Wade Davis is probably going to wear this one, but there’s plenty of blame to go around. Let’s go back to the bottom of the eighth inning and you’ll see what I mean:
The Royals had just taken a 3-2 lead and Ned Yost brought in Aaron Crow. After the game Ned was asked why Crow threw the eighth instead of Wade Davis and Yost gave four reasons: 1.) Crow had already warmed up 2.) Ned wants to find another guy capable of throwing the eighth inning when Davis isn’t available and Crow is one of the candidates 3.) Yost liked the matchups and 4.) If Crow struggled, Ned could always bring in Davis.
Aaron walked leadoff hitter Pedro Florimon. The Twins’ shortstop is hitting .067 for the season and is 0-2 off Crow, so throwing him strikes would seem like a good idea. Next Crow walked Brian Dozier; .191 on the season, 1 for 7 against Crow, so once again, a bad guy to walk. That brought Joe Mauer to the plate and Ned Yost to the mound. Davis replaced Crow and went to work on the Twins first baseman.
Davis struck out Mauer.
Trevor Plouffe was 1 for 3 off Davis, but that hit was a home run—I don’t know if that played into it—but Davis walked Plouffe. Chris Herrmann then walked to the plate with the bases loaded, but Davis was still a groundball away from getting out of it. Wade got the groundball, but not the inning-ending double play the Royals were hoping for.
The ball was hit weakly to the third-base side of the mound and Davis caught it and decided to go home for the force out. Wade never got his feet set, he rushed his throw and the ball was thrown to the third-base side of home plate. Catcher Salvador Perez was still thinking two—a 1-2-3 double play—and had his right foot on home plate. Then Sal got in a hurry and took a step forward with his left foot.
First basemen are taught to wait until they see the throw, then step and stretch in the direction of the throw. Step too soon and you can’t react to an off-line throw. Perez stepped too soon and couldn’t react to Wade’s off-line throw. The ball went past Perez to the backstop and Florimon scored.
Meanwhile Davis was busy making his second mistake of the inning; getting mad at himself. Davis spun around and turned his back to home plate. Meanwhile, Brian Dozier was rounding third and racing for home. Davis reacted late, ran to cover home plate, but the winning scored from second base on a ball that wasn’t hit hard enough to get past the pitcher’s mound.
Like I said; Wade Davis is going to wear this one, but there’s plenty of blame to go around.
Royals lose, 4-3.
If baseball games were seven and a half innings long this would have been a great one. Royals starting pitcher Jason Vargas threw six scoreless innings; walked Jason Kubel in the seventh and then fell behind Josmil Pinto 3-1. When hitters get fastballs in fastball counts they tend to do damage and Pinto was no exception; he got a 3-1 fastball and put it over the left field wall.
Most baseball people would fault the walk more than the home run—Kubel hits .250 off Vargas—but two earned runs in seven innings gives your team a chance to win.
*The Royals made four errors in the series and at least three of them came when the guy making the error tried to play too fast: Davis on his throw home, James Shields when he tried to pick up a bunt and throw the ball to third and Mike Moustakas when he tried to go too fast on a double play ball.
*The Royals offense grabbed a lead in the top of the eighth inning: Mike Moustakas worked a walk, Lorenzo Cain singled, Alcides Escobar laid down a bunt single and the ball was thrown into right field—which scored Moose—then Nori Aoki laid down another bunt scoring Cain and Eric Hosmer hit a rifle shot over center fielder Aaron Hicks’ head.
Too bad the Royals bullpen and defense couldn’t seal the deal.
The Houston series
The Royals get a day off tomorrow then start a three-game series against the Houston Astros. The Astros are 5-8 and if you want to go to the playoffs, this is the kind of team you need to beat. Minute Maid Park is short in both corners and very deep in centerfield. That means pitchers have to be careful about coming inside on hitters—they don’t have to hit a ball that far before it leaves the yard—but a hitter can crush a baseball to center and just make a long out.
Keep an eye on centerfield and if Lorenzo Cain is making catches all over the place, it might mean a pitcher is using Minute Maid’s dimensions to his advantage.
"Throwback: A Big League Catcher Tells How the Game Is Really Played" is an inside look at our national pastime, co-authored by Jason Kendall and Lee Judge. The book will be in stores on May 13th, but can be pre-ordered right now.