The Wild Ride ContinuesFollow @RoyalsBlue_com
It was a busy day on Friday as I went to Warrensburg and got back just in time for the game. I sat down, turned on the tv, fired up the laptop and started right in. The remarks at the top were added Saturday afternoon.
It's the most exciting week in Kansas City baseball history. It might be the most exciting week in baseball history. Even if the Royals do not win it all, this has been an amazing week.
On Sunday the regular season ended and the Royals wound up losing the division. They pulled their starter, Yordano Ventura after 4 innings once the Tigers had won, clinching the division. They held on to win the game in Chicago, finishing the season at 89-73. This was their best record by winning percentage since 1994, their best by total wins since 1989. This was their second straight winning season, the first time they'd done that since 1994. In the two seasons they won 175 games, this represented their highest two season total since 1988-1989 when they won 176. It also represented the first time that they'd posted 85 or greater win seasons in succession since 1980.
All above things as a given, the team has had some problems. They have trouble scoring runs and had gone on several severe run scoring droughts. This would lead you to believe that if they get good starting pitching and good defense that they could stay in any game, but if they fell behind by more than one they'd be gone. This set the table for Tuesday – for ever after known as the greatest game ever played.
The Royals fell behind by 2 before they ever stepped into a batter's box. Within three innings they'd achieved a one run lead. So much for not coming back. Then in the sixth they fell behind by four. They reached parity by the ninth. Got that, two comebacks of more than one run in the same game. Then for good measure they fell behind by one in the twelfth, only to win in the bottom half of the same inning.
They have not trailed since.
After arriving in the division series, the Angels had apparently witnessed that the Royals run. Their solution: keep them off first base. They've actually done a pretty good job of that with their pitching. The Royals answer: keep the best hitting offense in all of baseball off the bases, and erase them from the bases once they reach.
This strategy reached its apex in game 2. Trout was caught stealing early in game 2. Later in game 2 the Royals turned 3 double plays. Two of these double plays were spectacular. The first, in the eighth inning caught pinch runner Colin Cowgill trying to tag up on Jarrod Dyson. Dyson, after making a running catch threw a ball on two hops to Moustakas destroying an Angel rally. It was close, but Cowgill was out. Moustakas made a great move to get the tag down and Escobar let a ball roll through to allow for the 8-5 double play. It was a fantastic demonstration of team defense, but better was to come.
In the tenth inning Brandon Finnegan got sloppy and walked David Freese on five pitches. The defense showed its usual ability to pick up a pitching miscue. With Gordon Beckham on to pinch run for Freese, specifically to nullify double play chances with Hamilton batting (still a reasonably speedy runner) a ball was hit to Hosmer with Beckham moving quickly to second. Hos uncorked a bit of wild throw and I thought it was heading into left, but Escobar rose into the California night flagged the ball into his glove, landed ON second base and fired without taking a step with Beckham bearing down on him back to Hosmer for a bang-bang-bang 3-6-3 double play.
Hosmer then answered the bell in the top of the eleventh with the Royals second home run in as many nights.
The Royals now have as many home runs as the Angels. I don't think they can keep Trout down indefinitely, but if they can do it for one more game that might just be enough to get the Royals on to the ALCS.
Notes from game two follow:
Top of the 1st versus Shoemaker
Escobar – Fireworks have left some smoke in right center field the smoke has drifted around a bit but it clearing. Ninety-three degrees again this evening. High pop up to Kole Calhoun for the first out. Escobar probably swung at ball four on that pitch.
Aoki – Shoemaker appears to be working upstairs. On the second pitch Aoki swings and lifts a lazy fly to left field. Caught by Hamilton and there are two down.
Cain – Earlier today I was looking at this and the Royals have some of the best numbers against Shoemaker. It's not enough of sample to have any meaning, but it's there. Cain lines out to Calhoun in RF to end the inning. 1-2-3.
Bottom of the 1st versus Yordano Ventura.
Speaking of player against team. In one game against the Angels this year Ventura lost. He lasted four innings. Gave up seven hits and only two runs.
Calhoun – ground ball right back over the mound. Single up the middle.
Trout – ground ball to Escobar. No time to turn double play but on the flip to Infante they retire Calhoun. Trout to first base on the fielder's choice.
Pujols – on a pitch up and in, Trout is caught stealing – it was NOT close. Next pitch is chopped to Moustakas and the inning is over.
Top of the 2nd (0-0)
Hosmer – Ripped a liner into the right field corner, was going for the double all the way which looked very risky until Calhoun mishandled the ball in the corner. Calhoun did a great job chasing after and was able to keep Hosmer to second base. Official scorer called it single and E9. I think I disagree a bit with that. It would have been a pretty amazing throw to get him as Calhoun was running away from second base.
