Judging the Royals

The Royals challenge Melky Cabrera’s arm

In the bottom of the eighth inning down 5-4, Eric Hosmer led off with a single. Next Billy Butler singled to left and Hosmer went first to third, challenging Melky Cabrera’s arm. Some people thougth Hosmer deked Cabrera—Eric did slow down while coming into second base—but Hosmer said that wasn’t the plan; he saw how deep Cabrera was playing and thought he could take the extra 90 feet.

When visiting outfielders position themselves in Kauffman Stadium, they often play too deep. Outfield coach Rusty Kuntz has estimated that the bullpen gates are around 370 feet from home plate and many corner outfielders see all that green space between them and the fence and back up. You wouldn’t think that would happen to Cabrera—he played here—but he mostly played centerfield. The outfield corners in Kauffman are tricky and he hasn’t been out there in a long time.

However Melky wound up where he was positioned, Hosmer took advantage of it.

With the tying run on third and the winning run on first, Ned Yost pinch-ran for Billy Butler with Jimmy Paredes. Give Ned Yost credit: managers get hammered when things go wrong, but Ned got a couple big things right on Tuesday night.

First, he used a challenge in the first inning and got a Chris Getz infield single overturned. Because it was the third out of the inning and a run scored when Getz singled, that challenge saved the Royals a run. That meant the score was 5-4 in the eighth, not 6-4. The next thing Ned got right was pinch running for Butler.

After Alex Gordon struck out looking, Salvador Perez doubled down the left field line. Hosmer scored the tying run and third base coach Dale Sveum didn’t hesitate; he waved the winning run—pinch runner Paredes—home to make the score 6-5. Paredes scored from first base and Butler wouldn’t have. Cabrera was once again playing deep and over toward center field. Melky had a long run for the ball and because he was going to his right and throws with his left hand, he had no momentum on the throw. Paredes slid in to home plate with the go ahead run, but could have scored standing up.

The Royals scored four more runs and never looked back. The final score was 10-7, but the Royals took the lead in the eighth inning by challenging Melky Cabrera’s arm.

Game notes

*Continue to watch Cabrera’s positioning in this series. If he continues to play deep, expect the Royals to continue running on him.

*Aaron Crow got the win by pitching the top of the eighth inning, but got whacked all around the yard while doing so. Brett Lawrie started things by lining out to right, Coby Rasmus lined a ball through the infield for a single, Chris Getz lined out to third and Jose Reyes hit a shot over centerfielder Jarrod Dyson’s head. Dyson ran it down, but without his speed, Rasmus would have scored from first base.

None of the relievers—Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Louis Coleman—looked especially sharp, but Ned Yost pointed out that they’d been freezing down in the bullpen for most of the game before coming into pitch. It’s much easier for the guys in the dugout to stay warm; they can go back in the tunnel or indoor batting cage. The relief pitchers isolated down in the bullpen.

Come to think of it, none of Toronto’s relievers looked that good either.

*Blue Jays leadoff hitter Jose Reyes did something unusual to start the game; he swung at the first pitch. Reyes made an out and that put pressure on the next guy—Melky Cabrera—to take a strike. You don’t want a pitcher to get two outs while using only two pitches. Melky did take a strike, but made an out two pitches later; that’s four pitches and two outs.

3-hole Jose Bautista did


take a strike—he looked at one ball, then fouled the next pitch off—but then showed why he gets to swing away in that spot. He hit a 399-foot bomb when Jason Vargas tried to come up and in and didn’t get it there.

Now look at the bottom of the third inning:

Nori Aoki hit the first pitch he saw and doubled. Omar Infante also hit the first pitch he saw and lined it to right field. Infante’s attempt to move Aoki over to third backfired when Aoki tagged and was thrown out trying to advance; that’s two pitches and two outs. Eric Hosmer—the Royals 3-hole hitter—did not take a strike. He saw a ball, fouled a pitch off and flew out to left on the fourth pitch of his at-bat.

After the game I asked Hosmer if they ever wanted him to take a pitch or give away an at-bat to move a runner. There are certain situations where that might be required, but most of the time teams want their middle-of-the-order guys to try to do damage. The table setters can work counts, give away pitches and maybe even at-bats to advance runners or make a pitcher work, but there’s a school of thought that says those 3-4-5 type hitters are there to drive the ball—do not take the bat out of their hands by forcing them to let the only hittable pitch they might see go by.

*It won’t show in the scorebook, but Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion missed a foul pop when he shied away from the dugout railing. It was scored no play, but looked makeable. The right approach is to get to the railing early, then come away and make the catch. If the ball is coming down and the fielder still hasn’t found the railing, he’s going to be reluctant to run into something while trying to catch the ball.

*Billy Butler scored a run in the second inning because he ran the bases well—I’ll let that sink in for a minute. Give him credit: Butler was on second base when Salvador Perez hit a fly ball to center and Billy tagged and advanced to third. He then scored on a wild pitch. No advance to third, no run scored on a ball in the dirt.

*In the fifth inning Nori Aoki had a couple balls hit over his head—a double and a triple—but according to Ned Yost the wind was howling out there and that made it tough to track those balls down.

*In the seventh inning with one down and runners at first and second, Kelvin Herrera had a double play ball hit back to the mound. It appeared Herrera had time to go to second base, but threw the ball to first instead and almost threw it away. Herrera then walked Dioner Navarro to load the bases and—after passing up an inning-ending double play—was one hit away from giving up a couple more runs. Juan Francisco hit a ball to second base and Herrera got out of the inning without further damage. The score remained 5-3 and the Royals were still in the game.

*In the bottom of the seventh Jarrod Dyson got on with a bunt single. There were two outs at the time and Nori Aoki was at the plate. In a situation like that—two outs—expect Dyson to steal early in the count. The offense can’t afford to give away an at-bat—they’ve got none to give—and once Dyson steals second base the guy at the plate still needs to drive him in. Dyson can’t wait around and let the hitter get down in the count before taking off for second base.

*By the way; coming into this game Jarrod was a .251 hitter on ground balls, a .196 hitter on fly balls, a .722 hitter on line drives and a .455 hitter when he bunts. Get those fly balls out of the equation and he’s got something.

*Blue Jays centerfielder Colby Rasmus cost his team a run when he made a bad decision: trying to throw Dyson out when he was going first to third on Nori Aoki’s single in the eighth inning. Rasmus didn’t come close to getting Dyson and that throw to third allowed Aoki to move up to second base. And


allowed Aoki to score when Omar Infante singled.

Tack the Blue Jays overturned first inning run back on the board and take away Aoki’s ninth inning score and this game winds up 9-8.