Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Of course.

Could there be any other way? Nearly one month to the day Sal Perez walked us off and sent the Royals to the ALDS, one game remains.

One game to the championship.

I’m just going to go ahead and answer my own question. No. There couldn’t be any other way. Baseball demands a one game, winner-take-all contest for the title. After the Royals postseason, it’s the only way.

I’d like to do something different with this post. I know we don’t get many comments here, but if there was ever a day to comment, it’s today. Back in 2004, when the Boston Red Sox were on the cusp of winning their first World Series in decades, the bulletin board Sons of Sam Horn had a thread that was simply called Win It For. At the time I thought it was a very cool gesture and I told myself in the unlikely event the Royals were ever on the precipice of a championship, I would love to steal the idea do the same thing.

So today, Game Seven, I’d like to turn this blog over to you. Please leave a comment today. Who would you love to share this with? Who will you share this with? Who will you be thinking about tonight? It can be anyone… Your favorite Royal who never won, a die hard you’re friendly with, or a family member who brainwashed you with the Royals Way. Dedicate this to someone. This moment calls for it.

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If you don’t mind, I’ll get us started…

Win it for Mike Sweeney. Who always gave this organization everything he had.

Win it for Kevin Appier. Underrated and under appreciated. But one of the best ever.

Win it for Art Stewart. Who never wavered in his faith and truly bleeds Royal Blue.

Win it for Buck O’Neil. Who would have loved this team.

Win it for 1985. So we can add another team to the pantheon of Royal greats.

Win it for Kansas City. A true baseball town starved for a championship.

Win it for the generation under 35. How they are Royals fans has always boggled my mind. True dedication. And such loyalty. This is their time.

Win it for my father and grandfather. Both now deceased, I went to the last Game Seven with them. They will be with me tonight.

Finally, win it for my kids. May they become brainwashed like Dad. They’re close. Winning tonight will most certainly push them totally over the edge.

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Thank you for reading us for the last nine years. One game.

Let’s Go Royals.

One game from disappointment.  Two games from glory.

For the thousandth time, if had told you back in March that the Royals would be at this point, you would have taken it in a heartbeat, right?  Well, here we are.

The Royals’ hopes are pinned to a 23 year old rookie tonight:  probably the exact guy almost all of us want on the mound in a situation like this.  Kansas City has won 16 of the last 19 games started by Yordano Ventura.  He is better at home (2.97 K/BB) than on the road (1.83 K/BB).  He is better at night than during the day.  He has been better in the second half of the season than in the first half of the year.  Let’s face it, Yordano Ventura (next year’s opening day starter) is better than anyone else the Royals could send out to start tonight and I think, he is better than Jake Peavy.

After being bedeviled by double bullpen meltdowns in Games Four and Five, not to mention the nuances of the National League game, Royals’ manager Ned Yost finds himself back in his comfort zone.  You know what the lineup will be and, if all goes well, that we will see Jarrod Dyson come in for Nori Aoki in the sixth or seventh inning.  If all goes well, we will see Kelvin Herrera in inning number seven, Wade Davis for inning number eight and Greg Holland will hopefully get to participate as well.  We know/hope/pray that we won’t see Jayson Nix and, if we do, that we won’t see him hit.  If all goes well….

While it hardly mattered with Madison Bumgarner doing whatever it is he does (I hesitate to call it pitching because that makes it seem human), but Wade Davis was tagged with a run in Game Five.  It was technically unearned, but possibly the best reliever in baseball gave up a shot off the centerfield wall to most likely the worst hitter on the Giants team, so let’s call it what it was: a freaking disaster.

Anyway, what is Davis’ track record after an outing in which he gives up a run?  Well, now that you asked:

  • Davis gave up a run on March 31st, followed that up with a perfect inning with a strikeout.
  • Two runs on April 5th, followed by a no-hit inning with one walk and three strikeouts.
  • Another run on April 23rd, followed by a perfect inning with two strikeouts.
  • One run on June 25th, followed by a perfect inning with two strikeouts.
  • All the way to September 16th before another run was assessed to Davis and he had the audacity to surrender a run the very next day.  That outing, however, was followed by a four appearances in which he allowed no hits, one walk and struck out seven.
  • Davis then was tagged for a run on September 26th, his final regular season appearance, but then pitched a scoreless inning in the Wild Card game.
  • A run was allowed in Game Three against the Angels, followed by two perfect innings (four strikeouts) in Game One with Baltimore.

