That was as poorly a managed game I’ve seen. Tip your cap to Madison Bumgarner who was brilliant, but the job of the manager is to put his team in the best position to succeed. The manager doesn’t swing the bat, he doesn’t field the baseball, and he doesn’t run the bases. However, he can – and does – affect the outcome of the game with a series of boneheaded moves.
— In the seventh, Eric Hosmer led off with a single. Sal Perez was up next. There’s no way Perez is going to square to bunt and really, he shouldn’t. As far as I can tell, Perez has never attempted a sacrifice. Thankfully, he didn’t hit into a double play. That brings up Mike Moustakas, who had been overmatched against Bumgarner up to that point. With Jayson Nix on the roster, you figure Yost could pinch hit for Moustakas and insert Nix in the field in the bottom of the frame.
No movement from Yost, and Moustakas went down on a fly ball to center.
Then comes the absolute worst move we’ve seen Yost make. Which is saying something, because he’s Ned Yost.
— To start the bottom of the seventh, Yost brought in Kelvin Herrera. Which was fine. And expected. Except he also brought in Nix to play second. It was a double switch. You cannot understate this: It was a horrible decision with disastrous results.
First of all, it meant that Nix had to hit in the top of the eighth. There was no one on the bench who could take over in the field. By inserting him into the field as part of the double switch, Yost ensured his worst bat off the bench would hit in a World Series game with his team trailing in the later innings. Absolutely indefensible.
If Nix isn’t forced to hit, you start the inning with Butler and Josh Willingham. Both right-handed hitters and both with the proven ability to get on base. Yeah, Butler maybe got jobbed on the strike calls in his PA, but this game is about putting the players in a position to succeed.
Second, Yost made the double switch to get more than an inning from Herrera. Why? The Herrera-Davis-Holland trio has been automatic all season. Why needlessly throw Herrera for the extra inning. Especially with an off-day Monday. Herrera threw six pitches in the inning, allowing singles to Sandoval and Pence. Immediately he was in hot water.
Third, Yost didn’t have Davis up in the bullpen at the start of the inning, or after Sandoval led off with the single. Seriously. He didn’t start throwing until after Pence hit his single. No way did Davis have enough time to get properly loose. Besides, Davis, a former starter, has a more elaborate routine to prepare to enter a game than your garden-variety relief pitcher. To not have him at least preparing to enter the game at the start of the inning, when the margins are thin and trouble can happen in an instant, is blatant managerial malpractice of the highest order.
Davis wasn’t sharp. He grooved a 3-2 fastball to Juan Perez. That wasn’t a Wade Davis pitch. What if he had had the proper time to get ready to come into the game?
One move (the double-switch) had far-reaching implications. It didn’t cost the Royals the game. But it didn’t put them in a position to win, either. That’s why it was such a bad move.
— Finally, James Shields was outstanding in Game Five. The defense let him down and that’s why he was down 2-0. He generated 20 swings and misses. Twenty. He collected 12 swings and misses on his cutter, three each on his change and curve and two on straight fastballs – both of those came against Sandoval when he climbed the ladder and punched him out. It was a clutch start when the Royals needed it. The unfortunate thing was his start ran parallel to Bumgarner who was excellent in his own right. Before the Ned Yost double switch brain cramp, this was a pitcher’s duel that was worthy of a Game Five of the World Series.
The Series now shifts back to Kansas City. As frustrating as this game was for us Royals fans, one thing hasn’t changed: They need to win four games. They have two opportunities at home to pull it off. Then, there can be a parade.
Two positives as we prepare for Game Six and (hopefully) Seven:
– No Bumgarner starts.
– Yost can’t outsmart himself with the complications of the National League game.
The last time the Royals faced a gut-check postseason situation, they walked off in the Wild Card. Here’s hoping they show the same fight over the next two games.