Now, like a lot of fans these days, let me go on the record: I am not a coaching basher – especially when it comes to baseball. Managers and their respective staff really effect only a handful of games a season. The rest is up to the team that they put on the field.
The Royals played hard last night, but once again came up just one run short in a 4-3 loss to the dreaded Cleveland Indians.
Mitch Maier was the player of the game, going 3-for-4 and driving in the Royals’ first 2 runs of the game. He also made a terrific running catch in the bottom of the 8th to rob Travis Hafner of an extra-base hit with the bases juiced.
The goat of the game?
Was it Jonathan Sanchez? He lasted all of 4.2 innings, giving up 4 ER while throwing 115 pitches (59 balls to 56 strikes). Now he did manage 5 Ks, but he also tied a career high by walking 7. And on top of that, all 4 of the Indians runs were the products of a Sanchez walk: He hit Jason Kipnis in the 1st, who came around to score on a sac fly. He walked three straight in the 5th, all of whom scored on a Jack Hannahan double. But no, he wasn’t the goat.
Was it Alex Gordon? Alex had another 0-fer night, but he did manage one walk and zero strikeouts. But in the top of the 4th, with the one run already across the plate and the bases loaded, Alex grounded out to first basemen Casey Kotchman to end the threat. That out was definitely a rally-killer in what could have been a potentially huge inning for the Royals. A base hit would have scored two and put KC ahead 3-1 at the time. But, with all that said, Alex, too, was not the goat.
The goat, or should I say goats, of the game are…. (insert drumroll here)
Manager Ned Yost and Third Base Coach Eddie Rodriguez!
Ned Yost has begun to make me wonder exactly what his vision for this bullpen is. As he stated to begin the year, he expects this team to win. He won’t manage like he did last season when he let players like Escobar, Moustakas, Giavotella, Hochevar and Duffy take their lumps in order to build this team for the future. So, in essence, if a player is struggling (especially a pitcher), he needs to be removed from the game in order to give your team the best chance to win.
Well, Ned blew it. It’s no secret that Jonathan Sanchez is “effectively wild” – meaning that he will strike out his fair share of hitters, but he’ll also walk way more hitters than the average pitcher. This effective wildness will also drive up the pitcher’s pitch count in a hurry. Through his first 4 innings last night, Sanchez had hit a batter (which came around to score), struck out 4, walked 4, and given up 3 hits. He walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the 2nd before getting an infield fly and a 6-4-3 double-play to get himself out of the jam.
Yost had to know after that inning that Sanchez likely wasn’t going to be that lucky if he puts the team in that position again.
Sanchez started off the 5th by walking Asdrubal Cabrera on four straight pitches before getting his nemesis Shin-Soo Choo to strike out. He followed that up by walking Carlos Santana on a full count. The same went for Cleveland DH Travis Hafner. So there he stands with one out, bases loaded, and a tie ball game.
At this time, Sanchez was already right sround or over 100 pitches.
The next hitter, Shelley Duncan, skied a sac fly deep enough to center where Mitch’s only throw could have been to the cut-off man. Run scores, lead gone.
Now, it makes sense to me that if you have a pitcher who is clearly struggling with his command and has thrown 100+ pitches through 4.2 innings a change has to be made if you have any hope of walking away from the inning with just the one run given up.
But Ned decided against logic here by leaving Sanchez in the fire. And what happened? Jack “All-Up-In-Your-Face” Hannahan hit pitch no. 115 into center field for a two-run double. 4-1 Cleveland.
So then, after all the bad that could have happened did, Yost sauntered out to the mound to bring in Tim Collins.
The bullpen combined for 3.1 IP, 2 BB, 2 K, and 0 ER.
There are no ways of knowing if the runs would have scored if Ned had pulled Sanchez earlier – and hindsight is 20/10.
The other goat is third base coach Eddie Rodriguez.
For the recod, I’ve always been a fan of Easy Eddie. But last night, he made a very poor judgment call that cost the Royals a run – and perhaps the game.
In the top of the 8th, with one out, Hosmer on third and Moustakas on first, Mitch Maier roped a double down the right field line. Of course, Hosmer scored easily. Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo didn’t really seem to be hustling to the ball, which took a bounce of the concrete base of the wall. Moose was running hard and got to third just as Choo was in making his throw to the cut-off man.
Between the how hard the ball was hit, the lack of giddy-up by Choo, and the fact that Moustakas got a great read on contact, one could make the case that Moose could have made it home safely.
Keep in mind this team had lost 11 in a row at this point in time.
Eddie decided to play it safe, stopping Moose at third base. It definitely would have been a close play at the plate, but wih a team that has lost 11 straight games and has struggled immensely to score runs, you have to send the runner home in this situation. Have to.
With the score 4-2, and two-outs, Alcides Escobar hit a one-hopper back to the pitcher to end the inning – stranding Moustakas at third.
The Royals did manage to score a run in the 9th, but couldn’t muster anything more than the one run.
I’m not here calling for Eddie and Ned’s heads. And I know they take every loss just as personal as the players do, and Ned usually places the blame on his shoulders anyway (warranted or not).
But this loss truly belongs to the both of them. With a team riding a skid like this, they have to be making better team decisions than that.
Get more great Kansas City Royals analysis over at Royal Blues.