If you’re a Royals fan looking for a good sign — and why wouldn’t you? — Wednesday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox should give you hope.
When the Royals hitters have been going bad, you could see them chase bad pitches and spin off the ball; they’d finish their swings with their heads up, looking into foul territory on the pull side of the field. That’s because most guys have to pull the ball to hit a home run.
Trying to fix things with one swing of the bat almost always gets a ballplayer in trouble.
On Wednesday night, we saw the Royals hitters take a different approach.
Good at-bats in the first five innings
Unless you pay attention, the only good at-bats are ones that result in hits, but ballplayers don’t think that way.
If you see a lot of pitches and make the pitcher work, or if you hit the ball hard, but make an out, ballplayers still consider those good at bats.
When Kevin Seitzer was the Royals hitting coach he kept a stat called “hard-hit outs.” Kevin wanted to know how often the Royals had a good at-bat that didn’t register in the box score.
So even though the Royals didn’t score in the first five innings of Wednesday night’s game, you could see better at-bats. A lot of the time the Royals were hitting the ball to the opposite field or up the middle; they lined out three times and only struck out once.
Even though the Royals weren’t scoring in those first five innings, they looked more like the team that went to two World Series in a row.
The sixth, seventh and eighth innings
Now let’s look at how the Royals scored.
▪ With one out in the sixth inning Whit Merrifield was in a 1-2 count, but got the ball in play and singled up the middle.
▪ Mike Moustakas jumped on a 1-0 splitter that wandered into the middle of the zone, doubled and Merrifield scored.
▪ Lorenzo Cain went to the opposite field on a 3-1 pitch down the middle, tripled and Moustakas scored.
▪ Hosmer jumped on a first-pitch hung slider and hit a deep sac fly to the left-field side of dead center.
Nobody tried to do too much; they just kept the line moving.
Same thing in the seventh:
▪ With one down and Jorge Bonifacio on first base, Brandon Moss hit a line drive single to center field.
▪ Alcides Escobar started his at bat 0-2, laid off two chase sliders and found a way to get the ball in play; a double down the left-field line.
▪ Whit Merrifield got a high change-up and hit a sac fly to the opposite field.
In the eighth:
▪ Eric Hosmer singled up the middle.
▪ Alex Gordon jumped on a 2-0 fastball and doubled Hosmer home.
The Royals are best when they keep the line moving
In the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, the Royals got the ball in play and didn’t try to do too much. And look at all the players involved in those rallies: Merrifield, Moustakas, Cain, Hosmer, Moss, Escobar and Gordon played key roles.
It wasn’t one guy swinging for the fences; it was each guy doing his part.
The Royals scored six runs because they played as a team and got back to their kind of baseball; they kept the line moving and won a ballgame.
And Nathan Karns’ performance sure didn’t hurt.