Judging the Royals

Royals knock off the Orioles on a weird day at the K

Kansas City Royals pitcher Chris Young during Sunday’s game.
Kansas City Royals pitcher Chris Young during Sunday’s game. jsleezer@kcstar.com

If you heard the Royals starting pitcher would only throw 3  2/3 innings while giving up five runs, you would probably assume the Royals lost; after all, they were playing one of the best teams in the AL, the Baltimore Orioles.

And if you heard the Orioles scored eight runs total, you would probably once again assume the Royals lost; after all, coming into the game the Royals were 1-15 when the other team scores five or more runs.

Surprise!

The Royals scored nine runs, beat the Orioles and swept the series.

But it wasn’t easy.

Why Chris Young got the start

A lot of armchair managers were grumpy about Chris Young being given Sunday’s start, because C.Y. has not been exactly lights out in 2017.

But of Young’s eight appearances this season, four were scoreless and he had good overall numbers against this particular group of Baltimore Orioles.

And the Royals bullpen was not exactly overflowing with better options.

(I started to list how many starts the other guys in the bullpen had — most of them have never started a big-league game — but this thing is going to be long enough without that.)

So Young got the start and it went OK for three innings.

If you want to be mad at Ned Yost and the Royals — and I’m pretty sure some people do — jump on the fact that once C.Y. started getting hit, Yost didn’t get him out sooner.

Once Mark Trumbo, Hyun Soo Kim and Ryan Flaherty had hit line drives in the fourth inning, should Young have faced Caleb Joseph?

Joseph hit a two-run homer and then Young was pulled with the score 5-0.

The Royals offense comes back with the help of Manny Machado

In the bottom of the fourth, the Royals offense showed some of its old resiliency and put up a five-spot to tie the game, and after that it was a battle of the bullpens which the Royals won; but not without a little help from Baltimore third baseman, Manny Machado.

Time to get to the weird stuff:

In the fifth inning with runners on first and second, Alcides Escobar laid down a bunt. The Orioles had their first and third baseman charging toward the plate while their shortstop covered third and their second baseman covered first.

Do the math and you can quickly figure out nobody was covering second base.

So guess where Manny Machado threw the ball?

Manny sailed the ball into center field and that allowed the runner on second base (Alex Gordon) to come all the way around and score, and the runner on first base (Drew Butera) to go all the way to third.

So when Mike Moustakas hit a groundball to second base, Butera scored to give the Royals a two-run lead and the Royals would go on to win 9-8.

What the Royals see in Jorge Soler

For the most part, Royals fans have mostly seen Jorge Soler’s downside: he’s not a great defender, he’s not fast and he probably isn’t going to hit for a lot of average.

On Sunday, Royals fans got to see Soler’s upside: he hit a laser beam of a home run that almost knocked the batter’s eye down.

So now you know what the Royals see in him.

But the question still remains: will Soler do enough with his bat to make up for that he does with his glove?

The sun changes who needs to make the catch

In the top of the second inning, Ryan Flaherty singled on a high pop fly that dropped right next to Mike Moustakas.

When players are battling the sun they’ll hold their glove up to shade their eyes and wait for the ball to appear above it. Moose said he waited for the ball to come out of the sun and it never happened. Escobar was right next to him, but never called for the ball.

When a player is blinded by the sun he needs to let the guy next to him know he can’t see the ball; maybe the guy next to him will have a better angle.

So early in the game the sun might be in left fielder’s Alex Gordon’s eyes, and that means he’ll want center fielder Lorenzo Cain helping out on balls in the left-center gap. A few innings later Cain might be the one with the problem, so Gordon will take those balls those balls in the left-center gap.

The player that needs to make the catch changes as the day goes on.

(And if you enjoyed that last nugget of information, thank MLB’s Jeffrey Flanagan; he’s the one that passed it along after talking with Alex Gordon.)

Peter Moylan issues a good walk

In the seventh inning with two down, runners at first and third and one-run lead, Royals reliever Peter Moylan walked Ryan Flaherty. The walk pushed the go-ahead run into scoring position, so you might think it was a bad walk; but it wasn’t.

Moylan is right-handed and for his career, righties hit .218 off him; Flaherty is left-handed and lefties hit .306 off Moylan. And so far this season those platoon splits have been even more dramatic; .209 for righties, .500 for lefties.

Moylan knew the Orioles had no left-handed pinch-hitters available, so he wasn’t going to give the lefty he was facing a pitch to hit.

But if that was the case, why did Moylan throw a backdoor slider for a strike with the count 2-0?

In a 2-0 count, hitters are looking for something down the pipe; not backdoor sliders. So Moylan could slip in a strike and hope to convince Flaherty he was actually going to get a pitch to hit; maybe Flaherty would get in swing mode and chase pitches.

But Flaherty didn’t bite, so Moylan walked him and moved on to right-hander Caleb Joseph. Moylan threw sinkers down and in and the results were predictable; a groundball to Mike Moustakas for the third out of the inning.

Peter Moylan walking Ryan Flaherty might not seem like a big moment in a game that had plenty of them; but it does provide insight into how big league pitchers think.

When a pitcher walks a batter it’s neither good nor bad; it depends on who got walked and when the walk was issued.

So remember that the next time you look at a pitcher’s WHIP.

The Royals win six of the last seven and face the Yankees next

The Royals are approaching the 40 games that Dayton Moore says he uses to judge a team’s potential and the Royals’ potential looks awfully different than it did just seven games ago.

On Tuesday, the Royals start a three-game series against the New York Yankees.

Talk to you then.

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