Judging the Royals

The Royals take two

It took more than eight hours from start to finish, but the Royals swept Sunday’s doubleheader against the Red Sox. Kelvin Herrera got the win in game two, a 5-4 victory in ten innings. This was not a clean game: starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie walked four and two of them scored. Alex Gordon got charged with an error—more on that in a moment—and the bullpen issued two more walks (one intentional).


The bullpen came up with four scoreless innings after Guthrie left, the offense contributed three home runs—including a Billy Butler game-tying homer in the eighth—and then figured out a way to scratch out the winning run in the tenth. Like I said, this was not a clean game, but it was a win. Last season the Royals lost games like this. This season—with improved starting pitching that knows how to limit the damage—they’ve been winning them.

Game notes
Alex Gordon doubled on the first pitch of the game, a 95-mph fastball from rookie Allen Webster. So why not take a pitch and see if Webster—making his first major league appearance—got himself into trouble? Gordon will sometimes swing at a game’s first pitch to send the message that a pitcher can’t just pour a fastball down the middle to get ahead.
Gordon might have also figured Webster was going to be nervous and do just that: try to get ahead by throwing a first-pitch fastball for a strike. Alex made Webster pay and scored when Pedro Ciriaco picked up an Alcides Escobar infield single and threw it to a beer vendor working the section behind the first-base dugout. I don’t know what Webster was thinking in his first major league start, but it probably would have been a good idea to throw whatever catcher David Ross called. Ross has been in the big leagues for quite a while and ought to have a decent idea of what to throw and when to throw it.
Webster pitched six innings and walked off the mound with an ERA of 3.00, so something was working for him. Good stuff and David Ross probably helped. Alex Gordon was given an error when a ball fell untouched between him and Lorenzo Cain. (That’s very tough scoring and don’t be surprised if it gets changed.) The centerfielder is in charge and can call off a corner outfielder, even if the corner outfielder has a Gold Glove. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing Cain was calling for the ball, but Alex couldn’t hear him over the crowd.
In the fifth inning catcher George Kottaras blocked a pitch, but the ball rolled away from him and a runner advanced. You can sometimes tell how well a catcher blocks by how far the ball rolls away after the block is made. It’s amazing how Salvador Perez can block a pitch in the mid-nineties and still have the ball stop dead at his feet. I haven’t seen Kottaras catch that much so we’re looking at a pretty small sample size when we talk about him blocking pitches—maybe that one was an aberration. In the third inning with Jacoby Ellsbury on second base and nobody out, Daniel Nava wanted to hit the ball to the right side of the field. That would—at a minimum—allows Ellsbury to move up to third base. Nava got the job done on a 75-mph curveball. I wondered about the pitch selection since Nava was hitting from the left side and something off-speed would help him move Ellsbury by pulling the ball, but most of the time the players know something I don’t—maybe this is one of those times. Later in the same inning Dustin Pedroia was thrown out trying to steal second base. Good thing—Mike Napoli doubled and Pedroia probably would have scored. The Royals pitched out when Pedroia stole, which might make you think the Royals had the Red Sox signs. That’s always a possibility, but teams also pay attention to a base runner’s tendencies and if they find a count or situation where he’s likely to run, they might pitch out. Either way, good work by the bench—they generally tell the catcher when to pitch out. Also in the third—a lot happened in that inning—Elliot Johnson saved a run by backing up Eric Hosmer. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a hot shot off Hosmer’s glove and Elliot picked the ball up and threw it home to prevent Mike Napoli from scoring. The scorebook shows a 3-4-2-5-2-6 put out. If Johnson doesn’t back up Hosmer, this game doesn’t go to extra innings. Holland gets his second save

Greg Holland picked up two saves in one day and looked nearly unhittable doing it. Greg had a couple rough outings and some people started talking about making Kelvin Herrera the closer. Fortunately for Holland and the Royals, none of those people were Ned Yost.

Ned once told me that being impatient causes a lot of problems in the game of baseball. At the time we were talking about Alcides Escobar and his struggles at the plate, but the same thing applies to Greg Holland—impatience will cause a lot of problems. It’s hard to know precisely when a change is necessary, but making a change when it isn’t necessary can also get a team into trouble.

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