Judging the Royals

The Royals keep the line moving and beat the Blue Jays

Danny Duffy did his job on Saturday: He made an adjustment and limited the damage.
Danny Duffy did his job on Saturday: He made an adjustment and limited the damage. jsleezer@kcstar.com

On Friday night, four pitches into the game, Devon Travis homered on a Dillon Gee curveball. On Saturday night, five pitches into the game, Devon Travis homered on a Danny Duffy changeup. You could forgive any Royals fan who was thinking, “Here we go again.”

But Danny Duffy did his job: He made an adjustment and limited the damage.

After the game Duffy said his changeup wasn’t as good as it was the last time he pitched, so he threw fewer of them and started using more breaking balls. The adjustment worked and Duffy gave up two runs over six and two-thirds innings.

Duffy was pulled in the seventh inning with a runner in scoring position and Travis coming to the plate; Travis had driven in both Blue Jays runs, and Ned Yost wasn’t going to give him a fourth look at Duffy.

In two games the Blue Jays second baseman homered on a Dillon Gee curve, a Kelvin Herrera fastball and a Danny Duffy changeup. When a hitter’s that hot you either walk him or throw something different at him, and in this case that something different was Peter Moylan.

Moylan got Travis out on Friday and was asked to do the same thing on Saturday; Moylan struck out Travis with a slider. Maybe the Royals have found a hot hitter’s Achilles’ heel, but unless Yordano Ventura can develop a slider by 1:15 Sunday it won’t do much good. If Travis comes up with runners in scoring position, don’t be surprised if he ends up walking.

Moylan has now worked two days in a row and Friday had an up-down – he got one out in the seventh, sat down and then got up again to pitch the eighth – so he might not be available on Sunday, but if Moylan’s able to pitch Ned might find a way to match him up against Devon Travis.

Not the Blue Jays’ kind of game

After the Royals won the game 4-2 I went to Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ press conference. (Variety is the spice of life; plus I’ve known Gibby for years, and he’s one of the funniest guys in baseball.)

Gibby said Saturday’s game was not the Blue Jays’ kind of game and Kauffman Stadium is not the Blue Jays’ kind of park. The Blue Jays bang. They’re second in the league in home runs, and with the exception of Devon Travis – who is so hot right now he can hit anything out of anywhere – Kauffman’s dimensions make it harder for the Jays to hit the ball out of the yard. The Jays are 13th in stolen bases, so they have a difficult time resorting to a speed game when their power game isn’t working.

The Royals score three in the fifth inning

If you want to be successful, understanding what kind of team you are and how you should approach the game is crucial. The Royals get in trouble when they try to play like the Blue Jays; Kansas City is dead last in home runs, so trying to pull the ball and hit it out of the yard is not going to work all that often.

And trying to pull the ball leads to strikeouts; you have to swing sooner, and that means you’re easier to fool. Over the past two seasons one of the Royals’ strengths has been getting the ball in play; this season they’re striking out more often.

If the Royals get down by multiple runs it takes them out of their game. They stop stealing, bunting and running the bases with abandon. When you’re down by six runs late in the game, playing for one run doesn’t make much sense.

But if the pitching can keep the score low enough the Royals can do what they do best: Each guy just tries to find a way to get on base and keep the line moving – and that’s what the Royals did in the fifth inning.

With the Blue Jays up 2-0, Alex Gordon led off the fifth with a single, and Paulo Orlando followed that up with an infield single. Raul Mondesi was asked to bunt the tying runs into scoring position and, even though everybody in the park knew it was coming, Mondesi beat the bunt out for another infield hit – the bases were loaded. Alcides Escobar followed that up with a third infield single and Gordon scored.

The Royals were using their speed and playing their kind of game.

Cheslor Cuthbert made an out on a soft line drive, and Lorenzo Cain made another out on a fielder’s choice, but then Eric Hosmer came through with a two-out, two-RBI single and the Royals took a lead they’d never give up.

Only two balls left the infield and both balls were singles, yet the Royals scored three runs. They then tacked on a fourth run in the sixth.

Find a way to score four runs

Look at the numbers, and it’s pretty simple: When the Royals score three runs or fewer they’re 11-45, when they score four runs or more they’re 41-13. Yordano Ventura starts Sunday’s game for the Royals, and it would be nice if Ventura and the bullpen kept the Blue Jays to three runs or fewer and if that happens, nicer still if the Royals find a way to score four runs or more.

And if the Royals keep the line moving they’ve got a shot.