I don’t have much time and today’s game starts early, but a promise is a promise, so here’s a couple hundred words:
- The Royals won again yesterday using the same formula they won with on Friday: hit singles, put the ball in play, run hard and take advantage of the opposing defense, and then pitch your ass off. They scored their first run on an infield single by Nori Aoki that pitcher Shane Greene threw wildly to first on, allowing Josh Willingham to score. They scored their second run when Alex Gordon reached base on an error by Carlos Beltran, stole second, and then scored on a single by Hosmer – with Hosmer sacrificing himself at second base, which may have been a wise trade-off given that Gordon stumbled around third and might have been out at the plate. They scored their third run when…oh, right, they didn’t.
The Royals beat the Yankees without scoring an earned run for the second time in the series. Dave Holtzman of Fox Sports reported that the Royals hadn’t won two games without scoring an earned run in a SEASON since 1992. That’s the kind of season the Royals are having. Put the ball in play. Run fast. Get lucky.
- The Royals’ pitching staff is covering up the fact that they can’t keep winning with an offense this bad. No, really, they can’t: they’ve scored 15 runs in their last six games, and have somehow won five of them.
Going back to the Indians series, barring a tenth-inning comeback in the makeup game, they’ve scored four runs or fewer in nine straight games. That’s the longest stretch without scoring five runs in a game since late May and early June of last season – a 14-game stretch (tied for the longest in team history) in which the Royals went 3-11. The Royals have had 14 stretches in their history of 10 games or more without scoring five runs, and have a losing record in all 10. It’s hard to sustain winning when you’re scoring two or three runs every night.
It’s been fun watching the Royals win games 2-1 and 2-0 and 1-0 over the past week; when you neither score nor allow a lot of runs, it guarantees a close game and tension until the final out. But really, guys: it’s okay to score some runs. The pitching-and-defense narrative is nice, but the win-the-AL-Central narrative is better.
- With Greg Holland still out, Yost was forced to move his relievers back an inning, using Wade Davis in the ninth and Kelvin Herrera in the eighth, which necessitated a new seventh-inning guy. Yost tried to make that guy Yordano Ventura, but wisely pulled Ventura after a leadoff walk, and turned to…Aaron Crow.
I maintain my position that Jason Frasor is the better option. He has the better ERA this year (2.85 to 3.71) and the vastly better FIP (3.46 to 5.28). Also, Frasor has the much smaller platoon split. For his career, Frasor has allowed LHB to hit .245 and slug .371, not much higher than the .230 and .362 marks he’s allowed right-handers. Crow has held RHB to a .232 average and .333 slugging – but lefties have hit .260 and slugged .445.
The last number of the last paragraph is what mattered yesterday, because Crow came in with the tying run at the plate, with the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium, and the first three batters due up were Chase Headley (a switch-hitter), Ichiro Suzuki (left-handed), and Jacoby Ellsbury (left-handed). Calling on Crow, a right-hander with a big platoon split and issues with the long ball in that situation was, to put it kindly, a suboptimal decision by Ned Yost.
It worked, because after Crow fell behind Headley 3-1 and was in danger of putting the tying run on base, Headley swung at a borderline outside fastball and bailed Crow out, hitting into a 4-6-3 double play. And in fairness, Crow then froze Ichiro on a nifty pitch on the inside corner for strike three.
Maybe Crow figured something out during his brief trip to Double-A (in which he struck out one batter in three innings and also gave up a home run). But the fact that he got sent to Double-A in the first place makes me question why he’s now being used in key situations over Frasor. It’s worked so far. I don’t know how much longer it will keep working.
- Speaking of Ventura, he pitched six scoreless innings and afterwards Carlos Beltran said it was some of the best stuff he had seen in a while…but Ventura walked four batters and struck out two. Maybe it’s an anomaly; he had whiffed 44 batters in 44 innings in his last seven starts. But he’s a rookie, and it’s September, and we just saw what happened to Danny Duffy, and it makes me nervous. Anyway, it’s not like we’ve got any choice in the matter.
- Speaking of Duffy, we got more good news today as his MRI showed inflammation but no structural damage, leaving open the possibility that he’ll return this year. That’s obviously good news.
But if I could swap Duffy’s availability for the rest of the regular season for a guaranteed win in Detroit this afternoon, I’d probably make that trade. That’s how important a rivalry game is this late in the season.