Judging the Royals

It was too early to write off the Royals after the seventh inning

Things changed for the Houston Astros when starting pitcher Lance McCullers.
Things changed for the Houston Astros when starting pitcher Lance McCullers. deulitt@kcstar.com

I usually don’t write during a baseball game, and baseball games like this one are why.

After the bottom of the seventh inning, I decided to start working on my Astros-win-the-series story. But the top of the eighth changed everything.

Down 6-2, the team that looked like it was going to get beat by the long ball (the Astros hit four home runs). But then the Royals started stringing together singles. Before the inning was over, the Royals would have a 7-6 lead — a lead they wouldn’t give back because Wade Davis pitched two shutout innings.

The team that wouldn’t give up in last year’s Wild Card Game would not give up when facing elimination in this year’s AL Division Series. I deleted what I’d written and started all over again.

If you didn’t skip work and watch this game, you missed a great one.

Momentum changed when McCullers left

When a team doesn’t hit, their fans think their team stinks. But when everyone in the lineup is struggling, it’s almost always the pitcher. And when everyone in the lineup starts to hit, it’s almost always the pitcher.

Remember the common thread: It’s almost always the pitcher.

When Lance McCullers was in the game, he dominated the Royals hitters. He stuck out seven, and all his strikeouts came on curveballs. During the season the Royals would rarely take a second called strike, and when a guy like McCullers has a devastating put-away pitch, you can see why: Get to two strikes, and you’re in trouble.

Once McCullers came out of the game, momentum shifted.

Will Harris got one out in the seventh but started getting hit in the eighth. He was throwing nothing but cutters and curves, and both were getting hit.

Tony Sipp came in to face Eric Hosmer, and Hosmer singled. Kendrys Morales hit a ball up the middle that went off the mound and looked like it was going to turn into a sure double play, but Carlos Correa took his eye off the ball, and it got through the infield for two more runs.

Don’t write people off too soon

Eric Hosmer was getting criticized for not showing up in this playoff series, but now he’s had at least three huge hits, and two of them came on Monday — and they came when it mattered.

Hosmer had an RBI single in the eighth and then absolutely crushed a two-run home run in the ninth. Those insurance runs made everything easier for the Royals.

Some wise man once said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

That guy knew what he was talking about: I was writing the Royals obituary in the seventh inning.

KC’s bullpen beats Houston’s

Luke Gregerson came in the game, and things did not get a whole lot better for the Astros. He walked Drew Butera, and Alex Gordon hit a groundball that gave Kansas City the lead. Josh Fields replaced Gregerson in the ninth, and he walked Ben Zobrist, then gave up a bomb to Eric Hosmer.

Kelvin Herrera gave up a run in the sixth inning, and Ryan Madson gave up two in the seventh, but Wade Davis gave up nothing over two innings. So Houston’s bullpen gave up seven runs, and Kansas City’s gave up three.

The Astros’ starting pitchers have generally outpitched the Royals’ starting pitchers, but in Game 5, when the game gets to the bullpen, the Royals might have the advantage — assuming Davis is available after pitching two innings and a day’s rest.