The Royals had their chances to pounce early against the Mets. They plated one run in the first, then two more in the second. Then… silence.
Yordano Ventura found himself in hot water early, allowing a single to Curtis Granderson and a home run to David Wright. It was a nice recovery to retire the next three batters to escape the inning. It looked like his command was good and his pitch selection was OK. His velocity, however, was another story. It dropped immediately after the Wright home run and never recovered. From Brooks Baseball, here is how Ventura’s entire evening looked.
The first couple of fastballs are around his normal average for the entire season. Then, it drops. The game log will show that Ventura averaged a tick below 95 mph on his heater, but that’s skewed by a small sample size (he was in the game only long enough to throw 20 fastballs) and by the fact his first couple of pitches were way faster than anything he threw the rest of the night. For some perspective, here’s how Ventura’s velocity has looked game by game this year.
Knowing this, the Royals probably should of had someone warming in the bullpen earlier than they did. Especially after Noad Syndergaard opened the third inning with a single on an 0-2 pitch. And certainly after another two-run home run, this time by Granderson.
But the zaniness was just getting started.
When Ned Yost did finally get his starter, he brought in Danny Duffy. This would have been the time to perform a double switch. Before the game, I was listening to MLB Network Radio and they were interviewing Yost on the field. It was a fun conversation and they asked him about playing in the NL park with NL rules. The double switch came up.
If you NL perverts are looking for Yost to do a double switch, he said on MLB Radio that he could do it with Rios hitting 8. #Royals
— Craig Brown (@royalsauthority) October 30, 2015
This makes sense. The Royals lineup is constructed with everyday players who you want to stay in for every play of the game. Rios has been pulled of late for Paulo Orlando as a defensive replacement. So if the eighth place hitter (Rios) makes the final out of an inning and the Royals are in the situation where they would like to have multiple innings from a reliever (say… Duffy) then you may see a double switch.
In other words, the setup was perfect. And Yost did nothing.
Instead, he brought Duffy in to get two outs and lifted him for a pinch hitter. OK. Maybe he didn’t want to pull Rios so early in the game which necessitated this play. That’s understandable. What’s not so understandable is that Yost send Raul Mondesi up to lead off the inning. Mondesi has tools and has the potential to be an above-average player in the major leagues. His defense and speed are already excellent. His hit tool… Not so much. The Royals have been aggressive in his promotion and he’s always been one of the youngest (if not the youngest) player in his league. Why in the world would Yost give away an at bat in that situation? If you are so hell-bent on doing that, why not let Duffy go up and stare at four or five pitches? At least that way, you’re not starting to go through your bullpen.
With the bullpen carousel in full spin, Yost turned to Luke Hochevar. Hochevar got out of the inning on 15 pitches. In the bottom of the inning, the Royals loaded the bases with two outs. Rios up again. Having missed one opportunity to remove Rios from the game, Yost found himself at another critical junction. In that same interview on MLB Network Radio, Yost said he was hoping to use Kendrys Morales in a high-leverage situation. Well, if bases loaded, two outs in the sixth inning of a game where you have a two run deficit isn’t high-leverage, they should just remove that term from the baseball lexicon.
Yost stood still. Morales sat. Rios grounded out.
If you were expecting to see Hochevar return for the sixth, you were mistaken. Instead, Yost turned to Franklin Morales. It was clear at this point that Morales would be the dreaded “sixth inning guy.” At this point, the game was still close enough that Yost would go to his big late inning guns to at least keep the game within striking distance. Instead, it went off the rails, into the dumpster and it burst into flames.
Yost brought his reliever in to face a pair of right handed bats sandwiched around a lefty in Michael Conforto. Yost should of known that Conforto would probably be lifted for a pinch hitter, as this has been something Terry Collins has done frequently this October. The same would be true if anyone reached base and the pitcher’s spot came up. In other words, there was a very real possibility that Morales would face strictly right-handers.
That’s less than ideal. Morales is a guy you could turn to for a full inning for sure, but you’d feel better about your chances if you had him face at least two left-handed bats. Instead, in Game Three of the World Series, he didn’t face a lefty until Granderson, his fifth batter of the inning. And that’s when things got really interesting.
With runners on the corners and one run already in, Granderson hit a comebacker to the mound. Instead of turning and throwing immediately to second to start a potential inning-ending double play, Morales did a little dance, spinning every which way, before finally chucking a throw wide of second. The runner held at third, but the bases were now loaded. Enter Kelvin Herrera, who Yost didn’t want to use in the sixth. Herrera coughed up all three runners.
Oh. Morales finally got to hit. With two outs in the ninth with his team down by six. Not exactly high-leverage.