Basically, I like the odds of Wade Davis being unblemished tonight in Kansas City.  Oh and Kelvin Herrera?  After being tagged for runs in back to back outings on April 9th and 11th, Herrera has not allowed a run in back to back outings since.   I like those odds as well.

You want one final bit of ‘feel good’?  It is virtually guaranteed that Billy Butler will get more at-bats than Jayson Nix tonight.  You couldn’t say that when the Series was in San Francisco.

Happiness

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The season could end tonight.

It’s October 28. The Royals are in the World Series. They are trailing three games to two. I don’t need to tell you this. You know. It could all be over tonight.

One month ago today, the Royals were closing out the regular season in Chicago. They had already clinched a spot in the postseason and were playing for the win to force a tie for the division. We so badly wanted the division. Once the Tigers won their game, Ned Yost pulled his regulars. Three innings of rest before the most important game in the last 29 years of the franchise. It feels like a lifetime ago. In many ways, it was.

The Royals fell behind early in the Wild Card game. They rallied, then stumbled again. Then, the most unlikeliest of comebacks. Not once, but twice the Royals were down to their final two outs. Their final two outs. They were, quite simply, two outs away from oblivion. An offseason of, “Well, we made the playoffs even though it doesn’t really feel like we made the playoffs” talk. Believe me, that was going to happen. It was going to be excruciating.

When Salvador Perez lined a base hit just inside the third base bag scoring Christian Colon from second, it kickstarted the wildest, most insane month of baseball in franchise history. The little Wild Card team on the precipice of extinction tore through the Angels in three games, destroyed the will of the Orioles in four games, and somehow, they won the American League pennant. Eight games, eight wins.

It’s been an amazing ride.

I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight. I just feel the need to say thank you. Again. Simply because this run has been so memorable, so absolutely fantastic, I need to say this before the season – and series – is over. Before the lockers are cleared out of the clubhouse and before the tarp is dropped on the infield for one final time. This Royals team has brought so much happiness, they need to be properly thanked. Thank you for breathing life into this October into this city. Kansas City is a baseball town. I held firm in this belief in the darkest of years and you’ve come through big time, Kansas City. The electricity just cannot be described. How baseball brings together a community is amazing.

Thank you for allowing me to connect with some of my fellow fans in ways I haven’t been connected in the past. Friends old and new are reaching out, just to talk about the Royals. I’m speaking about my own experience here, but if you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume you’re a fellow diehard and have had similar experiences. People you haven’t heard from in ages are calling or texting, reconnecting over your shared fandom of an amazing October team.

Thank you for reinvigorating my own fandom. Sorry, but 29 years is a long time. I’ll freely admit, I didn’t see this coming. I’m sure there are several fans who believed back in February and March. Good for them. I thought the team was going to be good. But this? No way. Not in my wildest dreams. Plus, I was pretty damn close to shutting down the whole blog experience back in March. Now, I’m kicking around book ideas. (If you’re an agent or a publisher, you know where to find me.) Like you, I’ve asked myself, “What would happen if the Royals actually got into the postseason?” After 29 years, I have my answer, and it’s fantastic.

Baseball, man.

Win or lose, this is a special team. Sometimes, it’s difficult for me to keep perspective. (See yesterday’s post.) This team and this manager still has a tremendous capacity to frustrate. Maybe the Royals are playing with house money. Yet when you get so close, you desperately want to win. At some point, just being there isn’t good enough. Winning is what matters.

As badly as I want the Royals to win, a loss in Game Six or Game Seven of the World Series won’t detract one bit from the thrill ride of this October.

Thank you, Royals, for the happiness you have given us this month.

Now go win two and let’s have a parade.

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.

Let’s recap.

— 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.

