Judging the Royals

Dillon Gee, Kelvin Herrera and the poorly-executed chase pitch

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Dillon Gee looks back to the scoreboard as he walks into the dugout.
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Dillon Gee looks back to the scoreboard as he walks into the dugout. jsleezer@kcstar.com

In the first inning of Friday night’s game, Dillon Gee had Blue Jays hitter Devon Travis in a 1-2 count. In 0-2 and 1-2 counts, pitchers are not required to throw a strike, but hitters have to swing at anything close — advantage pitcher.

In those counts pitchers like to throw chase pitches; pitches that start in the zone and then move out of the zone. Pitchers hope hitters will chase those pitches and make weak contact or strike out. So when Gee threw Travis a curve it was probably supposed to be a chase pitch, but the curve hung and Travis hit it out of the park.

Fast forward to the ninth inning:

This time, Kelvin Herrera had Travis in a 1-2 count and wanted to throw him another chase pitch. Because Herrera throws gas, this chase pitch was going to be a high fastball.

Good idea, but the fastball was not above the zone, it was at the top of the zone and Travis hit another home run; this one gave the Jays a 4-3 lead and that would be the final score of the game.

Give Travis some credit; the pitch was up and in and he still got the bat head to the ball, but the results tell you the pitch needed to be further up or further in or both.

The Royals have given up four home runs in 0-2 counts and 16 home runs in 1-2 counts; counts in which the batter shouldn’t get much to hit. Neither home-run pitch was a horrible idea had they been well-executed.

But they weren’t well-executed and the Blue Jays won the game.

Two walks score

Pitchers will refuse to give in to certain hitters; giving in is throwing the hitter a hittable pitch — usually a fastball — and hoping they hit the ball at someone.

If a hitter has some pop, like Josh Donaldson or Edwin Encarnacion, pitchers might keep trying to hit corners and figure if they walk those guys it’s better than having them put a ball in the cheap seats.

In the third inning Dillon Gee pitched both Donaldson and Encarnacion tough, but walked both of them — and both of them would come around to score. Donaldson scored on a Michael Saunders double, but the second run was a head scratcher.

Encarnacion was on third with one out when Troy Tulowitzki hit a ball to Alcides Escobar’s right. The Royals did not have the infield in, but stop the play when Escobar has the ball in his hand, ready to throw and Encarnacion is not quite halfway home.

Instead of cutting down the run at home plate, Escobar took the out at first and the Blue Jays picked up another run. The press watches the game from six floors up, but from there it looked like a brain cramp.

Paulo Orlando gets caught stealing

In the ninth inning down by one run, Paulo Orlando ended up on second base after an error by the Blue Jays. Jarrod Dyson was at the plate, pinch-hitting for Raul Mondesi; Joaquin Benoit was on the mound for Toronto.

With the count 1-0, Orlando tried to steal third base and was thrown out.

After the game Ned Yost was asked why and Ned said the Royals aren’t hitting so they wanted to get Orlando to third base with one out; that way Dyson would not have to get a hit to score him — a fly ball or groundout might do the trick.

Ned also pointed out that Benoit takes 1.7 seconds to deliver a pitch to home plate. Someone asked if that was a particularly slow delivery time and Ned said yeah, it was. A fast delivery time is 1.2 so 1.7 seconds is glacial.

So why did Orlando get thrown out?

After the game Orlando talked about getting a bad jump, but go back and look at the play and he also had a bad lead. To steal third you need a good lead and a good jump. And Dyson being left-handed didn’t help; it gave Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin a clear throwing lane.

Even so, Martin bounced the throw and was saved by a great catch and tag by Darwin Barney.

Would Orlando have scored on Dyson’s single?

So, of course, Dyson singled after Orlando was caught stealing and everybody — including Orlando — started saying, wouldn’t know it ... had the Royals kept Orlando at second base he would have scored anyway.

Not from where I was sitting.

Dyson hit a soft line drive just over the shortstop’s head so if Orlando had stayed at second base the ball would have been over his head as well and balls hit right at you are difficult to read. With one down Paulo would have had to wait and see if the shortstop could get back and catch the ball; that hesitation would have made it difficult for him to score.

I’ll ask Mike Jirschele about the play when I get a chance and if he thinks Orlando could have scored I’ll get back to you.

So to sum up: poorly executed 1-2 chase pitches, walks that scored, what looked like a bad decision by the shortstop, too short a lead on a stolen base attempt and the Royals lost their 58th game of the season.