Sometimes you lose because the other team beats you; sometimes you lose because you beat yourself. On Friday night the Royals lost 3-2 to the Seattle Mariners and beat themselves.
To understand how that happened, let’s start in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Coming into that half inning the game was scoreless. When you’re not hitting you probably need to push it on the base paths and make the most out of whatever hits you have.
With two outs Salvador Perez walked and then Paulo Orlando singled. With a runner on second base and two outs, third base coaches get very aggressive about sending runners home; even when the runner is a slow one like Salvador Perez.
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So when Cheslor Cuthbert singled, Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele waved Perez home. A good throw probably would have gotten Perez, but Jirschele wasn’t going to wait for another two-out hit; the odds were better that Mariners left fielder Seth Smith would not make a perfect throw to home plate.
But the trail runner – Paulo Orlando – came too far around second base and the Mariners saw a chance to get the third out of the inning; third baseman Kyle Seager cut the ball and threw it to second baseman Robinson Cano. Orlando didn’t get back to second base in time and was tagged out; that hurt the Royals in two ways.
If Orlando was tagged before Perez touched home plate the inning would be over and Salvy’s run wouldn’t count. Fortunately, the umpires ruled that Perez touched home before Orlando was tagged, so the Royals got away with Orlando’s mistake and put a run on the board. But Orlando being tagged out also cost the Royals an at bat with a runner in scoring position.
And in a one-run game that might have made a difference.
How the Royals helped the Mariners score their first run
In the top of the fifth Kyle Seager doubled to right field. With nobody out and down by one run, lefty Adam Lind needed to pull the ball to the right side of the field. Even if Lind didn’t get a hit, that might allow Seager to move from second to third base.
Ventura fell behind Lind 2-0 and then threw him a changeup; Lind just missed a double down the right field line. Next Ventura and Perez doubled up on a bad idea and threw Lind another off-speed pitch; this time it was a curve and Lind hit a deep fly ball to right field. It was caught, but because it was hit to right, it allowed Seager to tag and make it to third base.
Five pitches later Seager scored on a sac fly.
Throwing Lind off-speed pitches helped him pull the ball; pitch Lind hard away and his job would have gotten much tougher. And a fly ball to left field would not have allowed Seager to tag and move to third base; Gordon would have been too close and the Royals left fielder throws too well.
Losing focus with two outs
There are danger points for pitchers and oddly enough one of those dangers points is after a pitcher gets two outs in an inning. If the pitcher doesn’t stay mentally focused – if he gets two outs and relaxes because the inning is almost over – things can get away from him in a hurry.
It’s admittedly unfair to compare Yordano Ventura to one of the best pitchers that ever stood on pitching mound, but once Greg Maddux –a guy known for his focus – got two outs, Maddux stepped on the other team’s neck; their batting average would go down.
When Yordano Ventura gets two outs, the other team’s batting average goes up.
With two outs in the sixth inning Ventura got two outs and then fell behind 2-0 to Seth Smith. Smith got the fastball he expected and singled. Next, Ventura fell behind 3-0 to Robinson Cano. Once again Cano got a fastball in a fastball count and doubled.
With two runners in scoring position, Ventura threw a wild pitch and both runs scored.
Trying to make up for a bad play with a great one
The wild pitch Ventura threw bounced in the dirt and Perez blocked it, but the ball caromed off Salvy and bounced away from home plate. Seth Smith scored from third, but Perez compounded Ventura’s mistake by making a bad flip to home plate.
There are times you have to slow down and do everything right and if you don’t get the runner, you live with it; rush the play and crazy things can happen.
Perez flipped the ball while moving backwards – away from home plate – and missed Ventura covering home plate. The ball went to the backstop and Cano came around to score, all the way from second base.
Not a cap-tipping loss
When a team gets beat, baseball players use a phrase: tip your cap. Don’t make excuses; acknowledge that the other team was better than you that night.
But Friday night the Mariners did not beat the Kansas City Royals, the Kansas City Royals beat themselves.