Royals manager Ned Yost: "They were better than us tonight"
In 2017 when Royals pitchers allow four runs or less, the Royals have a winning record; five runs or more and the Royals have a losing record. The same goes for the Twins and the Tigers.
For the Indians and White Sox, the dividing line has been three runs; if those teams allow three runs or less they have a winning record, four runs or more and they have a losing record.
Keep all this in mind as we go along.
In the 10 games leading up to Friday’s game with the Indians, the Royals scored 60 runs. Six runs a game ought to be enough to win on a consistent basis and this season, when the Royals score four or more runs, they have a winning record.
But in the 10 games leading up to Friday’s game with the Indians, the Royals went 4-6 because they allowed 71 runs:
The Chicago White Sox scored 16 runs in three games, the Oakland A’s scored 18 runs in three games and the St. Louis Cardinals scored 37 runs in four games.
So even though the Royals offense averaged six runs a game, it couldn’t keep up with the Royals pitching staff which allowed an average of just over seven runs a game.
And that brings us to Friday night, the Cleveland Indians and Corey Kluber.
Kluber came into the game with an ERA of 2.71 and the Indians bullpen is the best in the American League. That being the case, the odds of the Indians giving up a lot of runs weren’t good, so the Royals pitchers had to keep the score low to give their offense a chance.
But in the first inning Royals starting pitcher Ian Kennedy gave up three runs.
In the third inning the Indians tacked on two more runs, in the sixth it was one more, in the seventh it was three more and, just in case anyone still had any doubts, in the top of the ninth Edwin Encarnacion hit a homer to make the score 10-1.
On most nights, in order to win, the Royals pitchers need to allow no more than four runs and lately they’ve had a hard time doing that.
They’ve got it in them; in July their record was 16-10 with an ERA of 3.91.
But if the Royals pitchers continue to allow runs at their current pace, on most nights, the Royals don’t stand a chance.
How the Royals pitching slows down the Royals offense
When the Royals are at their best they run the bases aggressively; they steal bags and take the extra 90 feet whenever possible. That aggressive base running puts pressure on the other team and we’ve all seen the other team crack under that pressure.
But in the bottom of the fifth inning, we saw how Royals pitching can slow down the Royals offense.
Alcides Escobar led that inning off with a single and had the game been closer, Escobar might have been running. But by that point the score was 5-1 so Escobar played it safe; the Royals don’t want to take risks to score a single run when that single run doesn’t mean a lot.
So that left the Royals swinging away, trying to score runs in bunches while facing Corey Kluber and on most nights, that isn’t going to work.
Jason Vargas and Trevor Bauer; what have they done lately?
On Saturday night the scheduled starters are Trevor Bauer (11-8, with an ERA of 4.72) and Jason Vargas (14-6 with an ERA of 3.45) so it might seem the Royals have an advantage.
But in Vargas’ last seven starts he’s given up six earned runs three times and has only made it through six innings twice.
The last time Trevor Bauer gave up as many as four earned runs was July 16 and since then his ERA has been 2.36 over the last 34 1/3 innings pitched.
This is why big league teams want to know what a player has done lately; over 162 games players and teams go through peaks and valleys so the overall numbers might be misleading. Everybody wants to know if they’re facing a pitcher who’s been scuffling lately or a pitcher who’s on a hot streak.
Lately Vargas has scuffled and Bauer’s been hot, but that can change in a heartbeat.
If Vargas and the relievers who follow him can hold the Indians to four runs or less, the Royals have a decent chance of winning; five runs or more and those chances of winning diminish.
Enjoy tonight’s game.