Judging the Royals

Why the Royals have an advantage in extra-inning games

Lorenzo Cain is congratulated after his game-winning hit late Wednesday night against the White Sox.
Lorenzo Cain is congratulated after his game-winning hit late Wednesday night against the White Sox. jsleezer@kcstar.com

The first pitch in Wednesday’s Royals-White Sox game was thrown at 7:17 p.m. Four hours and 34 minutes later, the game ended when Lorenzo Cain hit a single up the middle and Christian Colon scored from second base. The Royals won 3-2.

The White Sox and Royals played 14 innings and 14 different pitchers were used. If I counted right — and there’s every chance I didn’t —424 pitches were thrown, 113 batters came to the plate, 25 of them got hits, 20 of them struck out and eight of them walked. (If someone who got more sleep than I did adds all that stuff up and arrives at a different number, I wouldn’t be surprised, but the point remains: the White Sox and Royals played a very long game.)

When games go to extra innings, they can sometimes last a while, and Wednesday night’s game was no exception. But when games go to extra innings, the Royals have an advantage.

Everybody wants to end it, nobody wants to start it

If you came to the park or watched the game on TV, you were probably ready for it to be over long before it was.

Guess what: Players feel the same way.

They show up early in the day and do early work hours before the game starts, so when a game goes to extra innings everybody wants it to end as soon as possible. They also want to win, and one quick way to end an extra-inning game is to hit a home run.

In order to hit a home run, most hitters have to pull the ball. So smart pitchers target the outside part of the plate. If the guy in the batter’s box insists on trying to hit the ball to the pull-side of the field, he’s quite likely to roll over on a pitch and hit a weak grounder or swing too soon and strike out.

When you’re dog tired and just want to go home it’s fairly tedious to play small ball — get a runner on, move him over and then drive him in — but quite often that’s just what you have to do.

The Royals and the one-run game

When John Gibbons and the Blue Jays were here, the Toronto manager said they really didn’t like playing the Royals in Kansas City. The Blue Jays can bang — they’re second in the league in home runs — but the size of Kauffman Stadium makes that harder to do.

The Jays don’t have enough speed to play small ball all that well — they’re 13th in the league in stolen bases — so if it gets late in a game and one run matters, Toronto is fairly limited in its options. The jays need to hit the ball, and preferably hit it out of the park.

As Gibby pointed out, when the Royals are in the same situation, they’ve got options. The Royals know how to play small ball and that makes them dangerous in the postseason. When the pitching gets better, knowing how to manufacture a single run is a handy club to have in the bag.

And manufacturing a single run is just what the Royals did in the 14th inning: a single, a bunt and a single, and the Royals came out on top. According to the material the Royals hand out before every game (and God bless the people who put that stuff together) the Royals are now 5-1 in extra-inning games.

In extra-inning games, one run matters. And knowing how to manufacture one run gives the Royals an advantage.

Kansas City gets a new motto

Before I call it quits for the day, I just want to mention how damn hot it was yesterday afternoon out on the ballfield.

Just behind the dugout, the Royals have indoor batting cages, an equipment room and a bathroom; if you stand by the dugout steps, you can feel just a little bit of air conditioning while still watching the field.

Players would start up the steps and then reel back as the heat and humidity hit them. Pretty much everyone had something to say about that heat and humidity, including Kendrys Morales.

I pointed out that Kendrys was from Latin America; wasn’t he used to this kind of weather?

Kendrys said he’d played in the Dominican and Cuba, but he still thought it was more humid in Kansas City. So if the city council is looking for a new city motto, I want to suggest one: “Kansas City: More humid than Cuba!”

I’m not sure if that’s scientifically true, but at least one guy from Cuba thinks so, and people who like to sweat (it’s why saunas exist) would flock to the humidity capital of the Western Hemisphere.

On the other hand, maybe there’s a reason I’m not in charge of the Tourism Bureau.