Judging the Royals

Give some credit to Yordano Ventura

jsleezer@kcstar.com

On June 7, Yordano Ventura pitched against the Baltimore Orioles and gave up seven earned runs in four and a third innings; he also drilled Manny Machado with a 99 mph fastball.

The Orioles infielder probably suspected it was coming after all the chirping he did in his previous at-bat.

Machado charged the mound and mayhem ensued. (Although mayhem is pretty strong word to describe a baseball fight. Watch the video in slow motion and you see Machado threw a wild overhand right that pretty much missed Ventura completely. Ventura lost his footing getting out of the way, so it looked like Machado rocked him, but it didn’t happen.)

Ventura was ejected from the game and guys like me criticized him for immature behavior. With all the talent he has, it seemed like Ventura should just focus on the game and not get sidetracked into meaningless and unnecessary confrontations.

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Well, give Yordano Ventura some credit; that’s what he’s done in his last two starts — he’s focused on the game.

Since fighting for the cruiserweight championship in Baltimore, Ventura has won two in a row while pitching 13 and a third innings. He’s also given up just one run, while striking out 15 and issuing just one walk. When he’s pointed in the right direction, this is how good Yordano Ventura can be.

And if we’re going to criticize him for immature behavior, we ought to give Ventura some credit when he changes his ways. It’s only two starts, but it’s a start.

(And Yordano, if you happen to read this, you’d be doing me a personal favor if you didn’t get in a fight any time soon. You’d make both of us look bad.)

Detroit’s bullpen implodes and the Royals score 10 runs On Friday night the Detroit Tigers rolled another top-of- the-line starting pitcher to the mound and this time it was Michael Fulmer; 7-1, and an ERA of 2.52. When you have a terrific starting pitcher and a shaky bullpen, you want the starter to stay on the mound as long as possible.

But after 100 pitches, Fulmer had thrown only five and two-thirds innings. After a home run by Salvador Perez and back-to- back walks, it was time to pull Fulmer and hand the ball to the second-worst bullpen in the American League.

The Tigers’ bullpen imploded, giving up nine runs and the Royals won 10-3.

On Saturday the Tigers are scheduled to send Matt Boyd to the mound (0-1 with an ERA of 4.91) and if he holds true to form, it won’t be as important to get Boyd out of the game early – but the Royals still have to like their chances against that Detroit bullpen.

Is Kendrys Morales heating up?

Look at Kendrys Morales season totals and they’re unimpressive: batting average of .212, on-base .283, slugging .354. And when you’ve had 251 plate appearances, it’s hard to move the needle.

But over the last two weeks Morales has hit .314, put up an on-base percentage of .400 and slugged .514. Friday night Morales walked three times, singled, homered and drove in three runs.

Maybe Kendrys Morales is heating up.

Merrifield’s defensive gem

In the seventh inning with the tying run in scoring position, Whit Merrifield made a diving stop up the middle. Merrifield flipped the ball to Alcides Escobar at second base and instead of the game being tied, the Royals picked up an out and preserved their lead.

If you want to know why Omar Infante isn’t here anymore, at least one of the reasons is the Merrifield play. Infante wouldn’t have been able to make it.

How Dillon Gee gave up three runs

After the Royals scored four runs in the seventh and five runs in the eighth, any thought of having Wade Davis pitch the top of the ninth went out the window.

Dillon Gee was sent to the mound with a 10-run lead.

You’d think pitching with a double-digit lead would be paradise, but it’s actually kind of tricky because nobody wants to see you pitch – they want to see you throw.

Everybody’s ready to go home and the pitcher is expected to throw strikes and let batters hit the ball until they hit three of them at someone. So if you can’t throw your secondary pitches for strikes, you stick with the fastball. You don’t throw chase pitches, you don’t throw set up pitches and you sure as heck don’t walk anybody.

So when Miguel Cabrera led off the ninth he knew he was getting a fastball and he knew it was going to be a strike; Cabrera homered to left-center.

But a pitcher who’s pitching with a 10-run lead knows it’s his numbers that will take a beating and at the end of the season nobody’s going to knock three runs of his record because he wasn’t really pitching as well as he could one night.

So after Cabrera took him deep, Gee started throwing his secondary pitches.

Gee got Mike Aviles to groundout on a cutter and then started Nick Castellanos with a curve and two cutters and not one of them was in the strike zone. Walk a batter with a nine-run lead and everybody except the guy you walked gets upset. Gee went back to the fastball — a pitch Castellanos knew was coming – and Castellanos singled. After that Gee threw everything but the kitchen sink at home plate and gave up another homer on a cutter.

It was ugly, but Gee finally got three outs.

So when you get to the end of the year, remember: On June 17, Dillon Gee gave up three runs, but he was pitching under difficult conditions. He had too big a lead.

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