-leaguer, so most players don’t cut them to shreds — but a few of them would like to.
The Royals won the series, but need to sweep
Just about the time the Royals said they needed to win every series from here on out, they lost two series to the Yankees and Tigers. On this last road trip the Royals won series against the Twins and White Sox, but didn’t sweep.
If the Royals are going to stay on the pace they set for themselves, they need to take three out of four from the Athletics and sweep some other team in the not-too-distant future.
Can the Royals still make the playoffs?
That’s the question I keep getting asked and the honest answer is I don’t know. I didn’t think the Royals would do what they’ve done the past two years, so I wouldn’t put anything past these guys.
Fortunately, fans do not have to decide what the Royals are capable of doing before they do it. How does it improve your life to decide the Royals won’t make the postseason? So you don’t get your heart broke? So you can say you knew it all along?
If Twitter is any indication — and let’s hope it’s not — a whole bunch of people figured the Chiefs were going to lose to the Chargers yesterday and gave up on them early. The cool thing about sports is every once in a while a team pulls off the seemingly impossible and that’s just what the Chiefs did.
If the Royals can’t pull this thing off we’ll all know for sure on the day they get eliminated. If they can perform a miracle we’ll all see that happen, too. Until then — if you can — just sit back and enjoy the fact that the Royals are playing meaningful baseball in September for the fourth year in a row.