They did it again; on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Kansas City Royals thrilled the 32,000 fans at Kauffman Stadium with more late-inning shenanigans. Technically, it wasn’t a comeback because the Royals were never behind, but with the game tied 2-2 in the eighth inning, Kansas City scored four runs to put the game away. The Royals have a habit of making comebacks; they did it last year in the playoffs and they’re doing it again now.
So why does this keep happening?
People talk about the Royals’ will to win and never-say-die attitude and those things probably play a role, but there’s a much more logical, down-to-Earth explanation:
The Royals have the best bullpen in baseball.
Of the 30 teams in the major leagues, Royals relievers have the lowest collective ERA (2.43). The White Sox relievers are eighth with an ERA of 3.37 and Rays relievers are 21st with an ERA of 4.07. When the game goes to the bullpens, the Royals have an advantage.
The last four games
Monday night when Rays starting pitcher Matt Andriese left the game it was tied 2-2. The Rays never scored again and the Royals beat them 6-2.
When White Sox starter Chris Sale left the game on Sunday, his team was leading 4-2. The Sox never scored again and the Royals beat them 5-4.
When White Sox starter Carlos Rodon left the game on Saturday, his team was leading 7-1. The Sox never scored again and the Royals beat them 8-7.
When White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez left the game on Friday, his team was leading 5-2. The Sox never scored again and the Royals beat them 7-5.
I assume you’re seeing a pattern: When these games went to the bullpens, their opponent pretty much stopped scoring and the Royals were just getting started. So if the Royals are losing in the early innings, just be patient.
And don’t leave the game early.
▪ If you were wondering why Rays pitcher Matt Andriese was fiddling around with the ball in his glove before every pitch, here’s your answer: Some pitchers do that so hitters can’t spot them change grips when they go to something off-speed. If Andriese only did it when he went to a slider, the Royals would pick up on that; do it before every pitch and he doesn’t give anything away.
▪ You’ll also see some pitchers start by holding the ball in their most difficult grip; start with a fastball grip and then go to a split-finger grip in the glove and it’s obvious. Start with the split-finger grip and then go to a fastball grip and it isn’t.
▪ You see a lot of conversations over at first base; runners arrive and first basemen spend a lot of time gabbing away, so it’s easy to lose focus. In the sixth inning, Andriese balked when he turned to attempt a pickoff and Rays first baseman Logan Morrison wasn’t paying attention. Andriese decided to hold onto the ball and balked, but it was Morrison’s fault.
▪ Home plate umpire Dale Scott granted time just before a pitch was thrown and then pointed at Drew Butera. Umpires do that so the pitcher will realize his catcher is the one that called late time; not the hitter. It might save some hitter getting a fastball in the ribs.
One last thing
Kelvin Herrera gave up a run Monday night, but it wasn’t really his fault. With two outs and Steve Pearce on second base, Herrera threw Steven Sousa Jr. a slider. Pearce broke for third on the pitch and Cheslor Cuthbert moved to cover the base.
Sousa’s fairly routine grounder would have been caught by Cuthbert if he had held his ground, but instead it went through the vacated area at third and Alcides Escobar had to chase it down in left field; meanwhile, Pearce was scoring.
The middle infielders signal the corner infielder when an off-speed pitch is coming, so I don’t know if Cuthbert should have stayed put with a slider on the way to home plate.
If I find out, I’ll let you know.