“I outsmarted myself” – Ned Yost
It may well be the defining moment of what is appearing to be a disappointing 2014 season by the Kansas City Royals.
With Kansas City clinging to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth Friday night, Ned Yost trudged to the mound and pulled his starter, James Shields. The Royals’ ace had given up a two run homer, followed by a double, but had then struck out David Ross for the second out of the inning. Jackie Bradley Jr., at the time posting a .225/.303/.309 line, was about to bat.
Shields had already thrown 112 pitches – a laboring 112 at that – and I frankly thought it might be time to make a change. After all, with the addition of Jason Frasor, Yost could go to the pen early in games and still put in a quality pitcher. You know, a guy like Frasor or Aaron Crow (who looks a lot better in the sixth than the eighth) or, I don’t know, how about Kelvin Herrera who was already warming in the pen.
Instead, the Royals’ manager opted for lefty Scott Downs to face the lefthanded hitting Bradley. It is probably important to note that Bradley is not a good hitter versus right or left-handers. It is also relevant to note that Downs, released from a team with a bad bullpen, is at this point in his career ONLY effective versus left-handed hitters.
Enter Jonny Gomes.
Were you surprised that Red Sox manager John Farrell used a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning? If you were, then you did not check Baseball-Reference and note that Gomes had been used as pinch-hitter twice in the sixth already this season and four other times in the seventh. Now, you have school or work or kids or friends or read or watch too much television or a hobby or an X-Box, so if you did not know that it’s okay. On the other hand, it is kind of Ned Yost’s job to be aware of that sort of stuff.
While Jonny Gomes became something of a joke on Twitter as the series progressed – courtesy of some ‘odd’ defense and the idea that Gomes success against the Royals would certainly lead to him be traded for immediately – he was not the guy you wanted to see facing your sixth best reliever with a one run lead on the road.
What followed was a two run homer and the Royals managed just one run and nine hits over the next 21 innings in Boston. Over the course of the weekend, we say Nori Aoki get more at-bats than Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson. We saw Danny Valencia bat clean-up, Salvador Perez miss a game with ‘groin thing’ and Raul Ibanez pinch-hit.
Not all of that paragraph is Ned Yost’s fault. He is not in charge of player acquisition. His options to pinch hit on Saturday were the slumping Lorenzo Cain (0 for his last 20), the 42 year old AND slumping Ibanez, Brett Hayes and the only-hits-lefties Danny Valencia. All this, in year whatever of Dayton Moore’s process.
The Royals’ GM has labored all these years to give us a basically .500 ballclub and put a manager in charge who (and you can debate how much a manager can do, but he can do something) is not going to make this team any better than its base talent level.
So, what can you get for James Shields these days?