In addition to the obvious fun and awesomeness of the Royals FINALLY playing playoff games again, it is a blast for this stat and team history nerd to get new players mixing in with the legends of 1976—85 on Royals all-time postseason leader boards. One postseason stat I keep an eye on is win probability added (WPA), and as the games keep piling up, several 2014 Royals have made inroads towards the top of the all-time WPA Royals playoffs board. In fact, Eric Hosmer took over the top spot last night. Here’s what the top 10 looks like before the start of Game 5 tonight:

Hosmer and Willie Aikens happen to have played the exact same number of playoff games (12), while George played in 43. Here is how their game-by-game accumulation of WPA looks:

(George certainly has the most impressive overall playoff performance in club history, and I have a convoluted way of rating playoff contributions as part of my top 100 Royals formula. Maybe I’ll do a post about that after the World Series ends).

As we get ready for Game 5, relive the six biggest Hosmer WPA plate appearances to this point in the playoffs, and let’s hope he can add to his total tonight:

tie-3. +12% WPA • World Series Game 4, top 3rd, down 0-1:

tie-3. +12% WPA • ALCS Game 2, top 1st, tied 0-0:

tie-3. +12% WPA • ALCS Game 4, bottom 1st, tied 0-0:

tie-3. +12% WPA • ALDS bottom 3rd, leading 3-1:

2. +30% WPA • Wild Card, bottom 12th, trailing 7-8:

1. +43% WPA • ALDS Game 2, top 11th, tied 1-1:

In a game that threatened to burst into a raging inferno of #Yosted, the Royals hung on for a 3-2 win over the Giants in Game Three of the 2014 World Series. It was a well-pitched game that ventured into the theater of the absurd in the later innings.

1) Eric Hosmer has the plate appearance of the postseason. Maybe the plate appearance of his career. With the Royals up 2-0 in the top of the sixth with Alex Gordon on second, the Giants brought in left-hander Javier Lopez to face Hosmer. He took a fastball for strike one. Then, the fun started.

Foul.
Foul.
Foul.
Ball.
Foul.
Ball.
Foul.
Foul.
Ball.
In play, runs.

Lopez throws below three-quarters and his ball runs away from the left-handed batter. Very difficult. And Hosmer was up to the challenge. He looked extremely focused and battled all the way before lining an 86 mph fastball up the middle for the Royals third run. A run that was extremely huge.

You won’t see a better plate appearance.

2) Ned Yost’s bullpen management left everyone scratching their heads. A collective “WTF” moment. Knowing the Royals were scheduled to play three games in three days, I felt Yost turned to Herrera too early. The sixth should belong to Brandon Finnegan. Or Jason Frasor. Although, I understand Yost going to his Gas Man in that situation. One run in, a runner in second and no one out. Maybe the proper call was to pinch hit for Guthrie in the top of the sixth and play the platoon matchups for an inning.

Of course, it worked. This is the life of Ned Yost in October.

Then, Yost let Herrera bat in the top of the seventh with Jarrod Dyson on base. Seriously. He let his reliever hit with a runner on base. Perhaps the most Yosted move of all time. Herrera walks Hunter Pence and pitches to the left-handed hitting Brandon Belt with Brandon Finnegan warm in the bullpen. Huh? Herrera strikes out Belt and then Yost summons Finnegan to face the left-handed hitting Travis Ishikawa who you knew would be pulled for a pinch hitter. Again, huh? Finnegan retires the two batters he faces and the Royals exhale and move to the eighth.

Really, it was a mess to get the game to Wade Davis in the eighth. Yost made several missteps over the sixth and seventh. A fanbase was ready to launch itself into unbridled hysteria. Again, Yost’s blunders don’t come back to bite him in the ass and he survives. Amazing.

Something to watch going forward: Herrera threw 27 pitches. Finnegan needed eight, Davis threw 12, and Greg Holland used just eight to get through his ninth inning.

3) The lineup shift paid huge dividends. Alex Gordon moved up to second and came through with a massive, run-scoring double. Lorenzo Cain made a pair of nifty grabs in right field. It made a difference.

The Royals have a 2-1 lead in the Series. Ned Yost has a career 10-1 record in the postseason. The Royals are two wins from the World Championship.

The Royals really should be in the World Series more often, don’t you think?

Like hopefully many of you, i was able to attend both Games One and Two in Kansas City. A sold out Kaufmann Stadium with the crowd hanging on every pitch was simply out of this world.

