This may have been one of the more improbable wins of the season.
Jeremy Guthrie opens the game for the Royals, and as Jeremy Guthrie is apt to do, he allowed some baserunners in the early going. Like a lot of baserunners.
In his first three innings of work, Guthrie threw 54 pitches. He allowed seven hits, all singles, and two runs. Jeremy Baserunner Guthrie, indeed.
Then… The turnaround.
For the final six innings, Guthrie threw 55 pitches. And he was masterful, retiring his final 19 hitters. He mixed a four-seam fastball with his change, cutter and slider, throwing all four pitches almost equally. He generated only six swing and misses, but this is the Diamondbacks. When not throwing at opposing hitters, they’re busy waving the white flag. But that’s OK, because these games count for the Royals just as much as any games against the Tigers.
Once Guthrie found that groove, the Diamondbacks were helpless. He was actually throwing pitches down the heart of the plate, but Arizona couldn’t do any damage.
Fouls, called strikes and in play, out(s). The Diamondbacks were powerless against the wizardry of Guthrie.
On the offensive side of the ledger, Alex Gordon muscled up on a belt-high fastball and the Royals parlayed a Nori Aoki single, an Omar Infante single, a double steal and a Sal Perez single (all aboard the Single Train!) into a pair of runs in the fourth. It was all Guthrie would need.
The Ned Yost Baseballing Formula worked for another night. Quality starting pitching, a couple of key hits, and a manufactured run or two. Thursday, he didn’t need to go to his bullpen. How perfect was that. Let the man shine on.
The game wasn’t without some old Royal moments. Alcides Escobar was picked off/caught stealing in the fourth for his team-high 10th TOOTBLAN this season. In the last week and a half, he’s been picked off twice and doubled off first. Speaking of TOOTBLAN moments, in the eighth, Mike MoustakAZ was thrown out on a play at the plate where it was clear that he would have been safe had he bothered to slide. In the same inning, Guthrie was hit by a pitch and then went first to third on an Aoki single that featured one of the most awkward slides I’ve seen since Chris Getz face-planted into second base last year. I’ll excuse the Guthrie transgression since he’s a pitcher and all that, but the MoustakAZ gaffe is another indication that the guy just doesn’t seem to get it. He’s happy with his double. He’s happy the team is winning by three runs late. And he just doesn’t seem to understand that every run is important. Every out is precious. I’m singling out MoustakAZ, but this is a Royals problem. Winning hides the unpleasant, but this is a problem that percolates just under the surface. Nearly everything went right for the Royals on this roadtrip. Carelessness or a sense of entitlement can change all that in an instant. And these mistakes won’t look so good during a three-game losing streak.
I don’t mean to be a downer. I’m on the bandwagon after all. The Royals wrap up a six game road trip with five wins. That’s pretty huge. They won a game 1-0 (another Guthrie masterpiece) and they won a game 12-2. And they won games in between. They have won 12 of their last 15. Just a month ago, we mocked Yost and Moore for the “second half team” comments. Yeah…
When Thursday ended, the Royals were atop the Wild Card Number Two standings. One-half game ahead of the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Mariners. Quite the logjam. While it’s great the Royals hold the advantage for the second Wild Card, I’m not going to celebrate that. It’s August 8, for crying out loud. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely outstanding the team has shoved their way to the front of the line. It’s great they are in the pole position. In a way, they control their own destiny from this point forward. Win more games than the other three teams in the mix and it’s October baseball. But still… There’s a lot of baseball to be played. Like more than seven weeks of games. We’ve seen this team. They rip off a few wins and just as quickly take a dip in the tank. Or we’ll write them off and they’ll charge back. Yeah, I’m buying in. Don’t worry about me. I’m just saying I refuse to get too high about the standings at this point in the season. Just like I’m going to try to avoid the lows if the team gets swept by the Giants this weekend. (Like that’s going to happen. We have Sung Woo on our side.)
Now, having said that, I will absolutely engage in scoreboard watching. It’s a lost art among Royals fans. During the game on Thursday, I propped up my iPad with the Mariners game, just to keep tabs on another team in the hunt. I am concerned about the standings and they absolutely do matter. The wins are meaningful and the losses are going to sting just a little more than usual. It’s just this is unfamiliar territory for us. The roller coaster is about to get just a little more extreme.
But I’m still excited. Oh, yes. I’m still excited.