When a team has a really good closer—and Greg Holland qualifies—games are often decided before the ninth inning. Let the Royals get the ball to Holland with a lead and your chances of winning aren’t good. So the Toronto Blue Jays best chance of avoiding a loss probably came in the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s ballgame.
The Royals were up 4-2 and Wade Davis was on the mound. Get three outs, give the ball to Hollie and the game would pretty much be over.
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The first batter—Dioner Navarro—singled and that brought the tying run to the plate. The next batter—Juan Francisco—walked. That put the tying run on base and brought the
run to the plate. Wade Davis then struck out Colby Rasmus for the first out of the inning. Wade then struck out Moises Sierra for the second out of the inning. One more out to go and the Royals could hand the ball to Greg Holland.
But ex-Royal, Chris Getz, walked.
That walk loaded the bases and pushed Dioner Navarro to third base and the tying run, Juan Francisco, to second. If the man at the plate—Jose Reyes—singled, the game would probably be tied. If Jose Reyes doubled, the Blue Jays would take the lead. Instead, Jose Reyes took three called strikes: a 90-MPH cutter, an 84-MPH knuckle curve and a 97-MPH four-seam fastball.
Later Ned Yost would call those pitches unhittable. With the game on the line and Blue Jays looking at their last best chance to tie or win the ballgame, Wade Davis came up with the biggest strikeout of the night.
Royals beat the Blue Jays 4-2.
With Jose Bautista on first base, Edwin Encarnacion hit a deep fly ball to left field. The wind blowing in from left held the ball up and Alex Gordon caught it on the warning track. Outfield coach Rusty Kuntz thought that without the wind, the ball would have landed in the left field bullpen. That would have given the Jays two extra runs and we might still be playing baseball.
In the bottom of the inning the Royals manufactured a run, using outs to advance the runner from second to third and third to home. Nori Aoki doubled, Omar Infante bunted him over and Eric Hosmer drove him in with a sac fly.
Left-handed Juan Francisco came to the plate with three infielders on the right-field side of second base. Like a lot of other teams the Royals are putting their third baseman on the far side of second base so their shortstop—the infielder with the most range—covers the left side by himself.
During Wednesday’s early work Ned Yost told me that until hitters start bunting against the shift, defenses will keep shifting. Hitters have egos and want to drive the ball, but if they work on their bunting and make the defense pay for overloading one side of the field, teams will have to play straight up.
Umpires take the ball out of play every time a pitcher throws it in the dirt, but how about when it’s put in play? With a runner on first base Melky Cabrera hit a fly ball to center and Jarrod Dyson caught the ball. Dyson then tried to double off the runner. Dyson’s throw bounced twice on the infield dirt, but went directly back to the pitcher after the runner was called safe.
Eric Hosmer was on third base and broke for home when Alex Gordon hit a groundball. The infield was in and Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes threw the ball to catcher Dioner Navarro. Hosmer was tagged out, but the umpires reviewed the play to see if Navarro blocked the plate without the ball. The key to this play is the catcher’s left foot: if it’s in fair territory or on the third base line the runner has a clear path to the back half of the plate. If the catcher’s left foot is in foul territory he’s blocking the plate. Navarro’s left foot looked to be lined up with the left-field foul line and the play was upheld—Hosmer was still out.
Yordano Ventura completed five innings, but took 92 pitches to do it. Ned Yost said they could see Ventura was starting to lose his mechanics and decided to make the pitching change in the sixth.
Ventura lost his mechanics after five innings and Ned Yost said Danny Duffy never had his. Duffy started the inning by drilling Melky Cabrera in the shin and then walked the next hitter, Jose Bautista. The Royals were up 2-0 at the start of the inning and two batters later, the Blue Jays had the tying runs on base.
Yost brought in Aaron Crow and he gave up an RBI single, struck out the next batter, gave up another RBI single and then struck out the next two batters. Aaron still hasn’t given up a run of his own, but allowed inherited runners to tie the game.
Billy Butler led off with a single and Ned Yost sent Jimmy Paredes out to pinch run. After the game Ned Yost said he didn’t like pinch running for Billy as early as the seventh inning—it’ll cost Butler an at-bat—but before the game Ned said it was a little easier decision when Butler’s scuffling at the plate. Paredes stole second and third, then he and Salvador Perez scored on an Alcides Escobar double.
The Royals took the lead and never gave it back.
The postgame spread
After a ballgame players are hungry and the team provides a postgame spread. Wednesday night the Royals menu included: Caesar salad, Grilled Asparagus, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Porcini Rubbed Roast Strip Steak, Rigatoni Marinara, Chicken Parmigiana and Tiramisu.
I asked Chris Getz about conditions in the minors—he just came up from Buffalo—and he said a postgame spread might consist entirely of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There are a lot of reasons players want to make it to the big leagues and eating better is one of them.
Don’t mess with a hot streak
Tuesday night the Royals had reliever Michael Mariot warm up and once he got ready they wanted him to
warm. Since the bullpen heater had broken down the only solution was to have Mariot go sit in the bullpen bathroom until it was time for him to pitch. The Royals started to score runs and Mariot was no longer needed—Kelvin Herrera eventually got the call—but Mariot wasn’t allowed out of the bathroom; the Royals were scoring runs and you don’t mess with a hot streak.
I’m pretty sure they’ve let him out by now, but you know where Mariot will probably be sitting the next time the Royals need a rally.