The defining moment of Game One, to me, was the bottom of the third inning.  Down 3-0, the Royals managed to put runners on second and third with no one out thanks to a Brandon Crawford error and a Moustakas double.  The Royals then proceeded to swing at SEVEN straight pitches and eight of nine before Lorenzo Cain realized that you don’t have to swing at all the pitches and took four straight balls.  Eric Hosmer, however, swung at the first pitch to end the scoring threat and, truthfully, any real hope that the Royals would make a comeback.

Madison Bumgarner is good, but the Royals helped him out with a swing at everything approach. In Game One, Lorenzo Cain was the only hitter who seemingly had an idea of what to do.

The defining moment of Game Two came early on as well.

After Gregor Blanco (freaking GREGOR BLANCO – you know, the guy who used to be a Royal when we could not beat anyone and we let him go because he wasn’t good enough?  At least that’s what the 24 ounce Miller Lites told me) shocked the crowd with a lead-off home run off Yordano Ventura, the Royals got a lead-off single from Alcides Escobar.   Sadly, after a two pitch Aoki at-bat, Escobar was caught stealing (by roughly one-half of a mile) leaving the Royals with two out and no one on.  However, THAT MAN, Lorenzo Cain doubled on the seventh pitch of his at-bat.  Let’s take a moment and note that Lorenzo Cain is seemingly getting better before our eyes as an all around ballplayer.

Then Eric Hosmer, deciding that swinging at everything is, after all, a bit silly, takes a four pitch walk, bringing Billy Butler to the plate.  Now, Billy tried to hit a three run homer on Jake Peavy’s first offering (an 88 mph cutter), but recalibrated himself and singled sharply on the next offering, another cutter, to tie the game.  I thought that hit was absolutely huge from a mental standpoint for the Royals.  While a one run deficit after one inning is hardly reason to panic, it felt like there was just a bit of ‘here we go again’ rippling through the cosmic strands.  Coming right back to tie the game immediately after two outs had to be a weight off the shoulders of most in the dugout.

Bottom line takeaway from Games One and Two:  anytime  you high five and hug strangers at a sporting event, it is a helluva time.

The lineup for tonight is out and Craig’s suggestion of earlier today was not off by much:

Escobar SS

Gordon LF

Cain CF

Hosmer 1B

Moustakas 3B

Infante 2B

Perez C

Dyson CF

Guthrie P

Just when you think Ned Yost was on auto-pilot, something like this happens.  I don’t hate it, not at all, but it is a pretty bold shake up for a manager who is consistently worried about his players’ collective domes.  Alex Gordon has not had great at-bats as of late, so it will be interesting if the move up gives him a little boost.  Moustakas?  Hey, why not go with the hot hand at this point and ditto for Infante.

Let’s face it, with the Royals putting Moustakas, Infante and Perez in a row, that could be a black hole of suck and free swings at balls that bounce first.  However, that might well be the three players with the biggest hits as of late.  A big hit from just one of those three might be enough for the win.

I expect a quick hook for Guthrie if he struggles, but also have this feeling that Jeremy might well put up some zeroes this evening. I could see Brandon Finnegan and Jason Frasor each getting work to bridge the gap from Guthrie to HDH.  With three games in three days, I have to imagine Yost would prefer to keep from using Herrera and Davis for multiple innings.

Game Three.  Game On.

 

 

Ned Yost has run the exact same batting order out for 18 consecutive games. Eighteen games! The last eight of the regular season, the Wild Card game, the three in the ALDS, the four in the ALCS, and the first two of the World Series. Now, with the Series shifting to the National League park where the Royals will lose the designated hitter, Yost will have to ponder some changes.

I have joked that Yost will just throw the pitcher in the fifth spot in the order in place of Billy Butler. Pretty automatic, right? Of course, Yost isn’t going to do that.

What will probably happen is Yost will keep his top four, remove Butler and then push his usual bottom four one higher. There are rumblings Yost will actually make a change, removing Nori Aoki and replacing him with Jarrod Dyson. That’s a really good idea.

How about this for a lineup?

