Judging the Royals

The Royals put a comeback, and people, together

(From left) Khalid Tayani, Thai Lang, John Crawford, and DeeAndra Crawford were among among the fans at the Power & Light District Monday that reacted as the Royals began to come back against the Astros in the final innings of game 4 of the ALDS. On brink of elimination, the Royals stunned the Astros with a 9-6 win.
(From left) Khalid Tayani, Thai Lang, John Crawford, and DeeAndra Crawford were among among the fans at the Power & Light District Monday that reacted as the Royals began to come back against the Astros in the final innings of game 4 of the ALDS. On brink of elimination, the Royals stunned the Astros with a 9-6 win. dpulliam@kcstar.com

I usually watch Royals games from the Kauffman Stadium press box or on my couch at home; twice this season I’ve watched games with Royals fans and both times I was reminded of something:

Sports can be incredibly cool.

In the press box there’s no cheering and when the Royals do something amazing, we exhibit about as much excitement as an insurance office that got a new photocopier. When I watch at home I’m usually fighting sleep — my couch is way comfortable — so that’s not exactly a center for euphoria either.

On Monday I watched the top of the eighth inning with other Kansas City Star employees and it was awesome.

People were gathering by a bank of TVs and were mesmerized. At one point someone got up and said she had to send out some emails and I asked who the hell she thought was going to be on the other end to receive them: everyone in Kansas City was probably glued to a television set.

She sat down and watched the game.

Being around people living and dying with each pitch reminds you of how sports can unify people; strangers high five and hug. (It might have been less exciting for Astros fans, but I’m guessing the game also unified people in Houston; even if it was a dozen of them deciding to enter group therapy.)

Workplaces across Kansas City were focused on the Royals' rally to take the lead in the eighth inning. At American Century Investments the crowd grew after the stock market closed and the rally grew. (Video by Mark Davis/The Kansas City Star Oct.

For my money no sport creates tension like baseball. Things keep moving in basketball and to some degree in football, but the thing that makes some people consider baseball slow also creates tension: the time between pitches.

There is time to consider the possibilities.

And in the case of Monday’s game, a team accomplishing the seemingly impossible, one pitch at a time.

The Royals won and it was still grueling to watch.

Here’s my advice: if you can’t get into Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday, do not watch the game alone. Find some friends and watch together. And if you don’t have friends, go to a sports bar. You’ll have new friends before the game is over.

Either that or you’ll be hammered and not care — win-win.

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The old-school solution to cooling down a hot hitter

When I was young I knew a lot of big league ballplayers, These days I know a lot of ex-players and coaches.

Most of the guys I know well are old-school, and old-school guys have a solution for hot hitters on the other team and the Astros have a couple; Carlos Correa is hitting in .412 in the postseason, Colby Rasmus is hitting .545.

Old-school guys would say you need to make hot hitters “uncomfortable,” which is baseball-speak for “put them on their backsides,” except ballplayers don’t say “backsides.” You don’t want to hit them with a pitch, but you do want to make them leery of digging in and leaning out over the plate.

On the other hand, Yordano Ventura came in on Correa in the third inning of Monday’s game and Correa hit the ball out of the park.

For those guys, you throw at their feet; make them move in the box. If they body slam themselves, so much the better, but do something to make them uncomfortable or they’re going to make you uncomfortable with the numbers they put up on the scoreboard.

How Tony Sipp breached baseball etiquette

Astros pitcher Tony Sipp might have breached baseball etiquette when he threw himself on the ground in frustration after Carlos Correa missed Kendrys Morales grounder up the middle.

First, Sipp also missed the ball. It deflected off his glove and then hit the pitcher’s mound. After that it took a weird hop, Correa took his eye off the ball, it went into centerfield and two runs scored.

Meanwhile Sipp was throwing himself on the ground instead of heading to back up home plate or third base.

If Sipp was upset because he missed the ball, throwing an on-the-field tantrum was just bad baseball. He was supposed to be doing his job. But if Sipp’s histrionics were in reaction to Correa missing the ball, that’s showing up a teammate.

You can say and do a lot of stuff out of sight; but get off the field and out of the dugout before you react. If you feel the need to throw a fit, go up the tunnel to do it.

You don’t do that stuff on the field.

And now I have to go yell at some kids to get off my lawn.

The Gore play at third

Infielders have several tricks they use when a base runner comes into a bag and in the seventh inning it looked like Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena might have used a couple of them.

One trick is to drop a knee: the infielder drops his knee to the ground while receiving the throw, blocking the runner’s path to the base. Infielders are more likely to try this when a runner tends to come in headfirst, but if the runner comes in feet first — and Gore did — the infielder can get spiked — and Valbuena did.

In fact, getting a reputation for spiking people is how base runners stop infielders from dropping a knee on them.

But back to the Gore play: Terrance was called safe and Valbuena rolled around on the ground in pain. Some people might question why Gore was trying to steal third base with two outs, but Alex Rios was at the plate and he’d already struck out twice on curveballs down that had to be blocked.

With a runner on third base it would be more difficult to pull that trick a third time; bounce a curve and if the catcher doesn’t block it, a run scores.

The Astros asked for a review and these days umpires rarely refuse one; nobody wants to be the new Don Denkinger. (Google him, kids.)

The slow-motion replay revealed two things: Gore’s spikes got caught in Valbuena’s pant leg and that’s what pulled his foot off the bag. Valbuena kept the tag on Gore, but was tagging Gore with his wrist; the glove and ball were not in contact with Gore’s leg.

It’s also possible that Valbuena was shoving Gore off the bag with the tag — that’s another infielder’s trick — but that was impossible to spot on the replay.

Somehow the geniuses in New York saw enough conclusive evidence to overturn the play and Gore was called out.

It would seem that baseball is going to have to review the review rules because right now they’re being abused. Plays are being reviewed that no one thought would be reviewed and umpires are granting reviews pretty much any time someone asks for one.

And they’re still not getting calls right.

Hosmer’s homer and the insurance runs ... which sounds like a pretty awesome band, but isn’t

The Royals were up by one run in the top of the ninth inning when Eric Hosmer hit a two-run homer. The Astros never scored again, so those two extra insurance runs might seem insignificant, but those two runs might be part of why the Astros never scored again.

In the bottom of the ninth, Carlos Correa led off with a single, but because the Royals were up by three, Wade Davis did not have to worry too much about Correa stealing a base. Davis could give full concentration to the hitters.

Davis could also be as aggressive as he liked because until the Astros got two base runners, the man at the plate could not tie the game. Wade threw 17 pitches in the ninth inning; 13 of them were strikes.

The Royals defense did not have to worry about a sac bunt or guard the lines. The outfield did not have to back up and play no doubles.

So when a team takes a lead and then adds insurance runs, it changes the game. Eric Hosmer’s top of the ninth home run was huge; it changed the way the Royals and Astros played the bottom of the ninth.

And Hosmer’s homer was also pretty cool to watch.