Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

What, you thought that winning the AL Pennant made time stand still?

On Saturday, the Royals declined the $12.5 million option they held on Billy Butler.

This move can be filed under “I” for “inevitable.” Butler hit .271/.323/.379 in 640 plate appearances in 2014. Each one of those numbers in his slash line was a career low which translated to a -0.3 fWAR. As I’ve written, his batted ball profile, once a model of consistency, tilted heavily toward the ground ball side of the ledger starting in 2013. His ground ball rate normalized a bit in the second half of 2014, but his power remained depressed. Although with a 6.9 FB/HR rate, we could expect him to at least club double-digit home runs next summer.

Both the Royals and Butler expressed a desire to return to Kansas City. I believe Butler. I don’t believe the Royals.

Dayton Moore has attempted to deal Butler myriad times since 2008 and from what I understand, had a trade cobbled together to send the DH to an AL East team as recently as last winter. Let’s just say Butler doesn’t fit the “profile” of your pennant winning Royals. While I believe Butler’s defensive shortcomings have been exaggerated, the Royals are committed to Eric Hosmer at first, which keeps Butler as the DH. Although the argument can be made, he’s a nice insurance policy at first in case Hosmer gets injured.

At any rate, it’s impossible to fault the Royals for walking away at this moment. The cost of $12.5 million is elite designated hitter money and Butler clearly isn’t elite. According to Fangraphs, he’s been worth more than that amount only once in his career – 2012 when he hit .313/.373/.510.

Butler can return to Kansas City, but I’m hearing numbers around two years and $12 million. He made $8 million last year, but I don’t know that he will take that kind of pay cut. At first, I speculated he could get two or three years at an AAV of around $10 million. On reflection, that seems high. Maybe two years and $16 million gets it done. Seattle is looking for a right-handed bat and have been linked to Butler numerous times. Including the infamous potential Butler-Yuniesky Betancourt swap.

On Monday, the Royals made James Shields a qualifying offer.

This is where things seem to get confusing. It’s really simple. Shields is a free agent. The Royals have submitted a qualifying offer, meaning they basically tendered Shields a contract of one year at $15.3 million. Shields figures to get more for multiple years on the open market, so he will turn down the offer, which he has to do by next Monday.

When he turns down the offer, the Royals will be in line to receive a compensatory draft pick in next June’s amateur draft. They do not get the pick from the team that signs Shields. They simply get a “bonus” choice in between the first and second rounds.

Early rumblings have Shields at $18-20 million AAV. That’s a huge payday for a number two starter with a ton of miles on his arm. Plus, the fact he will be 33 at the start of next season.

But Shields has been a very good value the last four seasons. He’s averaged 4.2 fWAR, which has been around $20 million per year in value. As always, the free agent gamble is paying on past performances which is a risky bit of business.

There’s no way the Royals re-sign Shields.

Then, the Royals picked up the 2015 option on Wade Davis.

Again, no surprises here. The Wade Davis Experience was unreal in 2014, earning 3.1 fWAR out of the bullpen. Read that last line again. The only other reliever in his league was Dellin Betances of the Yankees.

Now, the question is: With Greg Holland looking at around an $8 million payday as a second-year arbitration eligible pitcher, does it make fiscal sense for the Royals to spend $15 million of the back end of the bullpen. Oh, throw in a healthy raise for Kelvin Herrera as well and the Royals could be committing close to $20 million for three relief pitchers.

It’s not so crazy given the Royals brain trust believes the bullpen was a massive reason for their success in 2014. Both in the regular season and in October. The scary thing is bullpens are temperamental creatures. Last summer’s success story is this summer’s burnout. But Davis and Holland have been fairly consistent in the quality they’ve delivered out of the bullpen. It’s a gamble, but a good one. (Bookmark this post. Just in case.)

It also makes sense if David Glass approves a payroll increase. If you bought a $50 hat or a $100 hoodie at The K this October, you know what I mean. Although picking up options today, does not preclude a trade tomorrow, I’ll bet the Royals do everything they can to keep their core three relievers intact. Besides, we know Ned Yost doesn’t like to think after the sixth inning. The less we have to worry about his brain, the better.

Also on Monday, the Royals selected the contract of Paulo Orlando and added him to the 40-man roster. 

This registers as a mild surprise, but it’s kind of humorous. It’s as if the Royals feel they’ve shown their cards and now are protecting the “profile” players. Speedy athletes who play plus defense are the new market inefficiency.

