When you’re facing a team with a weak bullpen, you want those relievers to throw as many innings as possible; get the starting pitcher out early and attack the pen. But on Thursday night, Detroit starting pitcher Justin Verlander threw seven innings and that meant the Detroit pen , which ranked 13th in the American League in ERA, did not get overexposed.
Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus ran a couple guys with ERAs over 4.00 out there for the eighth and ninth innings and got away with it. If Verlander had thrown five or six innings, Ausmus would have had to cover three or four innings of relief, and the Royals would have had a better chance of winning.
Now let’s look at Danny Duffy and the Royals.
One of the reasons the Royals are tied for last place in Quality Starts (at least six innings pitched and no more than three earned runs) is the strength and depth of the Kansas City pen. Manager Ned Yost does not have to nurse a starting pitcher through the sixth and seventh innings; Ned’s loaded in the pen so he can go to his relievers early.
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If a Kansas City starting pitcher gets through five innings and has a lead, the Royals are in good shape … most of the time. But what’s true most of the time might not be true in a single game and Thursday night the Royals pen coughed up seven runs.
Duffy went five innings, but Victor Martinez was due to lead off the sixth. Martinez had already hit two homers off Duffy, so Yost wasn’t going to give the Tigers’ designated hitter a chance to hit a third. Joakim Soria — a pitcher who’s handled Martinez well in the past — was brought in to pitch the sixth and other than a single to Andrew Romine, Soria got through the inning without incident.
Going into the seventh inning the score was 4-3 Royals and things were looking good; Yost had Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis lined up on the runway, ready to nail down another Kansas City victory.
The game turned in the seventh
James McCann led off the Tigers seventh and found himself in a 1-2 count after three pitches. Hochevar threw what was meant to be a chase curve, down out of the zone, but hung it and McCann homered. The game was tied 4-4.
Hochevar got two outs, then gave up a single to Jose Iglesias and a homer to Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers had a lead they’d never give back.
Down by two runs, the plan to pitch Herrera and Davis went out the window and the ball went to Peter Moylan and Chien-Ming Wang. Between the two of them, they gave up four more runs and the Royals lost 10-6.
On Thursday night, it was the Royals pen that got overexposed.
So how about the rest of the series?
When it’s hot — and Friday’s high is supposed to be 95 degrees — the ball carries better and that probably favors the Tigers. Detroit is fourth in home runs; Kansas City is dead last. So Royals pitchers need to keep the ball down; if they leave a hittable pitch up in this heat, a warning-track fly ball might become a souvenir. If a Royals pitcher pitches up in the zone, he better pitch higher than high; above the strike zone.
And getting the Tigers’ starting pitcher out early would probably be a good thing; force the Detroit relievers to throw more than two innings of relief and maybe they’re the ones that will get overexposed.
How Eric Hosmer charged himself with an error
On Wednesday night against the Cleveland Indians, Eric Hosmer may have changed the scoring on an error.
Michael Martinez laid a bunt down, Christian Colon charged the ball and flipped a throw past Hosmer into the Royals dugout. It was original scored an error on Colon, but after Hosmer was seen tapping his chest — the baseball signal for “my fault” — the scoring was changed and Hosmer got the error.
Next time Hosmer might want to apologize verbally.