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RECAP: Royals 4, Athletics 5; Soria’d

This game will serve as the epitaph of the Royals 2016 season.

At this point, with the Royals on the periphery of the Wild Card chase, all games are huge. It’s truly impossible to understate the importance of each of the 19 remaining games. That’s why, try as I might, it is impossible to comprehend the thought process behind Ned Yost bringing in Joakim Soria to pitch with two runners on in the eighth inning with the Royals ahead by one run.

Why?

The case against Soria at this point in the season, is a binder bulging with evidence he cannot be trusted in high leverage situations. Amount of rest be damned and Yost can support his player publicly as is his prerogative, it is managerial malpractice of the highest order to bring Soria in to that game in that situation.

You cannot defend the indefensible.

Danny Duffy cruised through seven. He gave up a long home run to open the eighth and then a walk. It was time for the hook which was probably the correct move. Enter Matt Strahm. He got a pop-up and a grounder to third that really should have been the final out of the inning. Instead, Cheslor Cuthbert couldn’t get a grip on the ball and it was scored a single. Still, the Royals were in control.

Then all hell broke loose.

When Yost summoned Soria, it was one of those moments when you’re wondering what the hell is happening before the inevitable. It’s as if everyone watching this game except the man in the dugout pushing the bullpen buttons knew. The forest. The trees. Forget about all that. Yost is blind.

Eleven times prior Soria had coughed up a lead. The twelfth felt inevitable and ten times as painful. This was just a brutal loss coming in the heat of a Wild Card race and with another stellar outing from

I’ve written at length over the last month about hope and how it’s a cornerstone of my fandom. The odds have been slim and I haven’t been on the postseason bandwagon for quite some time, but damnit… Having hope has made this September worth something. The games are important. You live with the wins and die a little with the losses. It’s about being invested in your team as a fan. It’s fun.

Ned Yost ripped the remaining hope out from under me on Tuesday night.

Duffman In Charge

The story, prior to the Soria meltdown, was Royals starter Danny Duffy. Duffy, as he’s been doing for most of this season, was punishing A’s hitters with swing and miss stuff with two strikes. Eight times, the A’s batters missed a Duffy offering. On five of those swings, it close out an at bat. He worked the left-handed bats away and in some cases with two strikes, up and away. They swung. They missed. They sat.

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Yes, this was the offensively-challenged A’s. Still, it’s a team that hung 16 against a team with slim October aspirations. Duffy faced a lineup stacked with right-handed batters. Of the nine, only catcher Stephen Vogt stepped in from the left side. Yet only only three balls were hit to the pull side all night. All three came on the ground. Two of them were hit to Alcides Escobar to kickstart double plays. The other came off the bat of Vogt and was hit to second. From Baseball Savant, here are the plots for all the balls put in play against Duffy. For some reason the system doesn’t handle ground balls for double plays, which explains why there aren’t a couple of plots to the left of second base. Oakland didn’t pull the ball in the air until the eighth inning. Still, it’s an interesting spray chart.

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That’s not to say there weren’t some balls that were hit with authority. The home runs Duffy allowed were crushed. So, too were a couple of ground balls that were hit in the 108 mph range. It’s not always about exit velocity. Launch angle matters, too.

Home Cooking

Not much firing on offense through the first three and it looked like the fourth would go the same way. Except Cheslor Cuthbert put a charge in one that blasted through the teeth of the wind and over the head of the center fielder for a double. Alcides Escobar followed with a grounder to short that should have gone for the final out of the frame, but was booted by Marcus Simien. That put runners on the corners for Paulo Orlando. Escobar stole second without a throw setting up opportunity for the Royals number nine hitter. If you take a shine to your situational stats, this meant the right man was up for the job at hand. Orlando is hitting .314 with runners in scoring position this year and owns a .328 BA with two outs.

Sure enough, Orlando drove one on the ground to left, bringing both runners home to open the scoring. It wasn’t what I would term a “Royals Run” because a productive out wasn’t involved. Rather it was vintage 2015 Royals on display where they made the opposition pay for a mistake.

Khris Krush

Maybe it’s just my untrained eyeballs, but I’m thinking a middle-middle fastball to Khris Davis is a very, very bad idea. Because home runs happen.

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That ball was obliterated. Duffy was brilliant, so it seems a bit unfair to pick on one pitch. I mean, I could have done that with a Soria pitch. There’s not enough Xanax.

Gangster Hack

Uncle Hud used this phrase when describing Roughned Odor’s approach to hitting. It came up during the fourth inning when the broadcast showed a graphic featuring the top home run hitting second basemen. You bet your bandwidth I’ll be using that one.

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Does it really matter anymore?

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