Winning. It’s not getting old.
The Royals rolled to another victory on Tuesday night at The K, taking a 3-2 decision from the Baltimore Orioles.
Kendrys Morales hit a monster bomb. Mike Moustakas collected a couple of hits. Lorenzo Cain made a heads-up base running play. Danny Duffy pitched well. The bullpen did its thing. Victory.
These Royals do seem to make things look easy.
Morales’ home run came in the second inning. Just a textbook plate appearance against a pitcher who didn’t vary his pitches enough.
Gonzalez was working Morales away and with fastballs. The only offspeed pitch thrown in the at bat was pitch number four, which was way high and outside. Morales fouled off the fastball on the inside corner and the 3-1 pitch that was on the outer half. On a 3-2 count, he got a belt-high fastball and obliterated the baseball. Let Statcast give you the gory details.
Those are the hallmarks of a baseball that is destined to get wet at The K.
I’m sure there will be a longer post after this season wraps, but damn if the Morales signing hasn’t been an absolute masterstroke from Dayton Moore. The Royals said all along they thought his 2014 season was an aberration, not some harbinger of decline. And you know what, they were absolutely correct. His power is still down from his 2009 vintage, but he’s back to where he was post-injury that caused him to miss a season and a half.
Morales is fourth on the team with a 121 wRC+. He’s also fourth with a 118 OPS+. He’s a rock in the middle of this Royals lineup.
I know the Royals will mention Morales’ RBI, but I’m much more interested in his overall percentage of base runners he brings home. Baseball Reference tracks RBI%. Morales ranks third among hitters who have come to the plate with more than 250 runners on base. He has driven home 21 percent, which is good for the third best mark in the AL. He’s just decimal points behind first place.
Just an outstanding comeback year. Kudos to the Royals for seeing that potential.
Speaking of potential, it looks like Moustakas is setting up for one of his patented hot streaks. Too often in the past, these stretches where he catches fire have lasted just a handful of games. We’re talking about like a week. This year, we’ve obviously seen a different Moustakas. His hot streak at the beginning of the season lasted for the better part of two months. He cooled off in June before he went missing in July and the first half of August. However, he’s brought the bat back to life over his last 11 games, hitting .310/.420/.667.
It’s an impressive rebound from a guy who seems to have spent this entire summer in unchartered territory, which is reason to be skeptical. When he was hitting the ball to the opposite field with consistency early in the year, the question was, how long could he keep it going? When he reverted back to some old, nasty habits, the question was, could he find his way out of the slump? And now I guess the question is, can he keep this going through October?
This is an important question because we all know the return of Alex Gordon is imminent. Gordon, if you recall, regularly hit in the sixth spot for most of the season. Which was absolute lineup malpractice. You simply don’t hit your best hitter sixth. Now, with Moustakas occupying the number six spot in the lineup, I would imagine Yost would be even more inclined to keep his third baseman there and find a new home for Gordon when he completes his rehab. This makes it less about moving an unproductive Alcides Escobar out of the leadoff spot, but keeping a productive Moustakas in the sixth place in the order. Yost supports his guys (which is a good thing) so this is a positive move I can see him making.
One guy who isn’t moving anywhere is Cain. Another nifty piece of baserunning from the Royals center fielder in the third inning. With runners on the corners, Hosmer bounced a grounder to the right side of second that was fielded by the shortstop Janish, as the infield was shaded to the right side. Cain stopped in his tracks midway between first and second. Janish’s momentum was taking him toward Cain and first base, so he threw to first. At that point, Cain sprinted to second and the Orioles needed to tag him for the out. Cain slid around the tag, headfirst, and just got his hand around the glove at second. Instead of an inning ending double play, the Royals stole a run. Given they won by a single tally, that play was huge.
On the pitching side, Duffy is in a battle for his playoff life. I’ve done a couple radio interviews in the last couple of weeks and everyone wants to talk postseason rotation, which makes sense. This is a huge question that needs to be sorted in the next six weeks. For the Royals, the first two spots are locked in place. I had been answering that Duffy was my number three, but that he was a “soft” number three. The meaning was, he could be pushed out of that spot by Yordano Ventura. Yet now, with the emergence of Kris Medlen as an option, there is much stronger competition for the third and fourth spots. Medlen is a guy who can get you six innings as we saw on Monday. So basically, every start from here on out from both Duffy and Ventura is a statement about their chances to be an integral part of the rotation in October. That’s outstanding to have that kind of competition when the team has their spot in the postseason tournament all but secure.
Duffy rose to the challenge on Tuesday. He cruised through the first three-plus innings before he wobbled a bit in the fourth, allowing four consecutive hitters to reach base. All with two outs. He was able to escape with his lead intact. It was a microcosm inning for Duffy where he looked sharp and then couldn’t put hitters away. The good news, he was able to find his footing before things really escalated.
Yost grabbed Duffy in the sixth with two outs, to give his bullpen the chance to save the game. With Greg Holland still out with a “cranky” arm, Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, and Wade Davis did their collective thing to lock down the win.
In his 900th game as Royals manager, Yost now owns a perfectly symmetrical .500 record. He has 450 wins against 450 losses. At the start of the 2013 season, that didn’t seem possible.
And he got his record to .500 in typical Royals fashion. Some timely hits. Some heads-up base running. Six innings from the starter. A lockdown bullpen. Just another night in Kansas City.
The Royals magic number is 25.