Butler – It is quite clear now that the desperation about Butler's underperformance this year is forgotten to some extent. He starts every day now. Raul Ibanez is no longer on the roster. Maybe that's not forgetfulness as much as having no response remaining. I think Butler has been better down the stretch, but his bat speed seems to have lost something. In this at bat he pops to shallow left field – the ball is caught by Aybar. The leadoff man reaching second base appears fairly likely to be stranded as there is now one out.
Gordon – On the second pitch Shoemaker threw one right in the zone and did not get the call. It seems like an obvious miss by HP ump Guccione. On the next pitch Shoemaker makes a mistake and places one right in Gordon's zone which Gordon sends up the middle for a single scoring Eric Hosmer and it's 1-0. I wonder how much the reaction to Guccione's miss led to that mistake?
Perez – It's weird, because Shoemaker has been wild high to some degree. Then with the missed call and Iannetta, Shoemaker and Scoscia all whining extensively about it at the time; he then misses high to Perez on the first pitch and gets a quick visit from Iannetta. We've seen dumb stuff like that throw off a young pitcher before. Can it happen now? He throws to first twice and the second one was very close to getting Gordon. Then he misses high with a curve ball to go 2-0. And again to go 3-0 – all high. Now he appears to be shortening his stretch which is leading to the high pitch. Then on 3-0 on a pitch that looked a tiny bit outside he gets a strike call. It wasn't exactly a give back from Guccione, but it wouldn't have been awful to call it a ball. With the count at 3-2 I've now counted five throws to first with Gordon on base. On the seventh pitch Gordon leaves with the pitch had the pitch stolen if needed but Perez lifted a fly ball to Trout in CF. Gordon had to spring back to first from second to avoid being doubled off. It was a bit close, but he dove back in safely.
Infante – After a total of seven throws to first and on the third pitch to Infante with the count at 0-2 Gordon attempts a steal on a pitchout. Iannetta made a terrible throw, bounces it and Gordon, who should have been nailed has a stolen base. But on the next pitch Infante swings at strike three in the dirt to end the threat.
Bottom of the 2nd Royals 1, Angels 0
So often we hear that the running game throws off the pitcher. It seemed to somewhat in that inning, but the Royals were not able to really capitalize on it. Perez went from a 3-0 count to a weak fly to center field that nearly got Gordon doubled off and Infante struck out miserably on a pitch he should have taken.
Anyway, Kendrick – Struck out on a ball way down. Apparently, Kendrick says that he fouled off the ball and is asking Guccione about asking the other umps about whether there was a foul tip. The umps agree that there was a foul tip, but say that Perez caught it.
Aybar – It appears that the Royals probably got a gift on that strike out. Slowed way down one can see the ball change trajectory after having hit the ground. I can't confirm at 100% level that it changed trajectory on hitting a bat, but it sure looks like it did. Ventura is working very quickly – he threw six pitches while I wrote that pair of sentences. On the last one he got Aybar to fly out to Gordon in medium depth left field.
Freese – Ventura throws nothing but gas and gets a swinging strikeout. His last two pitches were 102 and 101 mph respectively.
Top of the 3rd Royals 1-0
Moustakas – against the shift, lays down the bunt and reaches on it. Single. Finally, he does what I've been hoping for for months.
Escobar – It now appears that the running game is really in Shoemaker's head as he throws to first multiple times to hold Moustakas. Laid down a bunt that was more expected. The sacrifice is successful. Moustakas to second and Escobar out.
Aoki – Now while repeatedly checking second Shoemaker's wild to the high side returns and he misses on Aoki. The third pitch was clearly up and Guccione called a strike on a pretty bad call. Guccione giveth and Guccione taketh away. On the next pitch Aoki skies a lazy ball to left field and Moose is kept to second base.
Cain – Struck out swinging on three pitches and looked terrible at it. He's really swinging way too much right now.
Bottom of the 3rd Royals 1-0
The more I think about it the less I like that sac bunt. You've got a pitcher who is fighting some control issues; who has thrown a few extra pitches and you're going to give him an out? I just don't agree. It was a pretty good bunt and almost resulted in a hit. I suppose if it had a 25% chance of becoming a hit I would agree with the call and it might have had that chance…. It's not as awful as some other calls.
Hamilton – Struck out swinging.
Cron – hit to right center field gap, but it hangs up and Cain gets there for the catch.
Iannetta – hard ground ball to Moustakas.
Top of 4th Royals 1-0
Through 3 innings Ventura has faced the minimum. He has retired the last eight hitters he has faced and got an extra baserunning out in the middle. He looks like he has no ill effects from the misuse he suffered on Tuesday. If he's as mentally tough as this that is going to be an amazing pitcher in a year or two.
Hosmer – Guccione now gives a gift to Shoemaker. On an inside pitch he calls strike three.
HP Umpire Guccione has been pretty inconsistent, I think.
Butler – Popup to Calhoun in shallow right field.
