Judging the Royals

Tampa Bay Rays’ Kevin Kermaier makes a bad decision

Tampa Bay Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan, left, looks on as Kansas City Royals' Alex Gordon doubles during the eighth inning of a baseball game Monday, July 7, 2014, in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tampa Bay Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan, left, looks on as Kansas City Royals' Alex Gordon doubles during the eighth inning of a baseball game Monday, July 7, 2014, in St. Petersburg, Fla. AP

If you’ve seen the Rusty Kuntz video where he says outfielders should throw the ball to second base 90 percent of the time, you know Rays’ right fielder, Kevin Kermaier, screwed up in the third inning.

With one down, Salvador Perez on first and Eric Hosmer on second, Alex Gordon singled to right field. Hosmer scored and Perez went first to third while Kermiaer launched a throw in an effort to get Perez. That long throw to third base allowed Gordon to move up to second and that took the double play out of order.

That’s why Rusty says outfielders should throw the ball to second base: if there are less than two outs, keep the double play in order—if there are two outs, keep another runner out of scoring position.

The next batter, Omar Infante, hit a groundball to short that scored Perez. If Kermaier had kept Gordon at first, there’s a good chance that groundball to short would have been an inning-ending double play. Kermaier’s decision cost the Rays a run and that might not seem like much when you lose by six, but lose by one and it will seem like quite a big mistake.

James Shields best start in a while

James Shields threw 103 pitches, seven innings and gave up three hits and no runs. After the game Ned Yost said Shields was back to being Shields and that’s good news—he’s got one more start before the All-Star break and he’ll be facing the Detroit Tigers.

How to tell when the catcher doesn’t think a pitch is a strike

The first pitch to Desmond Jennings in the sixth inning was a curve and it might have been down out of the zone. You can tell it might not be a strike when a catcher feels the need to pull a pitch back in the zone. Salvador Perez subtly pulled the pitch back in the zone and James Shield got the call.

A stolen base and a bad sign

Lorenzo Cain stole second base, then held up two fingers. It appeared Lorenzo was asking how many outs there were and was subsequently informed there was only one out. As Frank White once said, in a big league park there are lots of opportunities to find out how many outs there are. It’s not great that Cain appeared to not know the number of outs, but at least he asked.

The Royals play seven-inning ballgames

Not the first or last time I’ll point this out, but if the Royals can get the ball to the bullpen in the eighth inning with a lead, their odds of winning are very good. The TV guys put up a graphic that showed the Royals were 37-1 when ahead after seven innings and 39-1 when ahead after eight.

Wade Davis and Greg Holland have been very tough to beat.

Opposing teams better have a lead after seven innings or they probably won’t have one at all.

A terrific piece of hitting by Gordon

Rays reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo started the eighth inning by throwing a 92-MPH fastball to Alex Gordon. The ball was hit a mile, but pulled foul and that made the count 0-1. So the next pitch was an 85-MPH changeup; if Gordon pulled 90 foul, 85 should also be pulled foul and Oviedo would have Alex 0-2.

But Gordon made an adjustment, kept the ball fair and doubled.

The next batter, Omar Infante, did a nice job flipping the ball to right field to move Gordon to third, but then almost got thrown out when he started loafing on the bases. The ball landed down the right field line, Kevin Kermaier misplayed it, Gordon scored and Omar made the turn at second and headed for third base.

Infante had his back to the play and didn’t seem to realize how close the throw was going to be and didn’t pick up third-base coach Mike Jirschele signaling ‘slide’ frantically until the last second. Infante got down in time and later scored on a Mike Moustakas sac fly.

Sal’s signal

Just before reliever Scott Downs threw pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer a two-strike curve, Salvador Perez reached behind the right-handed Guyer’s back, pointed his glove at third-baseman Mike Moustakas and then held up two fingers on his throwing hand. I’m guessing, but here’s the translation: it’s a curve and if the batter hits it, the ball’s coming to you.

The hitter can’t see what’s happening behind him and if it’s done at the last second there’s no time for anyone else to pass the information along to the hitter.

The pitch was thrown at 73 miles an hour so had Guyer hit it—he swung and missed—it probably would have been hit to Moose at third. Sal’s signs were unusual; that information is typically passed along to the corner infielders by the middle infielders.

I’ll ask about this when the Royals get back in town.

Wade Davis will talk if you ask the right questions

The very first thing I was told about Wade Davis is that he was quiet, but the first time I talked to him we had a lengthy conversation. Once in a while Wade will see me sitting on the bench, come over, sit down and talk for an hour. I don’t know what he gets out of it, but I learn a hell of a lot about pitching from a very smart guy.

Those on-field bullpens

The Rays have their bullpens on the field in foul territory and those on-field bullpens stink. Guys have to be careful warming up—a line drive might whistle their way while their backs are turned—the fans look like their listening to the bullpen conversations and when a player has to chase a foul pop up, they’re negotiating pitch mounds. And if you’re going into the other teams’ bullpen area while chasing a pop-up, don’t expect a lot of help.

The Rays tank has a better location than the Rays relievers.

The All-Stars

As I’m sure you’re already aware, the Kansas City Royals are sending three players to the All-Star game: Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez and Greg Holland. As I’m also sure you’re already aware, Alcides Escobar and Wade Davis could have been selected as well; they’re having very good seasons.

If you’ve been a Royals fan for a while, you know there were years Kansas City had an All-Star only because Kansas City was required to have an All-Star. The basically picked the least bad player and he got to go. Having five guys with All-Star level credentials is a pretty big change.