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Squeezed

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Who hates the Yankees? Me! A couple of notes from last night’s marathon loss.

– Obviously, the Yankees are poised for another October run, but color me unimpressed with their starting pitching. Ivan Nova and AJ Burnett just don’t look like they should be in the rotation of a team with post season dreams. But when you’re scoring 5.4 runs per game, I suppose you can live with that. Plus, it seems like Girardi has his bullpen rotation down. He’s gone Logan, Soriano, Robertson and Rivera – in that order – both nights of the series.

– It stinks that seven runs isn’t enough.

– I loved the Ned Yost ejection in the fourth inning. One of my favorite things is baseball is when the manager makes a visit to the mound, not to talk with his pitcher, but to give the home plate umpire and earful when he comes to break up the meeting.

At this point in Tuesday’s game, Danny Duffy was hot. He was getting battered around by the Yankee lineup like speed bag and on top of that, he was getting squeezed by home plate umpire Kerwin Danley. Let’s be honest… Danley was awful behind the plate. Here is how MLB Gameday charted Duffy’s pitches to Russell Martin in the second inning:

I’m not entirely sure what Duffy had to do to get the low strike. I’m sure that was on his mind in the fourth when he didn’t get a borderline call against Mark Teixeira on what would have been strike three. (To be fair, Duffy was lucky the plate appearance got that far. His first pitch was a fat, juicy hanging curve that Teixeira was out in front of and yanked foul. Yanked is the wrong word… He crushed that pitch.)

Anyway, Duffy is frustrated and you could see it. Yost comes out to give his starter the pep talk and uses the opportunity to give Danley a piece of his mind as the two were walking off the mound and gets run. Loved it. Yost was out there protecting his pitcher. Duffy thought he was getting squeezed, was getting hacked off (you could see it in his body language) and that was good enough for his manager. I know I criticize Yost a ton, but that was necessary and perfect.

– Danley’s zone was awfully tight. I know we’re not supposed to take these charts as gospel, but it sure looks like he missed a ton of pitches that were in the zone.

– Duffy struggled in a way we haven’t seen recently. He threw a total of 90 pitches and got just three swing and misses.

Of course, the back breaker was the 12 pitch at bat to Robinson Cano immediately following the Yost ejection that culminated with the ball leaving the yard. Cano fouled off four consecutive fastballs, two sliders and another fastball before he crushed a flat slider that was about belt high.

– With summer winding down, it seems like I spend a ton of time in the car, so I’ll tune into the opposing team’s radio broadcast to see what they’re saying about the Royals. Sometimes, I’ll really enjoy the rival announcers. (Plus, I need relief during the third, fourth, sixth and seventh innings… Why, those are Bob Davis’ innings!) Other times, I revel in the train wreck of awfulness. As huge as the Yankees are, you would think they would have a decent announcing tandem. You would think wrong. Things I learned listening to the Yankee broadcast, courtesy of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman:

1- Alex Gordon has a “awful” arm in left field. Yes, Sterling actually said this. They then discussed how this was possible given he used to play third base, and you would think a third baseman would have a strong arm.

2 – Joakim Soria has been “horrible” this year and has been on the DL twice. Twice. I don’t know… I follow the Royals fairly closely, so it comes as a complete shock to me that I missed the Soria transactions. Besides, while it has been far from Soria’s best season, but horrible seems to be a strong adjective. He has a 2.22 ERA since June 1 with 27 strikeouts in 28 innings.

Anyway, they used the Soria character assassination as a springboard to discuss the greatness of Mariano Rivera.

3 – Both Sterling and Waldman spend half their time clearing their throat. Jeez… Invest in a lozenge or something.

– Finally, the Royals are now 4-11 in the month of August. They have scored 58 runs (3.9 R/G) and allowed 71 (4.7 R/G). Their .309 OBP this month is their worst mark of the season. Remember, OBP is life…

Quite a series in Yankee Stadium. Haven’t seen anything like it since I started doing this blog thing six years ago. That’s because the last time the Royals won a series in New York was in 1999. 1999!

What we saw from Sean O’Sullivan was typical of this Royals rotation this season – Solid for a stretch and then hammered for a potential big inning. After holding the Yankees hitless through four innings, they were scorching the ball off O’Sullivan in the fifth. A 24 pitch circus act. Even the outs were hard hit. As I watched the game, it felt like Yost was playing not for the Royals to win, but for O’Sullivan to get the win. There’s a difference. Too often in the fifth inning of a game like we saw on Thursday, the manager will give his starter a longer leash in an effort to allow him to pick up the win. As most of us know, the win is an empty, meaningless stat. And in this case, it almost cost the team the win.

Somehow, O’Sullivan survived. And Yost not only sent him back out for the sixth, he was out in the seventh as well. That’s like the degenerate gambler who’s made a career out of getting his ass kicked at the tables suddenly playing with house money. Yost was fortunate his luck held. So was O’Sullivan.

Hey… it worked on Thursday, but let’s not kid ourselves. O’Sullivan is fifth starter fodder.

According to Brooks Baseball, O’Sullivan had exactly one swinging strike. One. And somehow that came in the fifth inning when Derek Jeter missed on a slider. There’s simply no way a pitcher can be successful in the long term if he doesn’t miss bats. Entering the game on Thursday, he was getting a swing and miss in 11 percent of all strikes. Major league average is 15 percent. And with two walks and no strikeouts on the night, his SO/BB ratio is now less than one. Sure, it’s impressive he didn’t implode at Yankee Stadium (and I honestly thought that was going to happen in the fifth) but don’t kid yourself… The guy isn’t a major league caliber starting pitcher.

O’Sullivan (and Kyle Davies and Vin Mazzaro) are reminders that as much as the Royals like to think they can contend in a weak Central, the rotation isn’t going to allow that to happen.

– Before the series in the Bronx, I predicted that Eric Hosmer would hit his first career home run at Yankee Stadium. Figured it was pretty much a sure thing, given the jet stream that screams out to right field. Hosmer did me right, homering not once, but twice in the series. How great is it that one of our top prospects comes up and starts producing immediately?

– Hosmer led off the second with a home run on the first pitch and that opened the floodgates as the Royals batted around. That was as fun an inning as I’ve seen all year. Naturally, part of that is because it was the Yankees that were imploding… Errors, passed balls, dumb plays. It was like watching a Royals game from 2009.

– The most surprising thing of the night was the Alcides Escobar double. Not really… It was probably the Hosmer double on the check swing. The dude hits even when he doesn’t mean to.

– Six games into Hosmer’s career and there’s already talk of a contract extension. I don’t know why we would talk about that. Hosmer should just retire tomorrow and the Hall of Fame will waive the five year wait period. Because he’s awesome.

I suppose the Longoria deal has kind of become the benchmark for future extensions for the elite of the elite prospects. It would be cool if the Royals were able to do something and it would generate a metric ton of goodwill. But how about Scott Boras already posturing, claiming he won’t negotiate with the Royals about an extension. What else would he say? No agent worth a dime would say they would like to talk about that, just six games into his client’s career. And Boras is worth a few million dimes.

Don’t let the fact that Hosmer is a Boras client get you down… Boras represents Carlos Gonzalez who inked an extension with Colorado last winter. See… It can happen. But damn… If we’re already talking about this, it could be a long couple of years.

– Congratulations to those who were called for the Blog at the K event. The Royals continue to dip their toes in the social media pool, even though they’re still wearing a life vest and deathly afraid of sharks. For the record, neither Clark, Nick or myself applied, so Royals Authority won’t be represented. Sounds like a good group, though. I look forward to reading their reports.

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