Judging the Royals

The Royals get hot, but win anyway

Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons (5) separates Jose Bautista (19) from home plate umpire Jerry Meals after Bautista was ejected in the eighth inning as Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (13) looked on during Sunday's baseball game on July 12, 2015 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons (5) separates Jose Bautista (19) from home plate umpire Jerry Meals after Bautista was ejected in the eighth inning as Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (13) looked on during Sunday's baseball game on July 12, 2015 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

Here are some numbers for you: on Sunday afternoon the Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals combined for 21 runs, 27 hits, 4 walks, 7 errors, 81 batters sent to the plate and 307 pitches thrown. But the most significant number was probably the temperature; it was 90 degrees at game time and at one point it was announced that it was 110 degrees on the field.

The heat baked the dirt on the infield and that had something to do with the seven errors, but the heat also appeared to fry some brains at the same time.

The Royals have a big first inning

The Royals scored six runs in the bottom of the first and lots of people thought the game was pretty much over; Toronto’s manager, John Gibbons wasn’t one of them. We talked after the game and he said teams often have a big inning right away and then stop scoring. Gibby wasn’t sure why; maybe hitters lose concentration and go through the motions and maybe the pitcher with the big lead gets sloppy. Either way, Gibby thought his team still had a chance and he turned out to be right.

The partial list of the mistakes

As I’m writing this I realize I really don’t want to relive this entire game again; it was painful enough the first time. So let me just make a list of the errors and mistakes that I caught—I’m sure there were some I missed, but this will give you an idea of what was going on Sunday afternoon:

Jays left fielder Chris Colabello made an error when he threw the ball back into the infield after Eric Hosmer singled, the error allowed Hosmer to move into scoring position.

Jose Reyes made an error when Salvador Perez hit him a groundball, Perez reached base and later scored.

Omar Infante made an error when he threw a ball into the Royals dugout. Kevin Pillar wound up at second base.

Kevin Pillar made a bad decision when he tried to steal third base with two outs. If you’re going to steal third with two outs you better make it; you’re already in scoring position and you’re probably going to score on a base hit anyway—and you might want to make sure the hitter at the plate isn’t left-handed. Ezequiel Carrera is and that gave Salvador Perez a clear throwing lane to third base. Pillar was thrown out to end the inning.

Lorenzo Cain provided some uninspired base running when he was trapped between first and second base with the ball in the first baseman’s hands. In that case you want to make the first baseman make a throw—theoretically he’s got the worst arm on the infield—but Lorenzo opted for standing still and letting himself be tagged out.

Chris Colabello made a mistake when he misjudged a fly ball, started in and then had to go back. That route helped Lorenzo Cain hit a double.

Eric Hosmer made a mistake when tried for second base on what appeared to be a single and was thrown out easily at second base; there were no outs at the time.

Alcides Escobar bobbled a double play ball, flipped it late to Omar Infante and Omar missed the catch when he turned to look at first base; instead of two outs the Royals got none.

Jose Reyes made another error that allowed Alcides Escobar to reach base.

Ezequiel Carrera singled to right field and was able to advance to second on the throw home from Alex Rios. The throw appeared high and Eric Hosmer did not appear to be in an ideal spot to act as the cutoff man.

Devon Travis singled to right field and was able to advance to second base on the throw home from Alex Rios. Eric Hosmer was not in position as the cutoff man.

Kelvin Herrera threw a wild pitch and then forgot to cover home. That turned out OK when Russell Martin made a mistake and made too wide a turn at third base and was picked off by Salvador Perez.

Alex Rios made a mistake when he took a bad route on a fly ball and turned it into a triple. Wade Davis should have had another scoreless inning, but the Rios play cost him a run in the eighth inning.

Jose Bautista made a mistake when he started complaining about ball and strikes. His teammates were sweating their butts off to win a game and Bautista was the DH—he wasn’t spending too much time standing in the sun. Jerry Meals, the home plate umpire—and those dudes never get a half-inning off—was no doubt hot and tired and ejected Bautista in the middle of his at bat. (It’s worth noting that manager John Gibbons did not go out and argue with Meals, he just steered Bautista away from home plate.) Arguing balls and strikes was a selfish move by Bautista when his team needed him to stay in the game. His AB had to be finished by Justin Smoak and he flew out to end the inning.

I probably missed something, but by now you’re probably getting the picture. Although there is one last thing I have to talk about.

The sixth inning

Edinson Volquez had thrown five shutout innings and came out for the sixth inning with a 7-0 lead. His pitch count was good, but it was also a billion degrees on the field so you can forget the pitch count—Edinson was getting gassed.

Jose Reyes singled. Then Devon Travis reached on a throwing error by Mike Moustakas. (See? I knew there was something I’d forgotten.) Jose Bautista doubled and Reyes scored. Edwin Encarnacion grounded out to third and Travis scored. Volquez appeared to fall asleep and Bautista stole third and then Chris Colabello walked. Ned Yost pulled Volquez and brought in Ryan Madson. The score was 7-2, runners were at the corners, no need to panic.

Russell Martin hit a double play ball, but instead of being out of the inning, Alcides Escobar bobbled the ball, flipped it to Omar Infante and Infante missed the catch. Another run scored to make it 7-3 and there were runners on first and second with one down.

Then Danny Valencia doubled and two more runs were in; suddenly it was 7-5 and the tying run was at the plate. Kevin Pillar doubled, Danny Valencia scored and now the tying run was at second base. Chris Madson was getting barreled up, but nobody was coming to get him. Ezequiel Carrera singled and the game was tied.

Jose Reyes flew out and the Royals were one out away, but Devon Travis singled and Carrera—who had advanced to second on a throw home—scored and the Blue Jays had come all the way back to take an 8-7 lead. That’s when Ned Yost brought Kelvin Herrera in the game.

Better a batter too soon

After the game I asked Ned Yost about waiting so long to go to Herrera and he said he didn’t want get Herrera out of his role as the seventh-inning pitcher. I actually agree that set roles are better for the bullpen in the long run—everyone knows when to warm up and how long they’ll have to pitch—but if you’re going to wind up asking Herrera for four outs anyway, why not ask while you still have the lead?

I once got some managing advice from Clint Hurdle: when it comes to handling pitchers it’s better to pull them an inning too soon than an inning too late, a batter too soon than a batter too late and a pitch too soon than a pitch too late. As Clint pointed out to me: why are you thinking of pulling the guy? Is he throwing a no-hitter? No, he’s scuffling or it wouldn’t even cross your mind.

Ned Yost waited until his lead was gone to change pitchers and I figured he’d get roasted by the people who make a hobby out of roasting managers—lucky for Ned his players bailed him out. On the other hand, the Royals are going into the All-Star break with 52 wins so Ned must be doing something right.

P.S.

It’s pretty easy for me to say Lorenzo Cain should have done this or Eric Hosmer should have done that, yesterday I was sitting in the air conditioning sipping lemonade. I’ve played in the kind of heat the Royals and Jays were dealing with on Sunday and it’s both physically and mentally exhausting. Your mind is so preoccupied with how miserable you are that the finer points of the game begin to slip away. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to play th game right, but it helps explains why you’re not.

 

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