Judging the Royals

The Royals seventh-inning comeback; how they did it

Kansas City Royals' Norichika Aoki (23) and Alcides Escobar (2) are both congratulated by Josh Willingham (7) after scoring on a single by Billy Butler in the seventh inning during Thursday's baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on August 14, 2014 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City Royals' Norichika Aoki (23) and Alcides Escobar (2) are both congratulated by Josh Willingham (7) after scoring on a single by Billy Butler in the seventh inning during Thursday's baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on August 14, 2014 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas City Star

Going into the seventh inning, the Royals were down 3-2 to the Oakland A’s. Mike Moustakas lead things off and made an out, then Erik Kratz singled. Christian Colon doubled off the left-field fence and just like that, the Royals had the tying and winning runs in scoring position.

Oakland reliever Ryan Cook replaced starter Jeff Samardzija and the inning resumed.

Lorenzo Cain pinch ran for Kratz and narrowly avoided being picked off third base. The A’s brought their infield in for a play at the plate, but bringing their infield in exposed the A’s to a serious threat: if the guy at the plate—Jarrod Dyson—managed to get the ball through the drawn-in infield, not only would the tying run score, the winning run might score as well.

Cook threw Dyson four straight fastballs and Jarrod fouled every one of them off. With the count 0-2 Cook changed tactics, threw a changeup and paid for the decision; Dyson shot the ball between the drawn-in first and second baseman. Cain scored, but Colon was held at third.

A’s right fielder Josh Reddick is supposed to have a very good arm and third base coach Mike Jirschele decided not to test it. The score was tied 3-3 and the Royals had runners at first and third.

Cook threw Dyson a bunch of fastballs, so Kansas City right fielder Nori Aoki was ready when he got his. Aoki whacked the first pitch he saw and tripled down the right field line. Colon and Dyson scored, the score was 5-3, but the Royals weren’t done yet.

Alcides Escobar walked and once again, the Royals had runners on the corners. Alex Gordon struck out and then Billy butler singled. Aoki and Escobar scored and the Royals went up 7-3, never lost that lead and took another series from the Athletics.

How the heck do you score from first on a single?

If you didn’t see the game, or did see it, but didn’t notice what Escobar did in the seventh, you might wonder how he scored from first base on a single.

He was running on the pitch.

Alcides got a great jump, Billy Butler hit the ball into the right-center gap and Esky just kept going—sort of. Esky actually slowed down as he approached second base, which doesn’t make a lot of sense—there were two outs at the time. Escobar got going again and scored, but still not the kind of base running you want to see in a tight game.

Dyson’s day; the positives and negatives

Christian Colon saw eight pitches to start the fifth inning and wound up with a single. Jarrod Dyson was then asked to bunt Colon over to second base. He made two attempts, failed both times and eventually hit a pop fly to centerfield.

A player like Dyson needs to be able to do this stuff: some guys stick in the big leagues because they’re great at one big thing—like hitting home runs. Other guys stick because they do a lot of small stuff well.

Guess which kind of player Jarrod is.

In the next inning Dyson lost a two-out fly ball in the sun and that might have lost the Royals the game. Getting a big hit in the next inning helped make up for the two earlier plays, but guys like Dyson have to be able to do the small stuff—it’s what keeps them in the big leagues and makes them a valuable member of a team.

Why Ned Yost thought the call on Alcides Escobar was wrong

In the sixth inning Alcides Escobar laid a bunt down in front of home plate and the catcher, John Jaso, picked the ball up, and threw it to first. The throw tailed up the line, missed first base by a wide margin and then went into foul territory while Esky scampered to second base.

The Royals seemed to be in business—but seemed to be in business is the right phrase: Escobar was called out for batter interference.

Ned argued that even though Escobar was running inside the base line, the catcher still had a clear lane to throw the ball to first base, so when Jaso’s throw went wide, it wasn’t Escobar’s fault. The second part of Ned’s argument was that Alcides was going to beat the throw anyway.

The umpires found neither point persuasive.

If the pitcher feels good expect fastballs

In the eighth inning Wade Davis came right at Josh Donaldson with heat; five straight fastballs. Donaldson struck out on the fifth one. Earlier in the week Wade and I talked about pitch selection and he said when his legs were feeling good he’d be more likely to throw gas. On Thursday Davis threw 19 pitches in the eighth inning; 15 were fastballs.

I guess his legs felt good.

And Holly gets the save

With the score 7-3 Jason Frasor started the ninth inning. He allowed a couple base runners and that got Greg Holland in the game. The Royals closer picked up another save and helped his team take 3 out of 4 from the A’s. They now start a nine-game road trip and every game seems crucial—if you’re a Royals fan you should be enjoying the hell out of this.

Why late comebacks are a big deal

Because they don’t happen very often. Coming into Thursday’s game—according to stats supplied by the team—here’s the Royals’ record when they:

Lead after six innings—48-2

Lead after seven innings—53-1

Lead after eight innings—57-1

Awesome, right? They hardly ever lose when they lead late in a game. But now let’s look at the flip side. Once again, coming into Thursday’s game, here’s the Royals’ record when they:

Trail after six innings—8-42

Trail after seven innings—4-46

Trail after eight innings—2-48

So if you saw Thursday’s win over the Oakland A’s, you saw something fairly rare; a late comeback win.

Are the Royals here without the Shields—Myers trade?

Last season the Royals finished 10 games over .500. As I write this they’re twelve games over and sitting in first place. There was a lot of complaining at the time it was made, so it might be fair to ask if the Royals would be where they are today without the Shields—Myers trade.

Before the trade people would get on this website and complain that they were tired of hearing about the future and wanted to see some immediate results. The Royals made the trade and some of the same people started complaining that the Royals had mortgaged their future.

You can’t have it both ways unless you have your own blog or a sports-talk radio show.

The other day Ned Yost said that he’d rather face Yoenis Cespedes four times a game than Jon Lester every fifth day. When the Royals went out and got the pitching they needed to be competitive, you couldn’t find a player in the clubhouse who thought it was bad idea.

Despite all the complaining at the time, does anyone really think the Royals would be where they are today without the Shields—Myers trade?

BTW: Myers is hurt, hasn’t played since May and is hitting .227 on the season.