Gordon – LF
Escobar – SS
Cain – RF
Hosmer – 1B
Infante – 2B
Moustakas – 3B
Perez – C
Dyson – CF

I know what you’re going to say. Madness. But think about it. Alex Gordon is having a miserable October, hitting .176/.333/.353, yet I bump him to the top of the order. It’s going with my gut, because he’s done it before and he’s done it successfully. Also, because I believe the Royals really need to get Gordon going. Imagine the next three to five games if he gets hot. So much better. Maybe it’s a touch of insanity, but I prefer to think of it as a move to get an important bat going again. Moving his away from Perez has to help, right? I know we’re not supposed to talk about “protection” in the lineup, but I believe it makes a difference in small sample sizes. They’re not giving Gordon anything to hit because they know Perez isn’t going to follow with anything of substance. Moving Gordon ahead of Cain and Hosmer has to make a difference in the quality of pitches Gordon will see. At least I believe that.

Alcides Escobar bumps down to second. He’s taken just one walk and has a .311 OPB in the postseason. Not leadoff material. However, he’s handled the bat well enough that I’m fine with him staying toward the top of the order.

Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer at three and four are automatic.

Omar Infante is heating up when it matters most. The double and home run in Game Two were spectacular, but he also had a .433 OBP in the ALCS to go along with four hits. Mike Moustakas has hit some big home runs, but mostly has been a steady presence. Which is to say he’s an improvement over regular season Moustakas. He still doesn’t belong higher in the order. Bump them up a couple of spots.

Salvador Perez has continued his offensive struggles this month. Even when he’s gotten a big hit – like in the Wild Card game or the double in Game Two – he’s been lost nearly every other time at the plate. been hitting well at the top of the order, relatively speaking. He needs to be buried at the bottom of the lineup while hoping he can collect a big hit or two.

Jarrod Dyson is the biggest change in my lineup. With triples alley in right-center, and with a tremendous defensive potential outfield, I think Ned Yost has to put his best glovemen in the outfield. That means Dyson in center, Cain in right and Nori Aoki to the bench. Plus, you have Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas, who are the two fly ball pitchers in this postseason rotation. Aoki has been a… let’s just say an adventure in the outfield. Plus, his bat on the bench gives Yost an attractive pinch hit option along with Billy Butler. And don’t forget Josh Willingham. That trio could come in handy in the National League park.

This lineup largely goes left-right-left-right. Since we saw how Bruce Bochy is going to manage his bullpen in the middle innings, that seems important. The exception is at two and three with Escobar and Cain from the right side. Since that’s the case, I would entertain flip-flopping Gordon and Escobar at the top. I’m not thrilled with Escobar leading off, but he’s been doing it since mid-September and well… You can’t argue with the results since then.

Yost has to move out of his lineup comfort zone. Why not shift things around to get what could be an optimal lineup when all you need is three wins?

Sorry for the belated post.

First, let’s talk about the managing. Ned Yost made several moves we can discuss. He sent Alcides Escobar on a stolen base attempts in the bottom of the first. Escobar was thrown out and a few pitches later, Lorenzo Cain hit a double to short left-center field. Interesting call. Notice that Yost hasn’t had Nori Aoki bunt in the first inning in these playoffs. Obviously, I’m fine with that. However, I didn’t understand the stolen base attempt in the situation. Cain is swinging the hot bat – Hosmer, too – so maybe in the first you practice a little patience and see what happens. I don’t know. I do know that the Royals collected three hits in the first, along with a walk and scored one run.

Then, in the sixth, Yost lifted starter Yordano Ventura after he allowed a pair of singles sandwiched between a fly out. Enter Kelvin Herrera for the five out hold. Obviously, in that situation you’re hoping Herrera won’t throw a ton of pitches – he ended up offering 32 – but with the off day Thursday, I suppose that’s OK as well. It was clearly the right situation to bring Herrera into the game. Yes, Yost could’ve gone with Brandon Finnegan, but the comfort level is there with Herrera. So in the big game, you use him. Herrera wobbled a bit in the seventh, issuing two walks. It looked like he lost his arm slot and wasn’t comfortable on the mound. A frightening moment, made less frightening by the fact the Royals scored five a half inning prior.

The other move Yost made that I almost questioned (remember, he’s on a roll, so we’re not really allowed to question) was when he pinch ran for Billy Butler after his go-ahead single in the sixth. Why bring Terrance Gore into the game when there’s a runner (Hosmer) on base ahead of him? It just didn’t make sense to me. Also, at that point, it was a one run game. Butler’s spot in the order was going to come around again. At the time, I feared we would miss his bat. This is October and Yost is Yost. So it all worked extremely well. Gore came around to score on Sal Perez’s double and then Omar Infante clubbed a home run. Three hits. Three daggers. Ballgame.

