Judging the Royals

The Cardinals vs. Royals; is this a big series?

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter (13) follows through on an RBI double that scored Peter Bourjos for the go ahead run in the 11th inning during Wednesday's baseball game on June 4, 2014 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter (13) follows through on an RBI double that scored Peter Bourjos for the go ahead run in the 11th inning during Wednesday's baseball game on June 4, 2014 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas City Star

1. Adam Wainwright is a very good pitcher.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; when every hitter in a lineup goes cold or gets hot on the same night, it’s the guy on the mound. The Cardinals started Adam Wainwright and he didn’t give up a hit until the sixth inning. You can tell your hitters to look for pitches up in the zone, but if the pitcher doesn’t throw any, it’s going to be a tough night.

2. Eric Hosmer has heart.

Eric Hosmer usually wears his pants long, but on Wednesday night he had them pulled high; up around the knees. When a player changes his pant length it often means he’s trying to change his luck. In Hosmer’s case it worked; somehow his luck got worse.

Hosmer struck out in the first, fourth and sixth innings. In the ninth—with his team down 2-0—Eric struck out for a fourth time, but the ball got away from St. Louis catcher, Yadier Molina. Instead of moping about his four strikeouts, Hosmer sprinted to first base. He made it and started a ninth-inning, game-tying rally.

3. Wade Davis wasn’t available.

After nine innings the game was tied 2-2 and Ned Yost brought in Greg Holland. In a tie game at home you can use your closer to get two shots at winning a game. Holland went 1-2-3 in the top of the tenth and that meant the Royals could win it in the bottom of the tenth or—no matter what happened in the top of the inning—the bottom of the eleventh.

The Royals didn’t score in the tenth, so that pushed the game to the eleventh inning. Wade Davis, who has been lights out as the set-up man, was not available.

Ned Yost gave the ball to Kelvin Herrera and Kelvin was—according to Ned Yost—"erratic". Herrera got the first batter, but walked the second; Peter Bourjos. The Cardinals centerfielder stole second base and then, with first open, Herrera pitched to Matt Carpenter.

Carpenter already had four hits and wound up with a fifth—a double that put the Cardinals ahead to stay. After the game Ned said he had Herrera pitch to Carpenter because he liked the matchup, but the Cardinals third baseman got a changeup that stayed up and lined it into right center.

Two more runs scored before the inning was over and the St. Louis Cardinals won this one in eleven innings, 5-3.

Game notes

First inning: With a runner in scoring position Jason Vargas fell behind the Cardinals clean-up hitter, Allen Craig. Vargas then walked him on four pitches. When you see that—a four-pitch walk from a pitcher with good control—it’s quite likely the walk was semi-intentional. The pitcher is not going to give in and give a hitter that can hurt him something to hit.

In the bottom of the inning Eric Hosmer’s first at-bat went bad when he got a hittable 2-1 fastball and fouled it off. That made the count 2-2 and gave Adam Wainwright a chance to throw his curveball—and he did. Hosmer struck out on that curve, but only because he missed his pitch earlier in the at-bat.

Third inning: Craig drove a ball deep to left-center and Jarrod Dyson caught it right in front of the wall. Back in St. Louis that ball might have been a home run; their gap is 375 feet from home plate, ours is 387.

Fifth inning: The Cards put a left-handed shift on Mike Moustakas and to get him to pull the ball into that shift, fed him nothing but off-speed pitches. Watch for that to be repeated when Mike comes to the plate Thursday night.

You can also watch for the St. Louis outfield to play deep, which might mean some bloop hits falling in front of them. And keep an eye on the Cardinal pitching staff with a runner on base; they have the reputation for being quick to the plate which can prevent runners from stealing a base.

Some odd base running in the sixth inning

Alcides Escobar broke up Adam Wainwright’s no hitter with a single to right field in the sixth inning. At that point the Royals were down by one run, so you might think Escobar would steal second base—but that wasn’t going to happen.

Wainwright is quick over to first and that keeps a base runner’s lead short. Wainwright also gets the ball to home plate quickly and when he gets it there, Yadier Molina catches it. That combination—Wainwright and Molina—meant the Royals had to bunt.

Jarrod Dyson was at the plate and got the bunt down—but Escobar broke for second before Dyson bunted. That might mean someone missed a sign; you generally don’t send a runner and then have the hitter bunt—if the ball is popped up on the infield, that’s a double play.

Should Escobar have stolen third base in the eighth?

Jason Vargas pitched through the top of the eighth inning and finished with 117 pitches. Michael Mariot was warming in the pen and unless the Royals could score two runs, he’d pitch the ninth. If the Royals tied the game it seemed likely that Mariot would sit down and closer Greg Holland would take the ninth inning. That being the case, Kansas City needed two runs to get their closer in the game.

Mike Moustakas started the eighth by grounding out to second, then Alcides Escobar hit a double. Jarrod Dyson was at the plate and the count was 2-2 when Escobar broke for third base. Runners want to get to third base with less than two outs because they can then score on a fly ball or a groundout. So if Escobar was going to steal third, it might make more sense to do it earlier in the count, before Dyson was down to his last pitch.

The 2-2 pitch was a curve, Jarrod swung and missed and Escobar was safe at third; even though Jarrod is left-handed and that allowed Yadier Molina a clear throwing lane down the left-field line.

Escobar stole third, but didn’t get there until the second out had already been made. Omar Infante made the third out by hitting a fly ball to center field, so it seems fair to wonder if it was worth it; should Alcides Escobar have stolen third base in the eighth inning?

The Cardinals vs. Royals; is this a big series?

There are certain games that fans and the media get excited about, but I’m not sure the players see it the same way. In my experience, fans care about the Royals-Cardinals rivalry more than the players do. These are professional ballplayers and they know they’re playing here right now, but might be playing over there some day.

Every time the Cardinals come to town the media asks questions about all the red in the stands and what it means to play our traditional rivals, but the players seem pretty nonchalant about the whole thing. As former Royal Elliot Johnson once said to me; if you want to go to the playoffs, win 90 games—it doesn’t much matter who you win them against. Beat somebody 90 times and you’re in.

That being the case, a series against a bad team may be more important. It might be fun for us to have the Royals play the Cardinals or the Yankees, but playing the Astros might have been a bigger series.

How to win Jason Kendall’s catcher’s mask

Here’s the deal: click on the link below and it takes you to a landing page for the new book "Throwback." St. Martin’s Press is encouraging readers to help spread the word about the book and if you do, we send you a signed bookplate—an autographed sticker that goes into your copy of the book. You also get a chance to win an autographed Jason Kendall catcher’s mask.


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