Judging the Royals

Why Ned Yost didn’t change his lineup after Astros scratched Dallas Keuchel

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost didn’t change his lineup after the Astros made a late scratch.
Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost didn’t change his lineup after the Astros made a late scratch. jsleezer@kcstar.com

About 10 minutes before the start of Wednesday night’s Royals-Astros game, it was announced that Dallas Keuchel would not start. If the Royals were disappointed to miss the chance to face Houston’s ace, they hid that disappointment well.

It was probably like having a root canal scheduled and then finding out your dentist called in sick.

So instead of facing a left-handed pitcher who is 9-0 with an ERA of 1.67, the Royals got to face Dayan Diaz, a right-handed pitcher who had a total of 7  1/3 major-league innings and a career ERA of 11.05.

Sure, the Royals got lucky when Dallas Keuchel started feeling ill, but the Astros got lucky when Danny Duffy got injured.

Theoretically, it all evens out and on Wednesday night the Royals beat the Astros 7-5.

How players prepare to play

The only lefties in the Royals original lineup were Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, so Ned Yost was asked why he didn’t switch his lineup around to take advantage of facing a right-handed pitcher.

The answer was pretty simple.

Players have one routine if they’re going to start a game — pregame meal, workouts, etc. — and another if they’re coming off the bench. I once asked Alex Gordon what he had to do to get ready to play a game and he said it was a pretty long list.

That being the case, Ned decided not to mess with his players about 10 minutes before game time.

Power pitchers vs. locators

Before the game — when we all thought Keuchel was still pitching — I told Rusty Kuntz maybe Keuchel would have an off night and Rusty made an interesting point, which now that I think about it, is pretty much what Rusty does for a living.

Anyway, Rusty said power pitchers were more likely to have off nights than location guys.

Guys like Keuchel and Jason Vargas — guys whose fastballs top out in the high 80s — are in the big leagues because they can locate the ball. They don’t have the stuff to get away with missing spots, so they have to be more consistent with location.

I haven’t done exhaustive research to see if Rusty’s opinion holds water, but in Keuchel’s worst outing of 2017 he allowed five runs, but still pitched eight innings. Wednesday night Vargas wasn’t sharp, but still allowed two runs over five innings.

And that was good enough to get Vargas a win.

How the Royals scored their first run

Pretty much a replay of Whit Merrifield’s bases-loaded double from Tuesday night: a Houston shift backfired.

With two outs and Salvador Perez on first base, Diaz threw Cheslor Cuthbert a changeup.

The Astros had left fielder Josh Reddick pushed over toward the left-center alley and when Cuthbert put the changeup in play he hit it into the left-field corner. That meant Reddick had a long run to retrieve the ball and that allowed Salvador Perez — not the fastest human being on the planet — to score from first base.

Reddick didn’t do anything wrong; he was just positioned in the general vicinity of Blue Springs.

If team’s are going to play dramatic shifts, pitchers have to pitch to those shifts and when they don’t, guys like Salvador Perez can score from first.

Altuve’s sacrifice bunt probably wasn’t

Scorekeepers sometimes have to divine what was in a player’s mind before deciding how to score a play and understanding the game situation helps.

If you look at the box score from Wednesday night’s game, you’ll see Jose Altuve was credited with a sacrifice bunt, but it’s more likely Altuve was bunting for a hit and happened to move a runner along while doing so.

There was already one down in the inning when Altuve bunted and unless you’re a pitcher in the National League, it’s rare to sacrifice bunt with one out, Altuve had not laid a sac bunt down all year and only one team in the AL bunts less than Houston. (And if you guessed Baltimore was the one team that bunts less, congratulations.)

Remember: just because you see it in a box score, doesn’t make it so.

The Astros series, Game 4

The Astros came into town as the hottest team in the league and the Royals have beaten them two out of three. On Thursday night the Royals get the chance to make it three out of four. So do the Royals have momentum?

As Earl Weaver once said: “Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.”

And tonight that guy is Jason Hammel.

Enjoy the game.

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