The Royals are 18-19 and it wasn’t so long ago that fans would have been pretty happy with that. After 37 games in 2014 — a year that ended with a trip to the World Series — the Royals were … drumroll … 18-19.
But there are a lot of new Royals fans and those people aren’t much used to losing at all; the team has set the bar pretty high. People expect a lot and sometimes those expectations are unreasonable.
And that brings us to Wade Davis.
For the past few years Davis has been close to unhittable and people started calling him things like cyborg and The Terminator. (And frankly, I’m part of that problem.) Our expectations are so high for Davis that when he comes in to a game with a two-run lead, you feel pretty good about starting to write that “Royals win” column.
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So everyone was shocked Sunday when Davis blew a two-run lead; but face it, even though we like the idea of Davis being a cyborg, the guy’s only human.
And it wasn’t like Davis was getting knocked around the park; he gave up a clean single to Ender Inciarte and then walked Chase d’Arnaud. (If you want to be shocked by something, be shocked by the walk — it was the tying run and came back to haunt Davis and the Royals.)
With the tying runs on base the Royals brought Eric Hosmer in for a possible bunt, but Mallex Smith swung away and shot a grounder past Hosmer — a grounder Hosmer would have fielded with ease had he been playing back. The grounder scored Inciarte and pushed d’Arnaud to third. A soft fly ball that fell in between the infield and outfield tied the score.
A well-hit single, a walk, a routine grounder and a weak fly ball. Wade Davis is only human and so are his teammates. The team that everybody loves — the 2015 Royals — lost 67 games in the regular season. Losing 19 at this point in the year is not the end of the world.
But let’s hope it’s the end of some of our unreasonable expectations.
Pitching inside in extra innings
Just before Jason Grilli delivered a 94 mph fastball to Kendrys Morales, Atlanta Braves catcher Tyler Flowers shifted his body and target toward the inside part of the plate — and that was probably a mistake.
Veteran catchers will tell you (at least smart veteran catchers) that you shouldn’t pitch middle-in during extra innings. You can pitch in off the plate — back the hitter off the dish and then pitch away — but you don’t want to throw a hittable pitch middle-in.
In extra innings (and this game was in the 13th) everybody is trying to end it with just one swing; everybody’s looking to pull the ball and you’re not going to beat a hitter middle-in.
Luckily for the Royals, the Atlanta Braves didn’t get the memo.
A 94 mph fastball was enough to keep the ball in the middle of the field, but Morales started his swing early enough to hit that Grilli fastball 414 feet; far enough to clear the center-field wall and the Royals won 4-2.
Danny Duffy’s day
Danny Duffy threw three scoreless innings and used 48 pitches. If I counted right, 37 of those pitches were fastballs. When pitchers go to the bullpen they can throw all out and often find they’re throwing harder. On Sunday, Duffy was working in the mid-to upper 90s. Duffy knew he was only going a few innings and could air it out.
So why not do that all the time? Start someone, have them go through the order once with their best stuff and then start going to a revolving-door bullpen?
Here’s the problem: because Duffy only went three, the Royals used seven pitchers to get through nine innings. When a pitcher throws more than one inning he’ll probably need a day off and when a reliever is used two days in a row he’ll probably need a day off as well. So if the Royals do this again Monday then seven pitchers will be unavailable on Tuesday.
You might get away with it once every five days, but sooner or later using so many pitchers to get through one game will catch up to you.