Gordon – Struck out swining on a pitch in the dirt. It doesn't help the Royals that they are aiding Guccione in expanding their strike zone.
Bottom of the 4th Royals 1-0
Calhoun – medium depth center field caught by Cain.
Trout – On a 3-1 pitch, soft line drive to Moustakas.
Pujols – Strike three looking. Pujols looks upset with the call, but Guccione nailed that one. Ventura's pitches are moving so much I think the Angel hitters are having a hard time believing they can catch strike zone, but many of them are. And both of the last two called strikes caught the zone and I had NO idea that they would. Amazing stuff.
Top of 5th Royals 1-0
Perez- line drive up the middle for a single. Swung at one in the dirt, but stayed away from three others. A better at bat than he has been having. Nice to see.
Infante – foul pop up to Iannetta behind home plate.
Moustakas – Infield is shifted, again. But Moose strikes out swinging this time.
Escobar – one hop to Freese.
Bottom of 5th Royals 1-0
Kendrick – up the middle for a single.
Aybar – another ball up the middle on a chop. Single – Kendrick to second.
Freese – ground ball to Infante who flips to Escobar who fires to Hosmer for a 4-6-3 double play, Kendrick to third base.
Hamilton – On the first pitch, Hamilton swings and misses but does hit Perez in the side of the head with his bat end on his back swing. I would be very surprised if Perez does not have a concussion. On replay it seems he got the worst on his cheek rather than his head. On the next pitch a fly ball to right field that is caught by Aoki. Perez stayed in the game.
Top of the 6th Royals 1-0
Aoki – Slicing ball down LF line. Hamilton misread initially, but recovered to make the play.
Cain – Struck out swinging on a pitch way away.
Hosmer – Hits a line drive single that drops in front of Calhoun in right field.
Butler – Hits a high fly about 10 feet in front of the track in left center field. The ball is easily caught by Mike Trout.
Bottom of 6th Royals 1-0
Cron – Struck out swinging, ball got away – but Perez scrambled after and fired to Hosmer. K-2-3.
Iannetta – Ground ball to Escobar.
Ventura just hit 100mph again.
Calhoun – soft liner to shallow center field that falls in for a single.
Trout – On the fifth pitch, I thought Ventura got strike three and got jobbed by Guccione. Then on the sixth pitch he walks Trout. Trout did not swing at a single pitch. I think the fact that two pitches were quite wild got Guccione sleeping and he just missed a call. Calhoun advances to second on the walk to Trout.
Pujols – single to right field scoring Calhoun and advancing Trout to third. 1-1.
Kendrick – the crowd boos a strike call to Kendrick that was clearly correct on the second pitch. It was at the top of the zone, but it got it. Then Kendrick on pitch four grounds to Moustakas to end the threat.
Top of 7th 1-1
Pitch count watch – Ventura 84, Shoemaker 82.
Grilli in to pitch for Angels
Gordon – pops weakly to left field, caught by Hamilton.
Perez – Swung at the first two low and away. His approach at the plate appears to not have changed. And again on pitch three the Angels are whining at Guccione on a pitch that is clearly outside. It was actually a better pitch than the first two that Perez swung at, but it was still a ball. Then on the fifth pitch he swung at a pitch that bounced in front of home plate for strike three.
Infante – blooper into shallow right field that hangs up just long enough for Kendrick to run underneath it.
Bottom of 7th 1-1
I think I'd leave Ventura in, but it's a tough call here.
Aybar – grounder to Escobar – pitch was 99mph.
Freese – ground ball to Ventura.
Hamilton – first pitch 101mph. Swing and miss on a high one. Then an 85mph curveball that caught Hamilton way out front on a pitch in the dirt. Then two pitches way out of the zone (one curve at 85, one fastball at 101). Now he's 3-2 though after a few more pitches. Then a ground ball to Hosmer.
A 1-2-3 inning for Ventura that ends on his 95th pitch.
Top of 8th
I probably would consider very strongly the idea of switching pitchers now if I were Ned. The problem: this game is starting to look like it, too, might go to extra innings. All the relievers seem to be far better if they start the inning. The next three hitters include Calhoun who is looking like he is catching up to Ventura. This outing is an overwhelming positive for Ventura at this point.
Angels go to Joe Smith to pitch the 8th.
Moustakas – I wondered last night about lefthanders against Smith. I still do. He has been effective against lefthanders, but does have a platoon split, just not nearly as large as I would guess. The shift is off as it was last night when Smith was pitching. He taps it in front of home plate on the fifth pitch, Iannetta comes out and makes the play to Pujols. So Moose is not effective against Smith so far.
Escobar – On pitch number four we get more whining from the Angels when an inside pitch is not called as strike three. Pitchtrax clearly agrees with Guccione. Nonetheless, Escobar strikes out on the next pitch.
