Judging the Royals

The Royals beat the Tigers 12-9, and it took forever

Alex Gordon (right) hit a two-run homer that scored Paulo Orlando during the Royals’ 12-9 victory Sunday in Detroit.
Alex Gordon (right) hit a two-run homer that scored Paulo Orlando during the Royals’ 12-9 victory Sunday in Detroit. AP

Guess how long it takes two baseball teams to score 21 runs. If you said three hours and 51 minutes you’re either a very good guesser or you actually watched the Royals beat the Tigers 12-9 on Sunday afternoon.

Sure, it was a long game, but here’s the amazing thing about baseball when it’s played at this level; it felt even longer.

Detroit pitcher Matt Boyd started the marathon by allowing the first four Royals batters to hit for the cycle in the top of the first inning. Billy Burns singled, Whit Merrifield tripled, Kendrys Morales doubled and Salvador Perez homered. If you want to know what jump-started the Royals offense, check out the pitch locations; every pitch wound up somewhere around the middle of the zone.

After Paulo Orlando got the Royals fifth hit in a row, Boyd was pulled and the pitching merry-go-round cranked up. 13 pitchers were used and if I counted right, 357 pitches were thrown. The Royals scored 12 runs and still needed Wade Davis to close out the ninth inning.

If you ever think how lucky I am to have a job that requires me to watch baseball, remember this game.

Sloppy play

Over the three-game series in Detroit there were seven wild pitches and one passed ball. Some of that was Salvador Perez getting nonchalant and reaching for pitches in the dirt he should have tried to block (easy for me to criticize, I haven’t caught 135 games this summer), but some of the pitches that got by Perez were caused by pitchers missing their target by feet, not inches. If you’re bouncing pitches out in front of home plate, that’s a tough pitch to block; especially if it’s a fastball. A pitcher shouldn’t be missing by that much with a fastball and a fastball in the dirt gives the catcher less time to react.

We also saw the Tigers relay a throw into third base when the runner was actually crossing home plate and Whit Merrifield get picked off second base when he neglected to go back to the bag in-between pitches.

And then there was Andrew Romine’s two-out, bases loaded bunt back to the pitcher’s mound. Peter Moylan was the pitcher and he picked the ball up and flipped it to Salvador Perez for the inning-ending force out at home plate.

So some bad baseball played at an excruciatingly slow pace.

How Victor Martinez hit that grand slam

I knew it was going to be a long game when the Royals gave Edinson Volquez a 7-0 lead and he let the Tigers right back into it by giving up a grand slam to Victor Martinez.

If you want to know how Martinez pulled a fastball on the outside part of the plate for a homer, go back and watch his feet right before he swings. Volquez had already thrown two pitches off the plate away and Martinez stepped toward home plate on the third pitch. After Martinez dove to the outside corner, that fastball away was actually down the middle.

Why Rusty Kuntz calls everyone player

Whit Merrifield was playing first base and at one point he had to wander over by the Royals dugout to catch a pop fly. Fans could hear Rusty Kuntz yelling, “You’re all right, you’re all right!” That lets a player know he doesn’t need to take his eye of the ball to see if he’s about to fall down the dugout steps.

After Whit made the catch he said thanks and called Rusty “player” which is what Rusty calls everybody else. Just in case you didn’t see the video we made in spring training, here’s why Rusty calls everyone “player.”

Rusty Kuntz, the Royals' sage of spring training 

When Rusty was working with young ballplayers in the minors they’d call him “coach” because that’s how high school and college players refer to their coaches. In professional ball you don’t call coaches “coach,” you use their names. (You also don’t call umpires “blue” — they have names and they expect you to learn them.) Anyway, Rusty said if his players were going to call him coach he’d start calling them “player.”

Over the years that came in handy because whenever Rusty ran into a player he used to coach and couldn’t remember his name, he’d call him “player” and nobody’s feelings got hurt.

Come to think of it, I’ve talked to Rusty almost every day since he became a Royals coach and I’m not 100 percent positive he knows my name.

Six games left

The Royals are 79-77, and if they want to have a winning record they need to win at least three of their final six games. These last few games might feel meaningless, but there’s always something to play for, even if it’s just having a job in 2017.

Enjoy the few games the Royals have left, but let’s just hope they pick up their pace of play.