Judging the Royals

The Rays beat the Royals 12-1; why Ned Yost didn’t pull Jason Hammel

Kansas City Royals starter Jason Hammel.
Kansas City Royals starter Jason Hammel. The Associated Press

If you’re wondering how the heck the Rays scored 12 runs and the Royals scored only one, here’s a one-sentence explanation:

Chris Archer was sharp as a tack and Jason Hammel wasn’t.

After three innings, it was clear Hammel didn’t have it Wednesday night; in those first three innings he hit a batter, walked one, allowed three singles, two home runs and four runs.

So if Hammel was having a bad night, why didn’t Ned Yost pull him?

Go back to the “Chris Archer was sharp as a tack” part of the explanation.

Managers will never admit to giving up on a game, but in reality, sometimes they have to. If a manager thinks his odds of winning a game aren’t good, he might set his sights on a different goal; avoid blowing out his bullpen.

That’s why Hammel stayed, took one for the team and pitched seven innings.

The only reliever Ned had to use was Peter Moylan and that allowed the bullpen to rest and gives the Royals a better chance of winning on Thursday.

It’s no fun to watch, but wasting quality bullpen innings on a game you won’t win is not good managing; it can turn one loss into two.

Where do the Royals stand 33 games into the season?

After Wednesday night’s loss, the Royals’ record is 12-21; seven games away from the 40 games general manager Dayton Moore says he uses to gauge a team’s potential.

But before you throw in the towel on 2017, remember:

In 2014 the Royals were 16-17 after 33 games and trailing the Detroit Tigers who started the season 21-12. But, as we all know, the Royals got hot and made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series.

So before Dayton decides to fish or cut bait this year, he has to decide if he thinks the current Royals have the potential to go on the same kind of hot streak. This season nobody is running away with the division and the Royals are currently 6 games behind the Cleveland Indians.

If Dayton sticks to his 40-game time span to decide what to do, the next seven games are crucial and six of those games are against the Orioles (22-11) and Yankees (21-10).

It’s time for the Royals to step up.

Christian Colon is designated for assignment

When a team gives a lot of money to a player or drafts him in the early rounds, that player will be given every chance to prove the team made the right choice; it’s how front office guys keep their jobs.

But if the player does not turn out to be what the team thought he could be, at some point the team has to move on.

Christian Colon was a guy who could give you a solid plate appearance and Royals fans know he played a huge roll in the playoff success of the 2014 and 2015 teams. Colon scored the winning run in the 2014 Wild Card Game and came up with the go-ahead hit in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.

The rap on Colon was that he didn’t have the arm to play the left side of the infield and didn’t have the range to play second base, so it was hard to put him in the lineup on a regular basis.

Assuming somebody else picks him up and lets him play every day, Christian will have the chance to prove the Royals wrong.

What Chris Archer did wrong when he hit Salvador Perez

In the second inning, Chris Archer had Salvador Perez in a 1-2 count and threw a slider on the outer half; Perez hit a rocket up the middle. Archer avoided the line drive, but had to throw himself out of the way to do so. His glove went flying and Archer wound up lying flat on his back.

In the fifth inning, Salvy hit another single.

In the seventh, Archer — a guy who had pinpoint control all night long — came way inside and drilled Salvy with a 95 mph fastball.

Archer immediately threw up his hands in a “my-bad” gesture, which indicated Archer didn’t do it on purpose. Salvy wasn’t buying it, moved toward the mound and had words for Archer.

So let’s try to sort this out according to the old-school baseball code.

If Archer really didn’t mean to hit Salvy, indicating he didn’t do it on purpose is a mistake; if hitters think a pitcher is willing to drill them with a fastball to make a point that can be intimidating. If you hit somebody accidentally, use it.

If Archer really did mean to hit Salvy, pretending he didn’t do it on purpose is kinda cowardly.

Royals fans might not have liked it, but when Noah Syndergaard went up-and-in on Alcides Escobar in the 2015 World Series, the Mets pitcher got points for admitting he did it and saying if anyone had a problem with it, they could meet him at the mound.

And as Syndergaard pointed out, a batter that gets hit and doesn’t like it can do something about it; if the batter decides not to make it an issue he can walk down to first base.

Batters who decide to split the difference and point and talk, but never do anything are seen as “huffin’ and puffin’ ” —talking like a tough guy, but not doing what real tough guys do.

If the Royals decide to retaliate; who gets drilled?

If the Royals want to make a point, they’ll drill someone on the Rays that makes it obvious it’s in retaliation for Archer hitting Perez.

So that probably means the Rays catcher or the guy hitting fifth in the lineup will be the target; that evens things up.

John Gibbons — the Blue Jays manager — once told me that when guys figure out that they’re the likely victim, they might spend some part of batting practice telling the other team that they’re pretty sure the first hit-by-pitch was an accident.

When you watch Thursday’s game, keep an eye out for a Rays player getting drilled; that will tell you the Royals pitchers intend to protect their catcher.

And if nobody gets hit, that tells you something, too.

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