Second, I’m tired of pitchers who aren’t very good losing their mind when their mistakes get crushed. If you don’t want to give up a double and a home run, make better pitches. And if you need to get angry at someone, look to yourself.

Third, the last six outs for the Giants: strikeout, strikeout, groundout to first, strikeout, strikeout, strikeout. Yost isn’t kidding when he says he doesn’t have to think after the sixth inning. This bullpen is so key.

Fourth, it would appear Infante is feeling OK. He’s made a couple plays on the infield at the end of the ALCS and now in the World Series that lead you to believe the shoulder is holding together. Last night, it was a nice play to grab a ball up the middle from Buster Posey with a runner on first. If that ball gets through, you have maybe first and third with Pablo Sandoval at the plate. So Infante’s snare seems important. And then the home run. He was sitting dead red, got a meatball and crushed it. Totally unexpected. Totally awesome. Dude. And we can’t forget his double in the second, either. Ripped and a one-hopper against the left field wall.

Fifth, I love me some Billy Butler. What a great moment on Wednesday, after he was lifted for Gore, the BIL-LY BUT-LER chant started and quickly spread through the stadium. He came out for a curtain call. A curtain call for an RBI single. So great. The relationship between Butler and the fans is a complicated one, which I have never understood. (Well, I have understood, but I really don’t want to.) It’s clear he cares for this franchise, his teammates and this city. It’s entirely possible Wednesday night was his final appearance in the home whites. If that was his last Royal at bat at The K, it was perfect: A line drive to left-center, pushing the Royals ahead.

Welp. We’ve seen better postseason games, haven’t we?

The tendency of a Game One in any series is to analyze and over-analyze. It’s the first game, so surely what we saw has to carry over to the remainder, right?

Rewind yourself.

Certainly there are conclusions we can draw: James Shields isn’t right. Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval can hit the ball. The Royals are hacking. Again.

If there’s anything to be dispirited over, it would be the bottom of the third inning. Omar Infante reaches via an error and Mike Moustakas doubles to set up second and third with no one out. Just put the ball in play. Just put the damn ball in play. Instead, we get Alcides Escobar swinging at pitches at his eyeballs and Nori Aoki hacking at curves in the dirt. Lorenzo Cain puts together a helluva plate appearance, falling behind 0-2 before working four straight balls for the free pass.

Bases loaded, two down. And Eric Hosmer swings at the first pitch he sees – a slider on the outer half he tries to pull, yet predictably rolls his wrists and softly grounds out to second. Inning over. Threat over. Ballgame over.

The Hosmer ground out was the first of 12 straight Royal batters retired by Bumgarner. Only the Sal Perez home run in the seventh broke that streak.

If you’re surprised at the offensive futility we witnessed on Tuesday, welcome to the bandwagon, I guess. You must be new. These are the 2014 Royals. They can’t swing the hot lumber all month. Yet I would caution you to count these guys out just yet. It’s a short series, so there’s a certain danger – and poor timing – but they will continue to rely on their starting pitching and defense to keep the games close. Three runs can be enough. Oftentimes for the Royals, it is.

Which is why Shields has been a colossal disappointment this October. He threw his change-up 11 times, got five swings and just one miss. Of the three change-ups put in play, all went for hits. His bread and butter pitch has turned stale. Why? Who knows. It could be the mileage on his arm. It could be mechanics. It could be the current moon phase. What we do know is he’s been underwhelming in all of his postseason starts. Underwhelming enough that if the Series makes it five, Ned Yost has to consider replacing him with someone like Danny Duffy, who once he found his groove, threw quite well for throwing only nine innings since the end of August. Of course we know that Yost won’t do that. He would never do that. Shields is his “ace” and his ace will take the ball.

I’m not fine with that. Not after what I’ve seen. While Yost said Shields would get the ball for his next scheduled start, things could change between now and Sunday. If it’s an elimination game, I’d really be worried.

The Royals still need four wins to pull this off. They suffered a setback, but it’s not fatal. There’s still time to recover. It now rests on the fireballing arm of Yordano Ventura.

Let’s throw fire.

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