Friday night the Royals faced a pitcher who came into the game with an ERA over 6.00. The pitcher with the bad ERA was pitching for a last place team. This is the kind of game good teams have to win, but the Red Sox beat the Royals 4-2.
Sloppy baseball and not enough offense. On the defensive side of the ball the Royals made another error, had a passed ball, a wild pitch and hit two batters. On the offensive side of the ball the Royals had a total of four hits. Kansas City allowed two unearned runs and lost by—you guessed it—two runs.
Until the Royals starting hitting, the pitching and defense need to be almost perfect. Too many mistakes and not enough offense led to another Royals loss.
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Pitch selection is hurting the offense
After the game manager Ned Yost said it’s normal to make mistakes, but the offense has to be able to cover them; if you give a couple runs away you have to hit well enough to get them back.
Right now the Royals continue to make journeyman pitchers look good by chasing pitcher’s pitches early in the count. With two strikes a hitter has to cover borderline pitches, but we’re seeing the Royals chase those pitches with one strike or even no strikes.
Until the Royals make opposing pitchers throw the ball over the plate the offense will struggle and guys like Alan Webster will give them trouble.
Why a strikeout can be a quality at bat
In the second inning Eric Hosmer struck out, but saw nine pitches while doing so. Any time a hitter sees eight or more pitches teams consider that a quality at-bat; the hitter made the pitcher work.
How a quick inning can hurt the opposing pitcher
Yordano Ventura threw seven pitches in the fourth inning and anytime a pitcher gets three outs that quickly, pay attention to what happens in the next half inning. The opposing pitcher doesn’t get much rest and it can show.
In the bottom of the fourth Allen Webster walked the leadoff batter—Alex Gordon—then gave up a two-run homer run to Eric Hosmer. Webster allowed two more singles before he got the bleeding stopped.
The umpire called a strike a strike
Home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez was calling strikes even if the pitcher missed the mitt—if the ball was in the zone, Gonzalez would call it. A lot of umpires won’t do this because it looks bad when the catcher has to lurch to catch the ball.
Give Gonzalez credit for calling strikes strikes.
A bright spot: Greg Holland pitched
In the ninth inning Greg Holland pitched for the first time in a long while and it looked like his velocity was down a bit. His first two fastballs were in the low 90s, but he hit 95 before the inning was over. He spiked a couple breaking pitches, but struck out the side.
If Holland is healthy it will be a big deal—if the Royals can get a lead in the later innings.
A reader’s comment
After Thursday’s game I wrote that David Ortiz had hit the ball to the opposite field against a shift and a reader left the following comment:
Interesting that Ortiz (a great hitter) so often chooses to go with the pitch instead of trying to pull it. When he does, he is also deciding that he isn't going to swing for the fences. Based on their track record, it doesn't seem that our guys are willing/able to adopt that same mindset.
I know it's not easy to go opposite field against the shift (or everyone would do it) but it seems reasonable to assume that the shift isn't going away any time soon (especially against the Royals) given the positive results and the seeming hesitancy to adopt a different hitting approach. The old axiom "change or die" seems appropriate for the guys our leadership is relying on (Moose, Hosmer, Sal). They HAVE TO learn how to beat it or it will continue to beat them.
Both Hosmer and Perez can go the other way; I’ve seen them do it. So can Moustakas, although he doesn’t do it as much. Mike has picked up a few hits lately when he went to left field against the shift.
There are two schools of thought on hitting against a shift:
Don’t let them take you out of your game. If you’re a pull hitter with power, get up on top of the plate, make every pitch an inside pitch and then let it rip—do your thing. But you better drive in enough runs to make this approach worthwhile.
Work at going the other way in batting practice; get comfortable doing it, take your hits and that will eventually force teams to stop shifting on you. Then you can get back to pulling the ball.
If you come early fans can watch BP and see if the hitters are working on going the other way. If you don’t work on it before the game, you won’t be able to do it once the game starts.
Another reader’s comment
This one was left after the Royals played some shoddy defense in Thursday’s game:
Three errors last night and something like nineteen in the last week or two. Is the team feeling the pressure of the pennant race or just the odds catching up with them? The guys on the broadcast last night suggested they were tired, having arrived back in KC in the middle of the night. Any thoughts?
I have no way of knowing what’s in the players’ heads, but a couple things seem possible. Yeah, the players are tired at this time of year. In past years it hasn’t made much difference because the Royals weren’t in contention.
The team did get in late after the Detroit series ended and early work was cancelled on Thursday; the players were allowed to show up later and the clubhouse opened later than it normally does. But a late plane flight doesn’t explain how the Royals played on Friday.
I couldn’t tell you if the players are feeling pressure; but baseball rewards consistency. If you see a player make a mistake it’s probably because he’s trying to do too much, go to fast, hit the ball too far—it’s hard to back off when your mind is telling you to hurry.
George Brett had a phrase he’s repeat to himself in big situations: "Try easier". That’s easier said than done, but the Royals need to figure out how to make it happen—and soon.