On Sunday, the Royals lost to the Twins 7-5, but it was a game the Royals didn’t have to lose.
Sometimes the other team beats you; sometimes you beat yourself.
The Twins might have scored seven runs, but let’s look at how many of those seven runs the Royals gave away.
Two walks scored in the third inning
In the top of the third inning with a two-run lead, Jason Hammel walked the first batter he faced, Byron Buxton. The Twins center fielder was hitting .138 at the time. After getting an out, Hammel also walked Max Kepler.
Buxton and Kepler scored when Miguel Sano homered.
Walking two guys before you face the other team’s smoking-hot, number-three hitter isn’t a good idea. You can live with the homer — Sano earned it — but not the walks.
A double play isn’t turned and two runs scored in the fourth
With runners on first and second base and nobody out in the fourth inning, the Royals put on a shift for right-handed hitter Brian Dozier.
So when Dozier hit what would have normally been a double-play ball, second baseman Whit Merrifield was positioned up the middle and he was the one to field the grounder.
When Merrifield decided to flip the ball to Alcides Escobar and go for the out at second base, the runner on first — Byron Buxton — beat the throw.
Escobar then tried for an out at first, but everything took too long and what would have been a double-play ball if the Royals had been positioned for a double play, resulted in no outs and the bases loaded.
After the game, Merrifield blamed himself for not taking the out at first base, but it was the decision to play a shift in a double-play situation that resulted in two more runs for the Twins.
A pop up drops, and a run scored in the sixth
With one out in the sixth inning, Brian Dozier hit a pop just beyond the infield and Whit Merrifield went back to make the catch.
Merrifield called for the ball, but at the last second right fielder Jorge Bonifacio also called for the ball — outfielders have priority over infielders — so Merrifield cleared the area. Bonifacio didn’t make the catch, the ball dropped and Dozier wound up on second base.
Miguel Sano drove Dozier in with a single.
By now you probably get the idea: the Twins won, but walks, failing to turn a double play and miscommunication by the Royals helped the Royals beat themselves.
Another defensive shift that didn’t work
In the second inning, Brandon Moss picked up an RBI single when he dumped a soft fly ball in front of Twins left fielder, Eddie Rosario.
It was the kind of bloop hit that fast shortstops might get to, but the Twin had three infielders swung around to the right side and nobody playing the traditional shortstop position. That left an open hole in shallow left field and that’s where Moss dumped the ball.
You see shifts take away hits, but you also see shifts give them up.
Why some outfielders play too deep in Kauffman Stadium
A lot of outfielders — especially guys who don’t go back well — come into Kauffman Stadium, turn around and see how much distance there is between them and the wall and back up.
They’re afraid of having the ball hit over their head.
But if a ball is hit over an outfielder’s head, that’s the pitcher’s fault. When a pitcher gets the batter to hit a weak pop fly between the infield and the outfield, and that weak pop fly drops for a hit because the outfielder is too deep, that’s the outfielder’s fault.
On Sunday, several of those weak fly balls fell in between the infield and outfield and that probably means the outfielders involved were playing too deep.
The league is running on Salvador Perez
Over the course of his career catcher, Salvador Perez has thrown 34 percent of would-be base stealers and that’s very good.
In 2016, Perez threw out 48 percent of would-be base stealers and that’s phenomenal.
On Sunday the Twins stole three bases and that means Perez is now 1-for-16 this season when it comes to throwing out base stealers and that’s only 6 percent.
Unless Salvador Perez has suddenly gotten a lot worse at throwing a baseball, Royals pitchers aren’t doing enough to hold runners and get the ball to home plate quickly.
Having said that, catchers can’t keep calling for fastballs and slide steps just so they can throw out runners; pitchers resent that. If a pitcher struggles to get the ball down when using a slide step, he isn’t going to want to slide step all that often.
But there’s got to be a compromise somewhere in the middle.
If Perez keeps throwing out 6 percent of the guys who run on him, a whole lot of guys are going to try it and eventually those stolen bases will come back on the pitchers. So if a pitcher is uncomfortable throwing out of a slide step, he better practice until he can do it.
You didn’t get in trouble in one day; you aren’t getting out of trouble in one day either
I don’t know if that’s a baseball saying, but a baseball player said it to me and it makes a good point.
Whatever your problem — being overweight, drinking too much or losing nine ballgames in a row (and I’m 2 for 3) — it didn’t become a problem in just one day. So you won’t fix that problem in one day either.
After Sunday’s game I talked to Eric Hosmer about what he thought it would take to get the Royals back on track and he said they couldn’t think about going on a nine-game winning streak to get even.
Hoz said they needed to win just one ballgame.
Then come in the next day and think about winning another.
The day after that, think about winning another ballgame.
People tend to want a quick fix — take this pill and you’ll lose weight — but most of the time it’s much more complicated than that. You have to take one step at a time and grind things out.
You didn’t get in trouble in one day; you won’t get out of trouble in one day either.
The Royals will try to take that first step toward getting out of trouble against the White Sox at 7:15 on Monday tonight.