That crashing sound you heard was the Royals dropping two of three to the Cardinals over the weekend. It wasn’t the losses that caused the ruckus. It was the result: The Royals now have sole possession of last place in the AL Central and own the worst record in the league.
You know, we’ve been down this road so many times… And the Royals weren’t expected to compete this year anyway… Blah, blah, blah.
Sunday’s game was one of the more interesting contests of the season, for the sheer volume of crazy. Let’s start with Danny Duffy who somehow managed to put up this wonderful line before leaving the game with a leg cramp:
3.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO
Read that again. Duffy recorded 11 outs, nine of them on strikeouts. Uh… Wow?
He threw 90 pitches and 56 of those were strikes. What was insanely incredible about his strikes were how they broke down:
17 – Swing and miss
16 – Fouls
15 – Looking
8 – In play
That just doesn’t happen where a pitcher has more swings and misses than any other kinds of strikes. Searching for an adjective for a performance like this… Dominant comes to mind. Except it really wasn’t.
Because of the eight balls the Cardinals put in play, only two of them were converted into outs. Yep… The Cards posted a .750 BABIP against Duffy on Sunday. The same game where he was routinely making hitters look overmatched at times… things would get mixed up. Topsy-turvy.
The crazy thing was, if the cramps hadn’t felled Duffy in the fourth, I wonder if he would have been able to go back for the fifth. He didn’t finish an inning in under 20 pitches. In every start, he’s thrown between 94 and 104 pitches. Basically, he would have needed a 10 pitch fifth inning to finish right around 100 pitches, and we know he’s pretty much incapable of that kind of economy of pitches.
Just one of the weirder starting pitching performances… Ever. According to Baseball Reference, only Jim Beatte in 1982 and David Cone in 1990 have started a game and struck out nine batters in less than four innings. Duffy makes three.
As the game progressed, things got even more interesting. I just don’t understand why the Cardinals were throwing at Alex Gordon. Oh, wait… I do understand. Their manager is a egomaniacal headhunter of the highest order. Come on… We assume, this was in retaliation of the Louis Coleman throwing high and tight to Albert Pujols. They say the son resembles the father… In this case, poor little Albert sure emulates his whiny little manager. Offering a staredown after an inside pitch? Does Albert want an Oscar, because that was quite the dramatic performance. Come on… Like it’s illegal to throw up and in on a guy who sits over the plate.
(Is it just me, or had Pujols really taken on LaRussa-like qualities in that he just whines about everything. And it’s non-stop. Really Albert, you’re great. We know that. It can be fun watching you hit. But you’re veering toward A-Rod territory where you just need to shut up and play.)
If the pitches to Gordon (there were two – one behind his back before he was actually plunked) were in fact retaliation, that was the ultimate punk move by the Cardinals. Why? First of all, Pujols wasn’t even hit. He wasn’t hit! Second, Pujols got whatever he was seeking when he hit a home run on the next pitch. Besides, he sure took his time and admired his work. (My rough estimate has his home run trot – plus the bat flip styling – at 24 seconds. That makes it one of the longer home run trots this weekend.) If Pujols was perturbed by the inside pitch, that’s revenge.
There was also speculation the Gordon HBP was retaliation for Matt Holliday getting hit on Friday. Seriously? That makes even less sense. But with LaRussa, nothing is out of the realm of possibility. Ordinarily, if it was just one pitch that hit Gordon, I’d write it off as nothing. But two… Where there’s smoke and a manager with an ego that can’t fit under that arch, there’s fire. Also, there is some question as to whether the Gordon HBP was in fact a hit ordered from management since Tallet isn’t exactly a control pitcher – he owns a 7.15 ERA. That’s LaRussa’s M.O. on something like this – send an expendable pitcher to the mound so he gets the ejection and/or suspension. Stay classy, Tony.
Of course, this whole thing takes on an added dimension when Wilson Betemit runs into Pujols’ wrist on a play at first in between Pujols’ home run and the Gordon HBP, knocking him from the game. It should be noted that while The Best Fans In Baseball think Betemit did something wrong, there is absolutely no way he was at fault. He was clearly running down the baseline, well within his rights. Pujols just handled the throw in the worst possible way. Although by the time this is over, I’m sure Cards fan will somehow place Betemit on the grassy knoll in Dallas. Jeez…
One final note on this… the unwritten rule is if you seek retaliation, you look to the comparable player on the other team. You hit my catcher? I got your catcher. You hit my best hitter? I’ll do the same to your best hitter. So if the Cardinals are seeking retribution for coming up and in on Pujols, they have to go after Alcides Escobar. You think I’m kidding? Whatever that kid is eating, I’ll take two.
— The Shortstop Jesus was hitting .500/.524/.675 in the 11 games prior to Sunday and picked up two more, including the game tying home run in the ninth. That was his first home run of the season, naturally.
Don’t look now, but he’s pushing his offensive line to respectability. He’s also become a guy I welcome at the plate with the game on the line. It’s a great run, the key will be for him to keep it going in some respect.
— Is Jeff Francoeur the new Alcides Escobar? I mean, good glove, no hit? Lost in the mania of the walkoff, The Frenchman made just a helluva play in the ninth to gun Descalso down at second base. Do yourself a favor, and find this play on MLBs website (the lack of embeddable video and the overall poor quality of their video page on their website prevents me from linking, but you can track this down) and watch it. Francoeur busts it to the line, grabs the ball with his bare hand, pivots and fires a strike to Escobar waiting at second for the first out of the inning.
Good thing The Frenchman has his glove, because he’s hitting .175/.210/.211 over his last 14 games. We knew his start was too good to be true… And it was. On Sunday, he came to the plate four times and saw a total of 10 pitches.
Old habits… Kind of like the Royals and last place.