Judging the Royals

Eight mistakes that helped end the Royals’ winning streak

The Royals’ Eric Hosmer watched as the Boston Red Sox celebrated a 9-8 win in 10 innings Saturday night in Boston.
The Royals’ Eric Hosmer watched as the Boston Red Sox celebrated a 9-8 win in 10 innings Saturday night in Boston. AP

On Saturday night the Red Sox beat the Royals and ended Kansas City’s nine-game winning streak. Both teams had a chance to win the game, but both teams played sloppy baseball and made mistakes.

Making mistakes and losing games is part of baseball; it happens to every team, even good ones. But bad teams just keep making the same mistakes while good teams learn from them.

Here are eight mistakes that helped end the Royals’ winning streak.

The walk in the fourth inning

It can be a very good idea to walk the right batter in the right situation. Smart pitchers will often work around hot batters with a base open and a runner in scoring position.

But a walk Trevor Cahill issued in the fourth inning doesn’t fit that description.

Mitch Moreland came into the game hitting .239; over his previous seven games Moreland hit .091. The Red Sox first baseman has 12 home runs, but hadn’t hit one in his last 24 games. But with two outs in the fourth inning, Trevor Cahill walked Moreland and Moreland came around to score.

Mitch Moreland went 0-for-4 Saturday night; get him out in the fourth inning, and the Royals win in nine.

The missed catch in the fourth inning

With two outs in the fourth inning and Moreland on first base, Christian Vasquez hit a fly ball into the right-center gap. Royals right fielder Jorge Bonifacio looked like he was going to make a running catch for the third out of the inning, but at the last second Bonifacio veered away from the ball.

Apparently Bonifacio thought center fielder Lorenzo Cain was going to make the catch, but that wasn’t the case; the ball dropped for an RBI double and Moreland scored from first base – after a wild pitch and a single, Vasquez also scored.

Catch the fly ball, and the Royals win in nine innings.

The five longest winning streaks in Kansas City Royals history have been at least 10 games. The 1977 Royals recorded two winning streaks of more than 10 games.

The error in the fifth inning

With two outs and a runner on third base, Moreland hit a chopper to third baseman Mike Moustakas. Infielders like to move forward when fielding a ball; it puts them on the balls of their feet and in good fielding position.

But in this case, Mike gave ground to create a long hop and played the ball off to his side. It’s a play Moustakas has made countless times before, but this time the ball went off his glove and the runner on third scored.

Make the play on Moreland, and the Royals win in nine innings.

The walk in the seventh inning

Ryan Buchter came in to pitch the seventh inning and walked, Andrew Benintendi, the first batter he faced. Walking a fast guy to start an inning is rarely a good idea; the offense has all three outs available to move the runner around the bases.

Buchter had control problems and after walking Benintendi, he walked Hanley Ramirez and that put Benintendi on second base.

The passed ball in the seventh inning

Buchter has made two appearances for the Royals and, in his first appearance, his catcher was Drew Butera; Saturday night his catcher was Salvador Perez.

After walking two straight batters, Buchter was throwing nothing but fastballs and, with Jackie Bradley at the plate and Benintendi on second base, Perez missed one. The passed ball allowed Benintendi to advance to third base and score on Bradley’s sac fly.

Without the leadoff walk or the passed ball, Benintendi doesn’t score, and the Royals win in nine innings.

The wild pitch in the eighth inning

Saturday night Royals pitchers had five wild pitches, which sounds bad, but there are times a pitcher wants to throw a pitch in the dirt. When a pitcher gets ahead in the count he might bounce his nastiest breaking pitch; the pitcher is hoping the batter chases it and his catcher blocks it.

But it’s a tactic that can go wrong if everything doesn’t go right.

The pitch might shoot off at a weird angle if it hits a rough spot in the dirt or the side of the plate, or the catcher might get lazy and reach for the ball with his mitt instead of blocking it with his body.

With a runner on first base and Rafael Devers at the plate, Joakim Soria threw a curve in the dirt. Whether the pitch was blockable is debatable: Soria missed by quite a bit and Salvador Perez didn’t keep the ball in front of him.

The runner, Brock Holt, moved up to second base and after Devers singled to left field, advanced to third, then scored on Mookie Betts sac fly. The inning ended when Eduardo Nunez hit into a double play.

No wild pitch, and the Royals win in nine innings.

The wild pitch in the 10th inning

After Salvador Perez was pulled for a pinch runner, Drew Butera replaced Perez behind the plate.

With runners on first and second base, Royals reliever Mike Minor threw his third wild pitch of the game. Both runners moved 90 feet and, with a runner on third base and one out, the Royals brought their infield in.

That wild pitch set up what happened next.

The play at the plate in the 10th inning

Eduardo Nunez hit a weak, but well-placed, ground ball, and shortstop Alcides Escobar was forced to make a diving stop. Escobar rolled over and made a throw from the seat of his pants to get Nunez at first base, the second out of the inning.

Meanwhile, the runner on third base, Sandy Leon, headed for home.

Eric Hosmer threw the ball to Butera; he caught it and turned to tag Leon but missed him. Leon scored and that ended the game.

On plays at the plate catchers are encouraged to anchor their left foot on the third-base corner of home plate. That way they know where they are and where the runner will eventually be. But these days we see catchers well out in front of home plate, receiving the throw and then turning to make the tag.

Butera was out in front of the plate, which made for a long tag, but after the game Ned Yost declined to criticize Butera positioning and Butera said he was satisfied with where he set up. But had Butera been closer to home plate he might have made the tag and the Royals would have kept playing.

When the Royals get back in town, I’ll ask about that play and if I hear anything interesting, I’ll write about it.

In a game that lasted four hours and 45 minutes, there were any number of plays that could have changed the outcome; but these eight mistakes (seven, if the Royals were OK with Butera’s positioning) helped end the Royals winning streak.