Judging the Royals

Why the Royals got to the Yankees in the seventh inning

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi. The Associated Press

On Tuesday night the Royals beat the Yankees 6-2.

The Yankees led 2-1 in the seventh inning when New York manager Joe Girardi pulled Jordan Montgomery, his starting pitcher. Montgomery’s replacement was Adam Warren, and Warren gave up a two-run homer to Jorge Bonifacio.

I’ve done the math and after Bonifacio’s bomb, the score was 3-2; it was a lead the Royals would never give back.

Seventh innings are often a turning point in ballgames and here’s why:

Look up the New York Yankees pitchers’ ERA by inning and you’ll see they have an ERA of 2.72 in the sixth and an ERA of 5.65 in the seventh. In the eighth inning it’s down to 2.09 and in the ninth it’s 3.82.

Look up the Kansas City Royals pitchers’ ERA by inning and in the sixth it’s 4.20 and in the seventh it’s 6.00. In the eighth it drops down to 3.00 and in the ninth their ERA is 3.27.

Why do both team’s ERA spike around the sixth and seventh innings and then drop again in the eighth and ninth?

Here’s a possible explanation and it’s a pretty good one (and I know it’s a pretty good one because someone a lot smarter than me provided it).

If the starting pitcher goes seven innings, he can hand the ball to the two best relievers in the bullpen; the eighth-inning set-up man and ninth-inning closer (low ERAs).

If the starting pitcher goes five or six innings; he hands the ball to a middle reliever who, generally speaking, isn’t as good as the set-up man and closer (higher ERA).

On Tuesday night, Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery went 6  2/3 innings and the failure to go seven is one of the reasons the Yankees lost.

Girardi pulls Montgomery and the game turns

For six innings Montgomery threw a shutout and only allowed one hit.

But if you watched the game closely, you knew he was on the edge; the Royals were lining out and hit several warning-track fly balls that narrowly missed clearing the fence.

So when Lorenzo Cain homered with one out in the seventh and Eric Hosmer followed up with a line out, Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided that was enough; his team had one-run lead and if Montgomery was losing it, time to get him out of there.

So Girardi called on reliever Adam Warren.

No matter how good a reliever’s overall numbers look — and Warren came into the game with an ERA of 2.25 — a manager never knows for sure what he’s going to get.

(Timeout: this is why some people in baseball are scornful of managers who like to show off their managing skills by using three relievers to get three outs — use enough relievers and you’re might find one who doesn’t have it.)

Now back to Tuesday night:

Warren had 15 outings coming into Tuesday’s game and 11 of them were scoreless; in the other four outings he gave up six earned runs in 6  2/3 innings. So in 2017, Warren has given the Yankees shutdown innings 73 percent of the time.

Tuesday night was one of those times Warren didn’t get the job done.

If Montgomery had stayed and gotten the third out of the inning and the ballgame went to the eighth with the score 2-1, Girardi might have gone to reliever Tyler Clippard.

In 2017, Clippard has had 21 outings and 18 of them have been scoreless; so Clippard has given the Yankees shutdown innings about 86 percent of the time, which — if you haven’t been paying attention — is better than Warren’s 73 percent of the time.

What if Girardi hadn’t pulled Montgomery?

There’s a saying in baseball: “People second-guess because their first guess isn’t worth a damn.”

We tend to wait until the smoke clears and, based on results we couldn’t have predicted, then say what the manager should have done instead of what he actually did.

Girardi pulled Montgomery before he got to the safety of his eighth-inning set-up man and it didn’t work out. But if Girardi hadn’t pulled Montgomery and Montgomery gave it up, we’d be happy to criticize Girardi for not acting in time.

Second-guessing is one of the reasons players and managers find being questioned by media members so delightful.

Danny Duffy made it through seven

One of the reasons real baseball managers tend to be less thrilled with strikeouts than people who manage fantasy teams, is that real baseball managers want their starting pitcher to go deep in the game.

If the starter goes seven innings, the manager can avoid those middle relievers.

Danny Duffy going seven innings allowed Ned Yost to go right to Joakim Soria and Kelvin Herrera, if he chose to.

The Royals tacked on three more runs in the eighth, Ned used Soria anyway (don’t know why, Soria didn’t appear to need the work), but gave the ball to Mike Minor in the ninth.

Pay attention to the sixth and seventh innings

It’s not the first time I’ve written this and it won’t be the last, but here it is again:

A lot of ballgames turn in the sixth and seventh innings.

Fans tend to lock in on the ninth when the game might be pretty much decided; if one team gets to its closer with a lead and the closer is a beast, the game is pretty much over.

Games often change when hitters come up for the third time or when the starter leaves the game, so the sixth and seventh innings are a big deal; it’s a bad time to go to the concession stand or hit the head.

That’s it for today…

Enjoy Wednesday night’s game.

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