Before the 2017 season began, the Royals talked about scoring more runs by hitting more homers.
So far, that plan has not worked out.
We’re nine games away from the 40-game benchmark that Dayton Moore says he uses to assess a team, and the Royals are currently second-to-last in home runs and dead last in runs scored.
Standing around waiting for someone to hit a bomb is not how this team won two consecutive American League Championships and one World Series.
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But the game the Royals played on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Rays looked more familiar.
Why trying to hit home runs doesn’t work
Fred McGriff was once asked how he hit 30 home runs a season on such a regular basis — he did it 10 times — and McGriff said there was a certain pitch in a certain location that he would hit out of the park and 30 times a year some pitcher would throw it to him.
That answer is revealing.
McGriff was saying there’s no point in trying to hit home runs; if you don’t get the right pitch you can’t do it and if you do get the right pitch the ball will go out on its own.
Just look at Drew Butera’s third-inning inning homer on Monday night.
Drew was in a 3-1 count and obviously looking for a fastball. He got one on the inside part of the plate, pulled his hands in to get the bat head to the ball and — bang — the ball left the park.
Butera homered because he got the right pitch.
This season too many Royals players have been trying to hit home runs on the wrong pitch and Royals fans know how that’s worked out.
Home runs can certainly come in handy and nobody is going to turn one down, but there’s a difference between trying to hit a home run and letting yourself hit a home run.
The Royals kept the line moving and scored six more runs
In 2014 and 2015, fans became familiar with the Royals “keep the line moving” offensive philosophy.
It’s just what it sounds like; you don’t have to do it all yourself, just find a way to get on base and keep the line moving. With the exception of the Butera homer, that’s just what the Royals did on Monday night and it led to six more runs.
But for that philosophy to work, everybody’s got to buy in.
To keep the line moving you need a string of good things happening and if one guy decides to be a hero — which we’ve seen all too often this season — the chain can break.
On Monday night, the Royals kept the line moving.
The Royals pressured the Rays defense
In the third inning, with Alcides Escobar on second base, Lorenzo Cain hit a groundball up the middle.
Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier charged the ball and in his haste to throw Esky out at the plate, managed to miss the ball entirely. The ball rolled toward the fence while Cain circled the bases.
Some errors are random — a guy just gets sloppy — but other errors are forced.
Teams that get the ball in play and run the bases aggressively can force errors, passed balls and wild pitches. On Monday night, the Royals ran aggressively, stole four bases and four Tampa Bay errors led to four Kansas City runs.
On Monday night, the Royals looked like the aggressive, opportunistic team that won it all two seasons ago.
But can the Royals play like this consistently?
No game rewards consistency like baseball.
Knowing how you want to play the game and using that approach to grind your way through a season is how you become a winning team.
At times the 2017 Royals have looked like the championship teams that pitched well, played great defense, got the ball in play and ran like hell.
At other times the 2017 Royals have looked like a team that’s swinging for the fences, striking out in crucial spots, losing focus on defense and making bad pitches when it matters most.
On Monday night, the Royals played Royals baseball and beat the Rays 7-3, but can they be consistent and do it again Tuesday?
Game time is 6:15 p.m.; tune in and see what happens.