Judging the Royals

Gordon is scuffling with the bat but helping the Royals win games with his defense

Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon dove for an out on Cleveland Indians’ Carlos Santana last week. Lee Judge writes that Gordon is helping the Royals win games with his defense.
Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon dove for an out on Cleveland Indians’ Carlos Santana last week. Lee Judge writes that Gordon is helping the Royals win games with his defense. jsleezer@kcstar.com

If you’re a Royals fan you already know that Alex Gordon has been in an offensive slump that carried over from last year.

But half the game is defense.

Even though Gordon is scuffling at the plate, he can still help the Royals win games with his glove and if you need evidence you don’t have to look any further then Friday night’s game against the Baltimore Orioles.

The Royals won by a score of 3-2 and Gordon prevented two runs; one obvious, another less so.

In the third inning Mark Trumbo tried to score from second base on a single hit into shallow left field. Because the ball was in front of him, Gordon had his momentum headed toward home plate and the results were predictable – Trumbo was thrown out easily.

That’s the obvious run Gordon prevented.

The less-obvious run prevented happened in the fifth inning.

Adam Jones hit what appeared to be a double in the left-center gap; but Gordon ran a great route, cut the ball off and made a quick throw to second. Jones, who came around first like a man intent on taking two, had to hit the brakes and settle for a single.

Next, Manny Machado hit a deep fly ball to centerfield and if Jones had been on second base he would have tagged and advanced to third easily.

Then Mark Trumbo hit a groundball up the middle and if Jones had been on third base, he would have scored, but because Jones was still at first base the Royals were able to turn an inning-ending double play.

Friday night Alex Gordon went 0-for-1 at the plate; he didn’t drive in a run or score one, but he did prevent two runs in a 3-2 win and that seems worth mentioning.

Jorge Soler’s defense also made a difference

Like a lot of outfielders who don’t go back on the ball well, Royals right fielder Jorge Soler plays deep.

But in the second inning playing deep backfired when J.J. Hardy hit a sinking line drive in front of Soler. Because he started in Eastern Jackson County, Soler couldn’t get there in time, but dove for the ball anyway and compounded that mistake when he didn’t knock the ball down.

That allowed Hardy to make it all the way to third base while Lorenzo Cain chased the ball down. Hardy later scored, but – to be fair – even if Soler had pulled up and played it for a single, subsequent events showed Hardy probably would have scored anyway.

Nevertheless, there was still a lesson to be learned and apparently Soler didn’t learn it.

With a one-run lead in the ninth inning Soler once again made the same mistake: this time on a sinking fly ball off the bat of Caleb Joseph. Soler dove, whiffed the catch and allowed the ball to get past him for another triple.

Luckily, pinch-hitter Seth Smith hit a pop up to left field to end the game.

With a one-run lead in the ninth inning, if an outfielder isn’t sure of making the catch, play it for a single and let the closer do his stuff. If an outfielder decides to leave his feet, he better be able to at least knock the ball down and keep the damage to a minimum.

When Gordon is not hitting he can still help his team with his glove; but if what we’ve seen so far is any indication, Soler is going to need to hit a ton.

Brandon Moss hits his fifth home run

Brandon Moss is currently hitting .155 and has punched out 35 times in 94 plate appearances.

Not so hot.

But Friday night Moss hit a baseball 456 feet and it wound up in the second level of fountains in right field. That was the fifth home run hit by Moss in the first 35 games the Royals have played in 2017.

That means Moss is on pace to hit 23 home runs this season; not eye-popping, but last season that would have made him the third most prolific home run hitter on the Royals roster and it would be the fourth-best season for homers that Moss has ever had.

Saying someone is "on pace" to do something is pretty much meaningless because it assumes conditions will remain constant and we all know that's about as likely as me being asked to play power forward for the San Antonio Spurs.

If Moss is on the roster to hit home runs, so far he’s doing that, but most of the time home runs have a cost and it’s paid in low batting averages and strikeouts.

How a rally on Thursday can help the Royals win on Saturday

One of the main goals of this column is to point out the less-than obvious things that happen on a baseball field and here’s another one for you to think about:

On Thursday afternoon the Royals were up 1-0 on the Tampa Bay Rays going into the top of the eighth inning. The Royals had a five-run rally and that meant Ned Yost could use Matt Strahm and Al Alburquerque to finish the game.

But if the score had remained 1-0 the relievers probably would have been set-up man Joakim Soria and closer Kelvin Herrera; the two relievers who threw Friday night.

And if Soria and Herrera had been used both Thursday and Friday, it’s likely neither would be available on Saturday. But because the offense rallied on Thursday, Ned has every reliever available on Saturday.

Enjoy tonight’s game.