If we’d known how well James Shields was going to pitch, everyone could have gone home after the top of the first inning. The Royals offense got James Shields all the runs he’d need in the first half-inning and here’s how they did it:
Leadoff hitters usually take the first pitch of the game. Pitchers know that sothey
usually pour a fastball right down the middle. Padres starting pitcher Andrew Cashner wanted to get ahead in the count so he threw a 95 MPH four-seamer down the pipe—but Royals leadoff hitter Nori Aoki wasn’t taking.
Every once in a while the leadoff hitter willambush
that first pitch, just to keep pitchers honest. Aoki’s ambush worked—he lined a single to right—and one pitch into the game, Cashner was working out of the stretch and worrying about a base runner.
Next, San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera made an error and KC had runners at first and second with nobody out. While Cashner focused on the hitter—Eric Hosmer—Aoki and Escobar stole third and second. With things going wrong from the start, Cashner made another mistake; he left a 1-2 changeup in a hittable location and Hosmer singled. Aoki and Escobar scored and we didn’t know it, but that’s all the runs James Shields would need. Before the inning was over, the Royals added one more run when Danny Valencia got a fastball in a 3-1 fastball count and drove in Hosmer. Cashner needed 43 pitches to get out if the first and that meant the Royals would get into the Padres pen early.
Things still had to play out, but the game was pretty much over not long after it started.
Shields threw seven innings and didn’t give up a run. Aaron Crow threw a scoreless eighth and Louis Coleman completed the shutout with a scoreless ninth. Afterwards Ned Yost called it an "AAGG: an all-around good game." And it started in the top of the first.
The Royals beat the Padres 8-0.
*During the Royals five-game losing streak they let their opponents score a minimum of six runs per game. The Royals have now won two in a row and the pitching and defense allowed a total of one run combined in both games. It’s pretty simple; even though they looked very good today, most of the time the Royals haven’t been hitting well enough to win a slugfest, so the pitching and defense has to keep the score low enough to give the offense a chance to be competitive.
*Jarrod Dyson did a good job of getting on base in the first and third innings. He did it with two outs and that’s a big deal: Dyson was hitting in the 8-hole and getting on with two outs meant the Royals got past the pitcher’s spot and didn’t have James Shields leading off an inning until the sixth.
In the first inning Dyson walked with a runner in scoring position and some teams want their 8-hole hitter to expand his zone in that situation. Dyson tried: he swung the bat three times in that plate appearance, but couldn’t get the ball in play and wound up taking a walk.
*In the second inning Cameron Maybin overran second base on an infield single and Eric Hosmer threw behind him for the third out of the inning. The pitcher Cashner was on deck so Maybin’s base running meant the pitcher would lead off the next inning. And you have to wonder where Maybin was going; there was a runner on third.
*After Alex Gordon’s third-inning double the Royals had 70; most in the American League. We hear a lot about their lack of home run hitting, but not as much about players driving the gaps for extra-base hits. Think about Kauffman Stadium and it makes sense: it’s hard to hit a ball over the wall, but there’s a lot of room for a line drive to travel.
*In the fifth inning the Royals got a couple possible double play balls, but weren’t able to turn them. Danny Valencia was getting his second career start at second base—Omar Infante had back spasms—and Valencia called moving over to second base: "Quite an adjustment."
Learning to turn two with your back to the runner is not easy. Valencia will have an easier time with a 4-6-3 double play, but 5-4-3s and 6-4-3s will take time.
*Eric Hosmer had a great day at the plate—three hits, a walk and four RBIs—but made a questionable decision on the base paths: in the sixth inning Hosmer got caught between second and third and made the last out of the inning when he was already in scoring position.
*In the ninth inning Alcides Escobar made a highlight reel play on Cameron Maybin and Hosmer went back over first base to make the catch in foul territory. There are a couple reasons a first baseman does this: one, the throw is high and going to the foul side of first base buys the first baseman some distance and a better chance of catching the ball and, two, going back over the bag can get a first baseman a better hop. You’ve gotta have good footwork to pull it off, but Hosmer has it.
Eric Hosmer’s power
I’ve heard people say they’re concerned about Eric Hosmer’s lack of power—he’s only hit one home run—but I think that misses the point: Eric Hosmer does not lack power. He’s hit 12 doubles and, as I recall, several of them banged off the top of the wall. They had home run distance; what they didn’t have was home run trajectory.
In Kauffman Stadium hitters are encouraged to hit the ball low and hard; hitting a ball high in the air does not pay off. Kansas City’s ballpark is spacious and a ball that hangs up too long will get caught.
According to Baseball Reference.com when Hosmer hits a fly ball his average is .241. When he hits a grounder it’s .256. But when Hosmer hits a line drive his average rockets to .692. The Royals batting cage has a net that can be hung down in front of the hitter. The net only hangs down a few feet, but it’s there for a reason: if a ball hits that net hanging from the front of the cage, it’s a fly ball and probably an out. When that net hangs down the hitters have to concentrate on line drives and hard grounders.
Put fly ball trajectory on some of the doubles Homser has hit and we wouldn’t be talking about his lack of home run power—we’d be complaining about his low batting average.