Judging the Royals

Is this the winning streak Royals fans have been waiting for?

Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez was congratulated by teammates after scoring on a single by Mike Moustakas during the seventh inning of Thursday’s game against the Angels.
Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez was congratulated by teammates after scoring on a single by Mike Moustakas during the seventh inning of Thursday’s game against the Angels. The Associated Press

On Thursday night, the Royals beat the Angels 7-2. It was the Royals’ fifth win in a row, brought their record to 31-34 and leaves them four games out of first place in the American League Central.

Fortunately, nobody is running away with the division, so every AL Central team has a chance.

If the Royals are going to avoid a yard sale, they need to get back in the race. And after a horrible start in April, that means going on some kind of winning streak to make up for stumbling out of the starting gate.

If you’re a Royals fan, this might be what you’ve been waiting for.

Why the triple is the hardest part of the cycle

Thursday night Alex Gordon went 3 for 5 — a single, a double and a home run — and finished the evening a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Every time someone hits for the cycle, or even comes close, someone is bound to say the triple is the hardest part of the feat; that’s because triples are rare and there’s a logical reason for that. (If you already know the reason, feel free to skip ahead, but if you do you might miss any jokes I make along the way.)

So where were we?

Oh, yeah, triples are rare.

As of this morning the Royals have 542 hits: 357 singles, 100 doubles, 79 home runs, but only six triples. Here’s why: you can single to any part of the field, find a gap and you can double to left or right, but to hit a triple you almost always have to hit it to right field.

If a right fielder has to go to the wall to pick up a baseball, he’s a long way from third base and that gives a runner time to take that extra 90 feet. A left fielder picking a ball up at the wall has a much shorter throw to third.

(OK, my bad…there weren’t any jokes in that section, so I owe you one.)

How good base running scores more runs

As fans, we pay a lot of attention to hitting and pitching, some attention to defense and almost no attention to base running. But good base running is how a team gets the most out of whatever hits they have.

Thursday night provided a perfect example of good base running and it was provided by one of the slowest guys on the team:

In the seventh inning, with Eric Hosmer on third and Salvador Perez on second, Mike Moustakas singled to right-center field. There were no outs and, in that situation, base runners and base coaches are usually cautious. Why get a guy thrown out at the plate when first and third with no outs is still a pretty good spot to be in?

But the player who picked up Moustakas’ groundball — Angels center fielder, Cameron Maybin — was moving sideways, into the right-center gap.

When an outfielder is moving toward the infield as he fields the ball, he’ll get off a good throw; when an outfielder is moving sideways his throw will be flat-footed and won’t have much on it.

So even though there were no outs and Perez had to hesitate to make sure the ball got through the infield, he made the turn at third and scored standing up.

After a mound visit, look fastball

Earlier in that seventh inning, the Angels changed pitchers and Eric Hosmer ambushed the first pitch Jose Alvarez threw. Hosmer narrowly missed hitting a home run and had to settle for a double — but it reminded me of a good piece of hitting advice.

After a mound visit, look fastball.

Coaches usually leave the pitching mound with some last-second advice about being aggressive and throwing strikes, and, for most pitchers, that means throwing a fastball and smart hitters look for it.

Why postgame interviews can be less than informative

Once a game is over the people who played it want to go home.

For a 7:15 game, players might show up around 1 p.m. to do early work, look at video or read scouting reports, so if a game ends at 10:30 p.m., those players have already had a long day.

So when they get asked about the game, players will often resort to clichés and emotional explanations; the team is clicking right now, our confidence is high, and so on. That’s because the real explanation is often complicated and at that point in the evening nobody — and that often includes the reporter who asked the question — wants to get into all that. The players want to go home and the reporters need to write their stories.

I was reminded of that when Angels manager Mike Scioscia gave a real answer when asked about pitcher Ricky Nolasco.

Scioscia said it was pretty simple: Nolasco couldn’t command the ball.

The Angels pitcher couldn’t find a consistent release point and that resulted in him having a hard time pitching to the glove side of the plate. Pitches that were supposed to be away to right-handed hitters and in to left-handed hitters were leaking back over the heart of the plate. That’s how you give up 10 hits and five runs in six innings.

Nolasco’s problem was not emotional, it was mechanical.

When a manager or player answers a question with real information, it’s usually worth hearing.

Friday’s game

It’s Ian Kennedy (0-6, 5.40 ERA) against Jesse Chavez (5-6, 5.06 ERA). It’s another late one, so grab some Folgers and enjoy the game.

We can all sleep in Saturday.