Orlando, acquired back in 2008 from the White Sox for Horacio Ramirez, hit .301/.355/.415 in Triple-A. He also stole 34 bases. Remember: Athleticism, speed and defense. This is the Royals Way. The Royals will take a look at him this spring. It may be a long shot, but with right field currently unsettled, stranger things have happened.

The best player on the field this World Series was not a Kansas City Royal.  That, my friends, pretty simply sums up why the Giants won and the Royals lost.

You are not supposed to be able to do what Madison Bumgarner did.  Maybe in 1924, but not in 2014. It is not a criticism of the Royals’ players at all.  Bumgarner was the best player on either team and the team with the best player won the World Series.

Last night’s Game Seven really came down to a pretty mundane fourth inning two strike flair off the bat of Michael Morse with Panda Sandoval and Hunter Pence on base, because, well, they were always on base.  It came off one of the Royals’ big three relievers, Kelvin Herrera, who turned in an outstanding performance nonetheless.

Both teams were firmly in their bullpens by then:  a situation generally thought to be an advantage for the Royals.  We just didn’t realize that the Giants had some sort of android named Bumgarner that can throw for apparently days on end.

Once Bumgarner was in, the game really came down to two moments in time.  The first was immediately upon his entrance into the game.

Omar Infante singled and Alcides Escobar came to the plate.  Escobar immediately looked to bunt, but took two pitches for balls (he really had not choice – even Salvador Perez thought those were well out of the zone).   A 2-0 count, with Bumgarner not yet settled in?  I don’t give up an out there.  Escobar remained steadfast in his belief that a bunt was in order, laid one down and moved Infante to second.

After the game, Ned Yost said that Escobar was bunting on this own. Okay, fine, except Yost had two pitches to give whatever sign the Royals have that means ‘cut that the hell out!’.  But anyway…

Nori Aoki followed the bunt by lashing a ball to left.  Baseball is all about second guessing and speculation (see below), but I can pretty much guarantee that Travis Ishikawa does not catch that ball and the game would be tied.  Problem was, Bruce Bochy didn’t start Ishikawa and instead opted for his more defensive minded left-fielder: Juan Perez. You know what happened and you also know that Bruce Bochy has managed a few games in his lifetime.

The Royals only other real chance came with two outs in the ninth.  Up comes Alex Gordon (my GOD, he comes up a lot with two outs in the ninth, doesn’t he?), who had driven in one Royal run and scored the other almost my sheer force of will. Gordon had looked hopeless against Bumgarner the other 4,000 times he had faced him in the World Series, but not here.  A sinking liner to left-center.

I was pretty sure the ball was going to get down, but it was either going to be a clean single or a nice running catch by Blanco.  Gordon would be on first and hope, however small, would still be alive. Except suddenly the ball skips by Blanco and bounces to the wall.  Gordon turns and heads to second and rounds the bag as the ball is fumbled once more.  He will easily make third.  Mike Jirschele has the stop sign up well before Gordon is to the third.  The ball is in cut-off man Brandon Crawford’s glove as Alex hits the bag.

Without question and without debate, stopping Gordon at third makes all the sense in the world.  In that situation, sending him home probably means he is out by 25 feet.  Except…Bumgarner.

Here’s the thing, if Jirschele is giving him the go sign as Gordon is on the way to third, Alex is likely three or four steps past the bag when the ball hits Crawford’s glove.  Sending him is still a likely out.  Chances are, Crawford makes a good throw – even an okay throw is probably good enough – and Posey probably makes the catch and applies the tag.  Even with Gordon further around third than he actually was, he’s still out nine times out of ten.

That said, the Giants had just fumbled the ball twice on that play and Perez’s throw to Crawford nearly short-hopped the Giant shortstop.  Bad plays have a tendency to perpetuate themselves and the very risky move of sending Gordon would have, at minimum caught the Giants by surprise.  Crawford has to make the throw from the outfield, Posey has to catch it and get the tag down.  Nine times out of ten, they’ll get the out easily.

One time out of ten, something happens and Gordon scores.  About the same odds of Perez getting a hit off Madison Bumgarner, in my opinion.

Listen, this is not saying the Royals did anything wrong here.  In fact, they handled that play the right way.  Still, Bumgarner was pitching and let’s face it, taking a stupid, crazy risk with the very final out of the World Series might have been Kansas City’s best shot.

Don’t agonize over it, because there is no right or wrong on that play.  Hell, don’t bemoan Salvador Perez’ swinging at the same pitch out of the strike zone over and over to end the season:  the Royals would not have made it past Oakland without Sal (or been there in the first place).

Have a beer, debate the play with your friends and think about next year.

This year, by the way, was one hell of a ride.

 

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.

 

 

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