Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer swung at a two-strike curve during Friday night's first inning at Oakland.
He hit into a double play, but a run scored.
Two innings later, Hosmer swung at another two-strike curve; he grounded out to the pitcher, but a runner advanced into scoring position and later scored on a single.
The Royals won the game by two runs.
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Five and half months ago — after the Royals won the World Series — a champagne-soaked Rusty Kuntz addressed reporters and said the Royals had shown the value of getting the ball in play. Remember, the Royals tied up Game 5 after Mike Moustakas moved Hosmer to third with a groundout to first, and Salvador Perez scored Hosmer with a groundout to third.
If Moustakas and Perez hadn't put the ball in play, the Royals would have lost Game 5.
If you’re thinking that a ball in play can result in two outs, shake yourself. If that’s your reasoning, sign me to a big-league contract and I’m almost certain I would never hit into a double play — I’d strike out every time I came to the plate.
Sure, a ball in play can result in two outs, but a ball in play also creates the possibility of something good happening: a hit, an error, a runner advancing ... or even a runner scoring on that dreaded double play.
There are people who have argued that a strikeout is no worse than any other out, but there aren’t many people wearing big-league uniforms who would agree with that conclusion.
In the 2015 regular season, the Royals struck out less than any other team: 973 times. The Chicago Cubs struck out more than any other team: 1,518 times. If the Cubs had put 545 more balls in play, I believe some good things would have happened, and the Royals probably believe that, too.
In fact, they’ve got the rings to prove it.
Good starting pitching
After Friday night’s win against the A’s, the Royals are off to an 8-2 start. For the most part, the defense, offense and bullpen have performed as well as we’ve come to expect. The surprise has been the starting pitching.
In the opening game of the series against the Athletics, Edinson Volquez went six innings, allowing just two earned runs.
KC's only starting pitcher with an ERA over 4.00 is Chris Young — he had a bad outing in Houston — and he can do something about that today, when he starts against Oakland Saturday afternoon.
We’re only 10 games into the season, but so far the starting pitching has been surprisingly good.
Why does Volquez slap his thigh?
If a pitcher jumps toward home plate too soon, he can cause his arm to be late reaching its release point, and the ball will stay up in the zone.
If the pitcher stays over his back leg and then drives forward at the right time, his arm will be on schedule and the ball will stay down in the zone.
If you see Volquez slap his right thigh with his throwing hand, you’re seeing him remind himself to stay back during his delivery.
Spotting a good infield arm
The Royals have been blessed with two outstanding arms on the left side of the infield, in shortstop Alcides Escobar and third baseman Mike Moustakas. They are about as good as it gets.
When a shortstop or third baseman makes a play and throws the ball over to first, he doesn’t put radar-gun readings on the scoreboard, but fans can still spot a good arm by watching the ball’s trajectory.
If the ball is still firm as it arrives at first base, that a good arm. If the ball is dying as it arrives at first, that’s an arm that’s a little short.
Friday night, Christian Colon was giving Moustakas the night off and had to make a couple of throws to first base. He bounced one and Hosmer saved him with a good scoop; the other throw was losing steam as it arrived.
Remember, we’re comparing Colon to two of the best infield arms in baseball, but if he’s on the left side of the field, he's going to be better if he can move forward as he makes his throws; that will give him some momentum.
If Colon has to go to his backhand side, catch the ball, stop and throw flat-footed, that’s when lack of arm strength might show up.