Judging the Royals

How four Cincinnati Reds screwed up one play and helped the Royals win

Kansas City Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson scored the go-ahead run on Tuesday.
Kansas City Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson scored the go-ahead run on Tuesday. The Associated Press

Going into the 13th inning of Tuesday night’s game, the Royals and Reds were tied, 1-1. Jarrod Dyson singled and Royals reliever Kris Medlen was used to bunt Dyson over to second base. Medlen got the bunt down and Reds reliever Ryan Mattheus ran over to the line to pick up the ball. If you stayed up and watched the game you know what happened next; but if you think Ryan Mattheus messed the game up on his own you’re wrong.

It actually took four Cincinnati Reds to screw up one play and help the Kansas City Royals win.

First, let’s start with Mattheus; after he picked up the ball, he rushed his throw and missed first base, throwing the ball into right field. Plays like this are why position players run pitchers off the ball. It wasn’t a difficult throw, but take a pitcher off the mound, ask him to make a throw that isn’t 60 feet and 6 inches long and weird stuff happens.

Second, first baseman Joey Votto did a lousy job reacting to a lousy throw. First rule of defense when playing first base: the ball is more important than the bag. Staying on the bag doesn’t help much if you don’t catch the ball. If you have to, come off the bag, catch the ball and at least you’ve kept the damage to a minimum. Votto reached for the ball, but tried to stay on the bag while doing so and that didn’t work; the throw got past him.

Third, Brandon Phillips was playing second base and his job was to back up the play at first. Phillips was jogging to a spot behind first base, but never ran hard and took too shallow a route. So when Mattheus threw the ball past Votto, Phillips was not in a position to back up the play and the ball got past him, too.

Fourth, right fielder Jay Bruce was also out of position. His job was to run over and back up Votto and Phillips, but he was only walking in that direction when the ball got away. Bruce had to pick up the pace, run over to the line to pick up the ball and all that time Jarrod Dyson was circling the bases and scored the go-ahead run.

At this point Cincinnati has a record of 51-66, in fourth place in their division and 24 and a half games out of first. If this single play was any indication, you now know why.

If anyone can figure out the rules on replay, let the rest of us know

I thought a call on the field stood unless a replay showed clear and convincing evidence that the umpire got the call wrong. So when Lorenzo Cain was ruled safe at home plate in the ninth inning and the replay did not appear to show clear and convincing evidence that Todd Frazier made the tag, I figured the call would stand.

Nope.

The wizards in New York saw something that eluded me and overturned the call. If anyone can figure out how they’re making these decisions, the rest of us would appreciate hearing about it.

Brayan Peña’s throws

When catcher Brayan Peña was here in Kansas City, his throws to second base had a tendency to tail off toward the right-field side of the bag. Paulo Orlando tried a delayed steal in the 10th inning and Brayan’s throw once again wound up on the right-field of second base, but that worked out great for the Reds.

Because the steal was delayed, Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips was late getting to the bag and Brayan’s throw was right at him.

If Brayan’s behind the plate tonight, watch his throws to second base.

Why the Royals need to keep winning

As of Wednesday morning the Kansas City Royals have a 13 1/2 game lead in the American League Central Division; so beating the Cincinnati Reds 3-1 in 13 innings last night might not seem like a big deal — but it is.

If the Royals have home-field advantage if and when they get to the playoffs, they’ll be in much better shape. (I know the odds are very good that the Royals are going to the playoffs, but as they say in baseball: ya never know.)

But back to home-field advantage.

Tuesday night the TV dudes put up a graphic that showed the Royals were 0-3 when they played the Yankees in New York, 0-3 when they played the Astros in Houston and 1-3 when they played the Blue Jays in Toronto. The graphic also showed that the Royals gave up 20 home runs in those games. (I’m assuming the TV dudes have that right because it sounds right and if it isn’t right I get to blame them.)

Size matters

In my opinion the most distinctive feature of Kauffman Stadium (besides the Miller Lite bar where you can get one of the best seats in the house if you show up early) are the rounded corners.

The foul poles are 330 feet from home plate, but because those corners are rounded the outfield wall falls off sharply. According to estimates of the guys who play there, by the time you get to the bullpen gates, the wall is somewhere around 375 feet from home plate.

So a hitter can barrel a ball up pretty well and still have it caught on the warning track. In Kansas City, the Royals flyball pitchers can get away with pitches that would be hit out of the park in New York, Houston or Toronto. So having an extra game at home might be the difference between winning or losing a playoff series.

The Royals are 13 1/2 games up on Minnesota, but Royals fans should also keep an eye on New York, Houston and Toronto.

To reach Lee Judge, call 816-234-4482 or send email to ljudge@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @leejudge8.

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