Judging the Royals

The Royals beat the White Sox: How speed changed the game

The Royals' Alex Gordon grabs Terrance Gore after he scored the winning run on a walkoff hit by Lorenzo Cain in Monday's  ninth inning for a 4-3 win over the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals' Alex Gordon grabs Terrance Gore after he scored the winning run on a walkoff hit by Lorenzo Cain in Monday's ninth inning for a 4-3 win over the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. The Kansas City Star

With one down in the ninth inning and the Royals down by one run, Mike Moustakas came to the plate facing a left-handed shift. Mike—who has said he intends to hit the ball through or over the shift—took a 94-MPH fastball to the opposite field and doubled. That’s how the Royals rally started.

Jarrod Dyson then pinch ran for Moustakas. Alcides Escobar made the second out of the inning with a grounder to third and Dyson stayed at second base. Then with Nori Aoki at the plate, White Sox pitcher Jake Petricka threw a wild pitch—and Dyson scored from second base. It definitely helped that Dyson was stealing third at the time the wild pitch was thrown, but still an amazing way to score and tie the game.

Next Aoki doubled and Terrance Gore pinch ran for him at second. And then Lorenzo Cain—the luckiest ballplayer on earth—hit an 0-2 chopper up the middle for an infield single. Gore—who was also stealing third—scored from second base on a ball that never left the infield.

Speed changed the game and the Royals beat the White Sox, 4-3.

Game notes

*Chicago’s starting pitcher John Danks is left-handed and throws out of a slide step; that makes stealing bases tough. If Danks lifted his foot well off the ground, he was probably coming over to first base. Lifting the foot high was bait to get the runner to go; then he’d attempt a pickoff.

*Early on the wind was howling in from left field and it appeared to rob Omar Infante of a home run. I tweeted that pitchers can use the wind and someone wanted to know if I was joking—nope. Veteran pitchers and catchers will use the wind; they’ll let a guy hit the ball into a hurricane and count on the ball getting held up. That’s why you see guys turning around checking the flags on a regular basis: you gotta know what the wind is doing.

*Nori Aoki had four hits; two on check swings. He also made a sliding catch in the third that might have saved a run.

*The win was amazing, but don’t miss the fact that the Royals made John Danks look like an All-Star for six innings. Danks—who came in with an ERA over 4.90—gave up two hits and no runs. He was able to do this because Royals hitters kept chasing pitches out of the strike zone.

*In the seventh inning Alex Gordon robbed Adam Eaton of a double and that saved a run when the White Sox followed up with a couple singles. If Gordon hadn’t run down that line drive over his head, the Gore run would have tied the game, not won it.

*Billy Butler came to the plate in the eighth inning with the game on the line; the tying run was on third. Reliever Jake Petricka threw Billy a first-pitch down and in two-seamer and Billy grounded into a force out. That down and in sinker has been a popular pitch to throw to Butler this summer; he tends to rollover and ground the ball to the left side of the infield.

*Chasing pitcher’s pitches has been a problem for the Royals all season and the problem was still there on Monday night. If the Royals aren’t more selective their offense will continue to struggle.

A reader’s comment

Lee,

Really enjoy your column. It is very insightful and I've learned a lot. I would appreciate your thoughts on Yost's rigid bullpen rotation, especially his decision to not bring in Herrera yesterday with 2 outs in the 6th with the bases loaded.  I know that Yost has defined roles for these guys, but is Yost is proving that he is not very smart.  Don't you want your best players in the game when the game is on the line?  I now understand why Milwaukee fired Yost even when they had a playoff spot clinched.  Yost's poor decisions like the one yesterday will end up keeping the Royals from making the playoffs.  Appreciate your time.

My answer

For better or worse most managers have defined roles in the bullpen. Knowing when they’re going to pitch helps relievers know when to stretch, when to start throwing, when to get ready. Over the course of a long season bullpen roles make sense; otherwise it can be chaotic.

But that’s over the course of a season.

In the playoffs—and the Royals are now playing what amount to playoff games—many managers think you ask your players to adjust; you might ask guys to do something out of the ordinary.

Take Kelvin Herrera:

You probably don’t want to spend all season asking Herrera to get four outs. Getting four outs involves an "up-down" and sitting after getting one or two outs and then getting back up to get three more outs puts a different kind of stress on the arm than a guy who gets hot and stays hot. But with 14 games left in the season it’s something you might ask Herrera to do. And with the September call ups you’ve got extra arms in the bullpen. Monday Ned Yost said he would ask Herrera to get extra outs from this point forward, but it’s too bad he didn’t start that policy on Sunday.

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