Judging the Royals

Ian Kennedy and the shutdown inning

Ian Kennedy
Ian Kennedy The Associated Press

On Saturday afternoon Kendrys Morales hit a baseball 442 feet, and as you might have guessed, that ball left the yard. Even better for the Royals, Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer had singled before Morales hit that ball lopsided. And even better for the Royals, this all happened in the top of the first inning.

So starting pitcher Ian Kennedy had a three-run lead before he ever stepped on the mound, but he couldn’t allow the Indians to get back in the game. When the Royals have a multi-run inning, pay attention to what happens next; if you’re a Royals fan you’re hoping for a “shutdown inning.”

If Kennedy allowed the Cleveland Indians to score in the bottom of the first – even one run – that would get the Indians back in the game; back in the game on the scoreboard and back in the game in their heads.

If the other team has a big inning and you come right back and score runs of your own, it feels like you still have a chance; but if the other team has a big inning and you get shut down in the next half inning, doubt starts to creep in.

And expecting to lose often leads to defeat.

So after Morales put the Royals up 3-0 in the top of the first, it was up to Kennedy to shut down the Indians in the bottom of the first, and things did not start well. Rajai Davis singled, and Jason Kipnis lined out to center field. With Francisco Lindor at the plate, Davis stole second base.

Lindor singled, Davis advanced to third and that set up one of the biggest at-bats of the game: With one down and a runner on third, Cleveland DH Mike Napoli just needed to get a ball in play to the outfield and the Indians would have a run.

Kennedy struck Napoli out with a high fastball.

The final batter of the first inning, Carlos Santana, hit a fly ball one at-bat too late, and Ian Kennedy had his shutdown inning.

The sixth inning jam

After Kennedy shut down the Indians in the first, he went on cruise control for the next four innings. He started the sixth with a single and a double play, but then things got dicey with two outs.

Cleveland hitters were facing Kennedy for the third time, and Kennedy’s numbers spike up on a third trip through the order.

Kennedy walked Jason Kipnis, gave up a single to Lindor and then walked Napoli. The Royals had tacked on a run in fifth, so Cleveland now had the tying run at the plate.

But the tying run was Carlos Santana, and Santana had never gotten a hit off Kennedy. One pitch later, he still hadn’t; Santana hit a ground ball to Eric Hosmer, and the Cleveland threat was over.

Saturday afternoon the Royals beat the Indians 7-0, and a shutdown inning in the bottom of the first is one of the reasons that happened.

Recapping a 5-4 loss and the Royals' series in Cleveland 

Other stuff

▪ Watch for teams to pitch Jarrod Dyson up in the zone; they want him to hit the ball in the air because he doesn’t hit a lot of home runs (six in 1,115 big league at-bats). Dyson should be trying to hit the ball on the ground – that allows him to use his speed.

▪ In the eighth inning Lorenzo Cain tried to score on an Eric Hosmer double and was thrown out at the plate; fortunately it was ground-rule double and the Royals got a do-over when Cain was sent back to third. But getting thrown out at the plate to make the first out of an inning is usually a bad idea; stop at third base and your team has three chances to drive you in.

▪ I never saw whether third base coach Mike Jirschele sent Cain or Cain did it on his own; when you watch the game on TV you only get to see what they choose to show you and if they showed this I missed it.

▪ There was a scoring change on a ball Eric Hosmer hit at Jason Kipnis Friday night. Originally it was ruled an error, by Saturday afternoon it was a hit. A lot of questionable scorekeeping occurs when the scorekeeper has never played much baseball and has odd ideas about what balls should be caught and what balls are hits – and a scorching line drive that short hops the player is generally considered a hit.

Yordano Ventura's control issues continue in Cleveland