Judging the Royals

How the Royals offense is putting pressure on the Royals pitching

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost took the ball from starting pitcher Jason Hammel in the fourth inning of Sunday’s game against the Texas Rangers as Drew Butera and Eric Hosmer stood on the mound in Arlington, Texas.
Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost took the ball from starting pitcher Jason Hammel in the fourth inning of Sunday’s game against the Texas Rangers as Drew Butera and Eric Hosmer stood on the mound in Arlington, Texas. The Associated Press

On Sunday the Royals offense woke up long enough to hit back-to-back homers and then went right back to sleep. After Mike Moustakas and Jorge Bonifacio hit solo home runs, the Royals never scored again and the Rangers came back to beat the Royals 5-2 and complete a four-game sweep.

The Royals are now 7-11 and have not won a game in which their pitchers allowed more than three runs.

I once walked around and asked players and coaches the longest streak they’d been involved in where everything was clicking; starting pitching, relief pitching, offense and defense.

The longest hitting-on-all-cylinders streak anyone could remember was two weeks.

So if you’re going to win consistently, most of the time one part of a team is making up for another part of a team. If you’re not hitting, pitching and defense needs to step up and cover for that; if the pitching is scuffling, the offense needs to step up and cover for that.

Right now the Royals offense is going bad, so the Royals pitching needs to be nearly perfect and that creates pressure.

Jason Hammel and how the Royals lost the game in the fourth inning

To understand what happened in the fourth inning, it might be helpful to look back at the third inning.

The Royals hit those back-to-back homers in the top of the third and jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

When a team scores, it helps everybody’s mind-set if their pitcher can then follow that up with a shutdown inning. Put a zero on the board and it’s a psychological boost; we’re scoring and you’re not.

But in the bottom of the third, Hammel did not throw a shutdown inning; he gave up a run and the score was 2-1.

That run gave the Rangers a psychological boost. You scored, but we came right back and put up a run of our own; the game’s far from over.

So in the top of the fourth, it was Yu Darvish’s turn to try and throw a shutdown inning and he succeeded.

The Royals went down 1-2-3 and that meant Hammel went into the bottom of the fourth with a one-run lead instead of a two-run lead and that’s a big difference.

If a pitcher has a two-run lead he can go right at the hitters because one hit won’t hurt him; hit the ball a mile and the pitcher still has a lead.

But a one-run lead means every guy that steps to the plate is a threat; one good swing and the game is tied.

After the game Hammel told Star beat writer Rustin Dodd that in the fourth inning he was trying to do too much and be too perfect.

“For whatever reason I shifted into trying to make the perfect pitch and overthrowing, and really got myself and us in trouble,” Hammel said.

But it’s not uncommon for pitchers to try to make perfect pitches when they know one bad pitch can tie the game. If the pitcher can pull it off, we talk about him throwing “paint” (as in painting the corners) and if the pitcher doesn’t pull it off we talk about him nibbling.

Hammel couldn’t pull it off.

He walked Ryan Rua, hit Joey Gallo, hit Robinson Chirinos and walked Jurickson Profar; one too many runners for the bases available.

What Hammel was trying to avoid, he made happen; the game was tied.

Scott Alexander came out of the bullpen, got a couple groundballs, but the Rangers scored again and took a lead they’d never give back.

There’s no way to get inside Jason Hammel’s head and know for sure, but if the Royals offense was scoring more runs maybe Hammel wouldn’t have nibbled or felt the need to be perfect.

And that’s how the Royals offense is putting pressure on the Royals pitching.

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