Judging the Royals

Eighth inning was a microcosm of what went wrong for the Royals in 11-3 loss to A’s

The Athletics’ Eric Sogard raced past Royals catcher Salvador Perez to score on a sacrifice fly by Jonny Gomes in the eighth inning Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The A’s beat the Royals 11-3 to end the Royals’ eight-game winning streak.
The Athletics’ Eric Sogard raced past Royals catcher Salvador Perez to score on a sacrifice fly by Jonny Gomes in the eighth inning Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The A’s beat the Royals 11-3 to end the Royals’ eight-game winning streak. The Kansas City Star

They say the game is about pitching and defense. This is what it looks like when you don’t do either one well. The Oakland A’s scored 11 runs and racked up 20 hits — and it seemed like more.

Instead of going over everything that went wrong, let’s look at one inning: the eighth.

By this time, Bruce Chen was in the game, and as manager Ned Yost said afterward, Chen hadn’t pitched in a while and wasn’t sharp. Josh Reddick led off the inning with a soft single to right that Omar Infante misread. Omar broke to his left, figured out he was going the wrong way, then broke back to his right and missed catching the ball by inches.

Next, Alberto Callaspo doubled and Reddick wound up on third. Two runners were in scoring position with nobody out.

The Athletics’ No. 9 hitter, Eric Sogard, singled up the middle, and both runners headed for home plate. Lorenzo Cain picked the ball up and threw it to home plate but overthrew catcher Salvador Perez. If Sal were 15 feet tall, Cain still would have overthrown him. Cain missed by a lot.

When in doubt, throw the ball to second base and keep the double play in order. Limit the damage. But that didn’t happen. Cain’s overthrow allowed Sogard to move up to second base, and that ultimately cost the Royals another run.

Sam Fuld flew out to center field for the first out of the inning, and Sogard tagged up and moved to third. Jonny Gomes followed that up with another fly ball to the outfield, and Sogard — who should have still been on first base — tagged and scored.

Had Infante made the play on Reddick, the A’s would have scored one run. Instead they scored four when Josh Donaldson hit his second home run of the game.

Afterward, Yost said that if the score had stayed close, he might have gone back into the pen and used another reliever, but when Chen couldn’t keep the A’s down, Ned didn’t want to use any more relievers in a game that was out of hand.

The Royals lost to the Oakland A’s 11-3.

Why Bruce Chen?

Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland weren’t available on Tuesday night, and starter Jeremy Guthrie didn’t make it through the fifth inning. Aaron Crow came in and got the last out of the fifth, and then, with the score 6-3, the ball went to Chen.

Generally speaking, you don’t use your best relievers when your team is behind. And when your team is way behind, you don’t waste innings from your pen.

Why Jon Lester threw a pitch to the backstop

Mike Moustakas was at the plate, time was called as Jon Lester delivered the pitch and the Oakland starter threw the ball high and wide, all the way to the backstop. Some pitchers will do this so the hitter doesn’t get a preview of the next pitch. Why let the guy at the plate know what the plan was?

Fling the ball at a beer vendor, get a new one and start over.

Beating the shift

In the fifth inning, left-handed batter Brandon Moss came to the plate, and the Royals’ defense set up an extreme left-handed shift. Moss bunted the ball toward third base, and no one was there to field it. Guthrie had to race off the mound to pick up the ball, and by the time he got there, he had no play.

Yost has said that if a left-handed hitter bunts for a hit a couple times, he will quit playing a shift. It seems as if a couple of bunt singles would pay high dividends, yet you don’t see many guys attempt it.

Watch your lips in a two-strike count

Once a hitter gets two strikes on him, he might try to wait longer to start his swing. He doesn’t want to get fooled on a breaking pitch, so he’ll try to go the other way. If the hitter does get fooled by a pitch, he then might break out his “emergency hack” — an attempt to foul the ball off and get another pitch. And those are the balls that shoot sideways into the crowd. Lorenzo Cain did this, and people in the good seats down the right-field line had to duck.

When a hitter gets two strikes on him, watch your lips.

Alex Gordon plays the game right

With the Royals down by eight runs, left fielder Alex Gordon made a long run and dove for a Brandon Moss foul ball. He missed it, but that effort is why old-school ballplayers love Gordon: He continues to play the game the right way, regardless of the situation. Alex didn’t make the catch — Moss eventually got a hit — but you’ve got to appreciate the effort.

Well, at least SungWoo Lee can go home now

Back when Clint Hurdle was managing the Triple A Tidewater Tides, I met his team on the road. I went to Toledo, Ohio, to watch the Tides play the Mudhens. My arrival coincided with a winning streak, and when the Tides were ready to get on the bus and go to the next town, the players begged me to get on the bus with them.

I can’t remember what seemed so important back home, but to my lasting regret, I did not get on that bus and drive to whatever backwater town the Tides were headed for. My bad. You don’t mess with a winning streak.

Now that the Royals have lost a game, Korean superfan, SungWoo Lee can go home. I was wondering whether the players might pool some money together to keep him around, or, if that seemed too extreme, kidnap him.