If you’re being honest with your inner baseball fan, these Royals haven’t been playing the most exciting brand of baseball. Don’t get me wrong, the wins are nice and the month of August has been brilliant. It’s just that all too frequently, we see this team turn out the lights for extended periods. Dull, low scoring games with run of the mill plays made afield are the norm. Believe me, writing these recaps some nights I’m begging for something, anything to write about.
Thursday was not one of those games.
The Defense Never, Ever Rests
Where to start?
How about the first. The Raul Mondesi throw with his momentum toward left field, gunning down Dee Gordon. That alone was an amazingly acrobatic play. Truly underrated on the difficulty of the throw. Factor in the speed of Gordon busting down the line and it was a helluva play.
And that wasn’t even the best play in the inning.
First Step: 0.1 seconds
Distance covered: 98ft
Route efficiency: 95.8%
Top speed: 19.8 MPH
— Daren Willman (@darenw) August 25, 2016
The above is Jarrod Dyson doing a smash-and-grab on Christian Yellich. Allegedly, it was the first home run ever taken away at Marlins Stadium. It was, quite simply, the best defensive play I’ve seen this year.
Look at those numbers again from Statcast. Every single one of those should elicit an, “Oh, my.”
The man needs a cape.
The defense was on display in the first three innings as the Marlins were getting good wood against Royals starter Edinson Volquez. It got so ridiculous that Mondesi and Alcides Escobar almost tag teamed another 4-6-3 putout that would have been off the charts on the acrobatic scale of defensive measurements.
It was, as I mentioned on Twitter, as if the Harlem Globetrotters were playing baseball.
Proving that good defense is not, in fact, contagious, it was a tough night with the leather for Cheslor Cuthbert. In the third inning, he airmailed what should have been the start to a double play into right field. In the fourth with two runners on, he made a nice diving stop and had plenty of time to get the final out of the inning. His feet were set, but he just whipped his throw and pulled Hosmer off the bag at first. With the runner at second going on contact, he didn’t stop and took advantage of Hosmer picking the ball up off the ground to come across with the tying run. Two errors on the game for the Royals third baseman. Another for Perez on an attempted pickoff at first. Still, the good more than compensated for the bad.
It was a stellar defensive night.
In the top of the third, Cheslor Cuthbert cracked a one out double. After Lorenzo Cain grounded back to the mound for the second out, Eric Hosmer strode to the plate. Remember, this was the third inning. The Royals have been hot in August with their first baseman treading water in a sea of mediocrity. He entered the month in a horrible slump, hitting .280/.339/.448. Over his last 22 games, he’s knocked .253/.305/.368. On the flip side you have Salvador Perez. Perez has crashed to .187/.213/.317 since the All-Star Break. With Perez, you have the platoon advantage. Don Mattingly chose to pass Hosmer in favor of Perez.
Man, I just don’t know. Giving a free baserunner to a team like the Royals just seems like a foolish move, based more on an old scouting report and unfulfilled potential than anything grounded in reality.
Predictably, the move backfired. Perez lined one right on the left field line to bring home the Royals first run.
In the sixth inning, Alex Gordon led off with a single and advanced on a throwing error. Escobar, who inexplicably homered earlier in the game, drilled a double to score Gordon. A passed ball moved Escobar to third. With Mondesi at bat, he struck out to bring up Volquez’s spot in the lineup. This is where your National League rules get silly. Because Mondesi couldn’t get the job done and bring the run home, the move (and it was the correct move) was to pull the starting pitcher after just 82 pitches to go to the pinch hitter. Sigh.
Look, the Royals bullpen is on a massive roll. An all-timer. Still, you’d like to get a little more length from your starter. Volquez could’ve gone another inning. He just needed a little more cushion.
Kendrys Morales lofted a sacrifice fly to bring in the insurance run.
Another night for the Royals bullpen. Chris Young goes 0.2 of an inning before he yields three consecutive ground ball singles. (One of them stayed on the infield and was hit by Jeff Francoeur!) With the bases loaded, Ned Yost again showed his immense trust in newcomer Matt Strahm. Well earned, as the rookie got out of the inning.
Unleashed in the next frame, Strahm showed a filthy slider and a plus change to go along with an electric fastball. Two more strikeouts for the kid to push his season total to 19 punch outs in 40 batters faced. The math tells me that’s damn good. Joakim Soria allowed his first base hit since August 10, but danced around a first-and-second, no-out situation. Kelvin Herrera shoved in the ninth to bring home another Royals win.
That’s 38.2 scoreless innings for the Royals bullpen. According to Elias Sports, that’s the longest streak since the 2002-2003 San Francisco Giants who threw 39.1 consecutive innings without a run. In that stretch they’ve allowed 14 hits and nine walks. Five of those hits allowed came Thursday. Think about that for a moment.
The hottest team in the AL travels all the way up the coast for their trip to Boston. Ian Kennedy tries to keep the good times rolling at 6:10.