Forget the games the Royals have lost by a sizeable margin; if you lose by five runs, there’s probably not much you could have done that would have made a difference. Big-league players, coaches and managers don’t agonize over those losses.
But three of the Royals’ eight losses have been by one run and those are the games that drive everyone crazy because those games were winnable.
On Thursday night, the Royals lost 1-0 to the Texas Rangers in 13 innings, but the Royals could have won the game in the top of the fifth.
Alcides Escobar led off with a double.
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Good fundamental baseball requires the next guy to hit a groundball to the right side; even if the ball doesn’t sneak through the infield, that will move the runner over to third base. Then the next guy just needs to get a ball in play and you have a good chance of picking up a run.
That being the case, Paulo Orlando needed to get a pitch he could hit to the right side and the Rangers pitcher, Andrew Cashner, wanted Paulo to pull the ball to the left side because that would freeze Esky at second.
Paulo pulled the first pitch he saw to short and that meant Esky had to stay where he was.
And that meant Raul Mondesi was swinging away instead of having the opportunity to attempt a squeeze play; and with the way Mondesi is swinging the bat right now, a squeeze play would have been a good bet.
The Royals did not pick up the run that would have won them the game in nine innings.
Now go back to Tuesday and a 2-1 extra-inning loss to the Giants.
Alex Gordon led off the first inning with a double, Mike Moustakas was at the plate and now it was his job to move the runner to third base with a groundball to the right side.
But Moose swung at a fastball and popped it up to third. Once again a runner wasn’t moved over and when Lorenzo Cain followed Moose’s pop-up with a fly ball to center, a run that would have won the game didn’t score.
On April 9 against the Houston Astros, the Royals’ fundamental failing come on the other side of the ball.
In the seventh inning, Travis Wood walked leadoff hitter Evan Gattis. So when Marwin Gonzalez homered, it tied the game and it eventually went to extra innings.
So if the Royals had moved two runners over, gotten a squeeze bunt down and not issued a leadoff walk, they could be 10-5 instead of 7-8 and we’d be talking about what a scrappy team they are and how the Royals find a way to win even when they aren’t hitting.
With better fundamentals, the Royals could have won three more games without one more hit.