Aoki – ground ball to Kendrick.
Smith really looks tough for these Royals.
Bottom of 8th
I saw Ventura was wearing the jacket. Clearly he is coming out. I agree with this call by Yost.
Davis in to pitch, Dyson in CF, Cain in RF, Aoki leaves game.
Cron – first pitch is ripped down the line fair into the left field corner.
Colin Cowgill comes into pinch run for Cron.
Iannetta in a bunting situation- Iannetta has not sacrificed in years. Ball to gap in left center field, caught by Dyson on the run. Cowgill tags and sprints toward third and is OUT on an 8-5 play. Both Dyson and Moose make an excellent play. So we go from man on second and no one out to nobody on and two out.
Calhoun – ground ball to Infante to end the inning.
Top of the 9th 1-1
Street pitching replacing Joe Smith.
Cain – lazy fly ball. Trout has to make a run because he isn't straight away.
Hosmer – walk. Scoscia whines yet again. He got a call on the fourth pitch at 3-0, then didn't get it at 3-1. Have I ever seen a bigger whiner than this? It's absurd, Guccione has been slightly more to his side.
Butler – Ground ball to Kendrick, should have been a double play but Hosmer is able to disrupt Aybar on his throw to first. Hosmer is out, but Butler reaches.
Gore on to pinch run for Butler.
Gordon – first pitch Gore steals so easily that it is just funny. Street didn't even notice it seems that Butler had left the game. Now, Gordon is walked intentionally.
Perez – ground ball to Freese. Inning over.
It was an odd call pinch running there with two out, but it's the right one, I think. Tie game 9th inning, and yeah, it takes the bat out of Gordon's hand, but with two out and Butler on first – it's going to take a triple to score him.
About the stolen base, yes, it took the bat out of Gordon's hand, but without it Gordon needs an extra base hit to score Gore; Perez only needs a single. Which is more likely? The Perez single. So, right call.
Bottom of 9th 1-1
Frasor in to pitch for Royals
Trout – popped up behind home plate – caught by Perez.
Pujols – 2-0 pitch popped to Infante.
Kendrick – fly to right field.
On to EXTRA INNINGS AGAIN.
Top of 10th 1-1
Infante versus Street – Struck out swinging at ball four. After he got irritated at a correct call on 3-1 from HP Ump Guccione, he swung foolishly at something he should not have.
Moustakas – struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch.
Escobar – On the fourth pitch a lazy fly ball to Calhoun. Off a power hitter's bat that's a hit, but the fielders play shallower against Escobar, so it's an out.
Bottom of 10th 1-1
Finnegan in to pitch.
Aybar – grounds first pitch to Infante for a first out.
Freese – walks on five pitches.
Beckham comes in to pinch run for Freese.
Hamilton – ground ball to Hosmer for a 3-6-3 double play. Escobar corrals a high throw from Hosmer, lands on second base and fires back to Hosmer to complete the double play.
Top of 11th 1-1
Jepsen comes in to pitch for Angels. Beckham in at third base.
Dyson – Fly ball to Trout.
Cain – chopper to shortstop, Cain is called safe at first. Scoscia does not emerge from dugout. Cain beat the throw.
Hosmer – FIRST PITCH TWO RUN HOME RUN TO RIGHT FIELD.
An absolute no doubt home run for Eric Hosmer.
Willingham PH for Gore – skied to shallow right, caught by Kendrick.
Gordon – four pitch walk.
Scoscia heads to the mound. Jepsen is leaving.
Pestano in to pitch.
Perez – Gordon steals second on first pitch and a bad throw from Iannetta that goes into center field, Gordon goes to third base. That is scored as an E2. Perez hits a soft liner bounces behind second is stopped by Aybar, but no play and Gordon scores, 4-1.
Infante – popped up first pitch to shallow center field – caught by Trout.
Bottom of 11th Royals 4-1
Holland in to pitch.
Navarro PH for Cowgill – struck out on pitch in dirt, bounced away a touch and Perez has to throw to Hosmer.
Iannetta – Ground ball to Moustakas.
Calhoun – as Angel fans are leaving… ground ball to Infante, who bounces a throw to Hosmer. That's going to go as an E4. Calhoun stays on first.
Trout – struck out swinging and Royals win 4-1.
The Royals who were 5-7 in extra innings in the regular season have won 3 straight games all in extra innings. The Royals have yet to trail in the ALDS. It's pretty darn amazing.
Another long game, 3 hours and 48 minutes. I think it's even better that the Royals get a day off. Usually, you'd want to keep playing when you're winning, but with the injury to Herrera and the usage of the entire bullpen each night (while Scoscia did not use his whole bullpen) the advantage of having a day off seems to go the Royals way, too.
I won't be writing this on Sunday as I will be seated in section 413, row GG at the most beautiful place in all of major league baseball.