Judging the Royals

Red Sox 8, Royals 4: How the game fell apart in the sixth inning

Royals reliever Aaron Crow watched as the grand-slam ball off the bat of Boston’s Daniel Nava cleared the right- field wall in the sixth inning Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
Royals reliever Aaron Crow watched as the grand-slam ball off the bat of Boston’s Daniel Nava cleared the right- field wall in the sixth inning Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. The Kansas City Star

When you’ve got Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland in your bullpen, the goal is to get through six innings with a lead. If you do that, your odds of winning are very good … 59-3 good.

Starting pitcher Jason Vargas began the sixth with a one-run lead, but he was facing the Boston Red Sox order for the third time. Vargas was starting to elevate the ball and gave up a single, another single and with the tying run in scoring position, a fly ball that allowed both runners to advance. The tying run was on third, the go-ahead run was on second. Manager Ned Yost didn’t want to bring his infield in at that point. A routine ground ball could have sneaked through and allowed the Sox to take the lead.

Vargas came out of the game, and Aaron Crow came in to face Yoenis Cespedes. With first base open, Crow pitched Cespedes carefully and walked him. That loaded the bases and put the Royals a double-play ground ball away from getting out of the jam. Crow then struck out Allen Craig. The Royals were one out away from giving the ball to Kelvin Herrera in the seventh inning with a lead. But Daniel Nava hit a grand slam, the Red Sox went up 7-4 and the Royals never got the ball to Herrera.

The Red Sox beat the Royals 8-4.

Why Yost didn’t bring in a lefty to face Nava

Nava hits .158 against lefties and .286 against righties. So with the game on the line in the sixth inning, why didn’t Yost bring in a left-handed reliever to face Nava?

Because Yost thought the Red Sox would pinch-hit Mike Napoli for Nava, and Napoli hits .300 against lefties. Yost liked the Crow-Nava match up better.

Why not bring Herrera in early?

It’s not against the rules to bring in Herrera in the sixth inning with one out. Asked about that after the game Yost said Crow had the sixth and Herrera had the seventh. For better or worse managers tend to like set roles for their relievers, but if the game was decided in the sixth inning, it’s worth asking if getting inventive with 13 games left in the season is worth a try.

Game notes

▪ David Ross was walked twice and scored twice. He was hitting .188 the first time he was walked and .186 the second time he walked. The two times the Royals threw strikes to Ross, he struck out.

▪ In the seventh inning, Jarrod Dyson hit a ground ball with a runner on first and pretty much coasted down the line. For a guy whose game is based on speed, it wasn’t much of an effort.

▪ There won’t be an error in the box score, but Alcides Escobar missed a double play when he tagged second, then pulled Eric Hosmer off the bag with his throw to first.

▪ In the ninth inning with the bases loaded and Lorenzo Cain at the plate, Red Sox reliever Edward Mujica threw a wild pitch. Cain signaled frantically for the runner on third, Mike Moustakas, to break for home plate, but Moose stayed put. That was the right decision. The Royals were down by four runs. Taking a chance on getting thrown out at the plate so the Royals could be down by three runs made no sense.

▪ Yost apparently got roasted on social media for Saturday’s lineup change, but at least that night it worked. Ask people with the team, and they will tell you the lineup change was a good idea. The players were looking for some kind of change. That’s why players adjust the lengths of their pants, get new pairs of batting gloves or change the bats they are using. A change of some sort — any sort — can give you a mental break. After Sunday’s game, they may need another one.

▪ If you’re looking for a pattern to the recent errors made by the Royals, ask yourself who is making them and howthat player is hitting. I’ve got no way of knowing what’s in players’ heads, but it’s not uncommon for a guy who is hitting poorly to take his at-bats out on the field with him. He is thinking about that last strikeout and gets caught flat-footed when a ball is hit in his direction. You have to separate your offense and defense.

The opposite can also happen. A guy who is daydreaming about the hit he just got can also get caught flat-footed on defense.

How I screwed up on Twitter

I said the game was tied when the Royals were still up by one run. Here’s how that happened:

The very first piece of advice when I started this job came from Tim Bogar, who is now the Texas Rangers’ manager. He told me to “watch the game.” That sounds a lot easier than it is.

Right now, the job requires reporters to juggle about five things at once. I try to watch the game on the field, keep an eye on MLB.com on my laptop, score the game, take notes for the game article in a Word document, take notes in a notebook for the postgame news conference and send out tweets on a regular basis.

And then if anyone decides to try talking to me while I’m juggling all this stuff, the job becomes even harder. (I’m looking at you, KCTV5’s Brad Fanning.) Anyway, it’s not an excuse, but it is an explanation.

If those of us in the media are going to do five things at once, our attention span will be limited.

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