According the internet, journalist Murray Kempton once said critics are the people who come down out of the hills after a battle is over and shoot the wounded.
Murray had a point.
Hindsight is always 20-20; it’s easy to say what should have been done after the smoke clears, so keep that in mind as you read along.
Saturday night Danny Duffy gave up seven runs in five innings, and the Royals lost to the Red Sox 8-3. Early on it was clear Duffy did not have his best stuff. It took him 28 pitches to get through the first inning and he was using every pitch he throws.
When pitchers are going good they might try to hold a pitch back so they can show something new in later at bats; when pitchers are scuffling, they can’t afford to do that.
Duffy was missing his spots and leaving far too many pitches far too close to the middle of the plate. In the first inning Dustin Pedroia singled, and Xander Bogaerts homered on a fastball right down the pipe.
So locating pitches was a problem, but it wasn’t the only problem.
The Royals pitch to Pedroia and pay the price
All we have to do is look at the scoreboard to know how a hitter has done over the course of a season, but a .300 hitter doesn’t hit .300 all the time. He goes through hot and cold streaks, and opposing teams need to know how that hitter is hitting right now.
And right now you could toast marshmallows by holding them over Dustin Pedroia’s bat.
Over the last seven days Pedroia is hitting .600. Friday night Pedroia went 4 for 4, so the Royals should have known Pedroia is currently en fuego. And yet Saturday night they pitched to him with runners in scoring position and first base open on two occasions, and both times Pedroia made them pay by driving in the run.
And to make things worse, Xander Bogaerts made outs after both Pedroia at-bats.
I get that the Boston lineup is loaded and Xander Bogaerts isn’t exactly chopped liver, but Bogaerts is hitting .304 over the last seven days, and that means right now Pedroia is just about twice as likely to get a hit. And over their careers Pedroia hits Duffy at a .462 clip and Bogaerts hits .222 – pitching around Pedroia was the smart thing to do.
So using hindsight I just saved the Royals two runs, but that means they still would have lost 6-3; what’s the big deal?
Meanwhile, the Royals walk Chris Young and Aaron Hill
Saturday night Royals pitchers walked the leadoff batter in three different innings, and all three leadoff walks scored. Leadoff walks tend to hurt worse than other walks because the opposing team has all three outs available to move that leadoff walk around the bases.
Boston’s Chris Young was walked twice, and he’s currently hitting .268 and .125 over the last seven days … and the last 14 days … and the last 28 days. Young had a groin strain and took all of July and most of August off. Young started playing again on Aug. 22 and hasn’t had a hit in the last four games.
The other guy who received a leadoff walk and then scored was Aaron Hill. He’s hit .194 since coming over to the Red Sox from the Brewers. Hill has hit .000 over the last seven days, .087 over the last 14 and .208 over the last 28 days.
So to sum up: The Royals pitched to one of the hottest hitters on the planet and walked two guys who are currently ice cold.
Both Young and Hill took 0-fers Saturday night, so pitch to them and you might save three runs; avoid Pedroia and you might save two more. This is a whole lot of conjecture, but if the Royals had played the odds and that’s how things had gone, you’re looking at a 3-3 ballgame.
The Royals need to play a smarter game on Sunday night – I don’t want to have to shoot any more wounded.