Judging the Royals

First-pitch fastballs catch up to Royals relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera

Too many first-pitch fastballs ... that’s what caught up with Royals pitcher Kelvin Herrera during the sixth inning of Wednesday Game 5 of the ALCS at Toronto.
Too many first-pitch fastballs ... that’s what caught up with Royals pitcher Kelvin Herrera during the sixth inning of Wednesday Game 5 of the ALCS at Toronto. jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

Kelvin Herrera pitched the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays Friday afternoon. Facing Dioner Navarro, he threw a first-pitch fastball. Next up, Kevin Pillar — first-pitch fastball. Ryan Goins? First-pitch fastball.

On Saturday, Herrera came in to pitch the eighth inning against the Blue Jays, faced Edwin Encarnacion and threw him a first-pitch fastball. Then he faced Chris Colabello: first-pitch fastball. Troy Tulowitzki: first-pitch fastball. Russell Martin: first-pitch fastball.

On Sunday, the Royals had a day off. But I’m pretty sure Herrera found a pickup game in the Toronto suburbs and threw somebody a first-pitch fastball.

Monday, the Royals got blown out, so Herrera did not pitch.

On Tuesday, it was Ben Revere, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion; all of whom saw first-pitch fastballs.

Let’s cut to Wednesday: bases loaded and Kelvin Herrera faces Chris Colabello.

First-pitch fastball, but Herrera gets Colabello to strike out.

So if you’re Troy Tulowitzki, and Herrera has thrown a first-pitch fastball to every Toronto hitter he’s faced in this series, what are you looking for?

If you said first-pitch fastball, you’ve been paying attention.

Tulowitzki jumped on Herrera’s 99 mph heater, doubled, and cleared the bases. If you fall into predictable patterns, someone will notice and take advantage.

It’s almost always the pitching

On Tuesday, the Royals had 15 hits and scored 14 runs against Toronto. Twenty-four hours later, the Royals played the Blue Jays again and had four hits and one run. One more time, and say it with me: “It’s almost always the pitching.”

Assuming the Royals did not spend Tuesday night getting hammered on Labatt’s Blue (I’m almost positive that’s a Canadian beer, but I can’t remember for sure because I drank so much of it when I was in Toronto), the entire Kansas City team did not forget how to hit between 3 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Toronto’s starting pitcher, Marco Estrada, had something to do with it.

Estrada went deep enough in the game — 7  2/3 innings — to avoid exposing the Toronto bullpen. The Blue Jays’ manager, John Gibbons, could hand the ball and a lead to two of his better relievers: Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna.

When everybody hits, it’s the pitching — when everybody doesn’t hit, it’s the pitching.

The Toronto Blue Jays got a terrific start from Estrada and he sent the series back to KC. When they play on Friday, hope the Blue Jays’ starter comes out of the game early and the Royals can attack Toronto’s middle relievers.

Nice compliment from Gibbons

It’s easy to see the other team as the enemy, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some very nice guys in the other dugout. If you’ve been following along during this series, you know I think Toronto’s manager, John Gibbons, is one of them.

When the Blue Jays were in Kansas City, John and I were talking about players who are reluctant to run into outfield walls or dive over railings to make catches. I’ve come to understand that attitude a little more than I have in the past: Do you really want to lose your centerfielder when he makes a catch and gets hurt in a meaningless game in August?

Gibby agreed, but then said the Royals had some special players, naming Moustakas and Hosmer; two guys who could lay back while protecting their health and numbers but don’t do that.

I was reminded of that when Hosmer slid headfirst into first base Tuesday and Moustakas made a play at third Wednesday and got banged up by the runner sliding in.

Gibbons — the manager of the other team — appreciates players who are willing to do that stuff, and Royals fans ought to feel the same way. Those dudes are young, but old-school.

Despite Hosmer’s haircut.