Judging the Royals

The ebb and flow of a major-league season

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost (3) watches in the first inning during Saturday's baseball game against the Seattle Mariners on June 21, 2014 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost (3) watches in the first inning during Saturday's baseball game against the Seattle Mariners on June 21, 2014 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas City Star

Before the Royals hot streak Ned Yost kept saying be patient. The Royals were pitching and playing defense well and once the bats came around, his team would go on a nice run. During the hot streak, Ned told people to calm down. He asked what the date was and pointed out there was a lot of baseball left to play. Now they’ve lost four straight, including another 2-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners, and Yost is saying it’s all part of the ebb and flow of a major-league season.

Ned pointed out that the Royals are playing other big league teams and winning in the big leagues isn’t easy. On Monday the Dodgers, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw are coming to town — it ain’t gonna get any easier.

Game notes

First inning: Lorenzo Cain was batting leadoff, showed patience at the plate, saw six pitches, took five of them and walked.

Second inning: Alex Gordon was on second base when Danny Valencia hit a fly ball to Mainers centerfielder, James Jones. Jones did not get behind the ball and come forward as he made the catch; that’s what veteran outfielders do when they know they have to make a throw after catching the ball.

Because Jones caught the ball flat-footed, he didn’t get as much on his throw as he might’ve and Alex was able to tag and advance to third. That whole process was repeated when Justin Maxwell hit another fly ball to Jones; this time Alex tagged and scored easily.

Later in the inning Lorenzo Cain came to the plate with two outs and a runner in scoring position and showed little patience; he saw four pitches, swung at three of them and at least a couple of those pitches were marginal.

So what happened to the patience Cain showed in the first inning?

Just a guess, but some hitters start expanding the zone with a runner in scoring position. Everybody wants RBIs and if you start chasing pitches to get one, bad things often happen.

Fourth inning: With two down Billy Butler tried to stretch a single into a double and with two down that can be a good base running play — get to second and you’re one hit away from scoring instead of two. That might be worth taking a chance. In this case Billy was thrown out easily; if you’re going to get thrown out trying for two, it probably ought to at least be close.

Seventh inning: Mike Zunino hit a Yordano Ventura curveball 402 feet for what turned out to be the winning run. Afterward, Ned Yost was asked if it was the wrong pitch or the pitch’s execution and Ned said execution. There is a theory that you can throw any damn pitch you want as long as you execute it well.

But if it’s the wrong pitch you better execute the heck out of it.

Later in the same inning Yordano Ventura saved a run when he picked up a bunted ball and got the runner trying to advance to third. A fly ball to left followed that play, so if Ventura doesn’t make the play at third base a run would have scored.

Eighth inning: Omar Infante singled and Eric Hosmer followed that with a line out to Willie Bloomquist, the Mariners second baseman. Then the pitcher balked to put Omar on second and with the tying run in scoring position, Billy Butler lined out to Bloomquist again.

Hosmer lined out on the first pitch and someone asked if he should have been more patient. I said the hitter’s job is to walk or hit the ball hard and Hosmer hit the ball hard — same with Butler.

Everyone is talking about the failures of the offense and fans will probably focus on the results: the Royals failed to score in the eighth inning. But hitters can’t steer the ball and with the game on the line two of the Royals hitter’s did their job; they hit the ball hard, but someone was standing in front of it.

Ninth inning: Mike Moustakas pinch hit with two outs and kept the game going with a line drive up the middle. Then Pedro Ciriaco — in the game because Alcides Escobar got hit by a pitch in the shin — had a bad at bat to end things: Pedro swung at a first-pitch changeup, then took a hack at a 97-mph fastball up around his neck and finished things off with another swing and miss at a changeup.

Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler had good at-bats with the game on the line in the eighth inning; Pedro Ciriaco had a bad at-bat with the game on the line in the ninth.

Not the stupidest thing I ever said, but close

Saturday afternoon Jason Kendall and former Royal Willie Bloomquist were talking by the elevators just outside the clubhouse and I happened to be walking by. Jason introduced me to Willie and said that I was the co-author of his book "Throwback".

Willie said he’d heard about it and wanted to get a copy. I said don’t worry, we had some extras lying around and I’d bring him one. I then asked this question:

"Will you be here tomorrow?"

Willie started laughing and said he better be. But after the game he had—two doubles and an RBI — I kinda wish Willie Bloomquist had missed the team bus.