Sunday wasn’t just a win. It was a statement that the Royals could compete with the White Sox.
Big Picture: The Royals managed to get a split in Chicago after having the middle game of the series rained out. The win keeps the Royals from falling below .500 for the first time this season. With Minnesota losing to Seattle, the Royals pulled to within 1/2 game of first-place Cleveland.
Lineup Change: Royals manager Mike Matheny switched Salvador Perez and Carlos Santana in the lineup for Sunday’s game. Matheny wants Perez to get to the plate in the first inning. He felt like there were too many innings ending with Santana, and Perez led off too many innings. So Sunday, Perez hit in the third spot, and Santana dropped to the fourth spot. Perez reached on a Yoan Moncada error in the first inning, and Santana struck out on a wicked breaking ball by Dylan Cease.
Base Running Is Important: Regardless of what most youth coaches say, base running is critical at all levels of play. Remember, you have to run the bases to get home and get a run. If you stink at running the bases, you won’t score as many runs as you should.
Hunter Dozier lost track of the count in the top of the second. Michael Taylor swung and missed. Dozier thought it was strike three and was jogging to the dugout. When he realized the inning wasn’t over, he rushed back to second base but not before he was picked off for the final out of the inning.
The Royals’ third inning came to an end when Whit Merrifield tried to steal second base but apparently came off the bag on his slide and was called out.
Ryan Lefebvre complained that Whit shouldn’t be out because he wasn’t trying to advance or get around a tag. He just came slightly off the bag. This is ridiculous. Why have a bag if it doesn’t mean anything? Lefebvre was a homer, and it wasn’t a good look. Let’s call this idea of being safe even if you come off the bag the Ryan Lefebvre rule.
So what do we want regarding stolen bases in baseball? Ryan Lefebvre wants the runner to be safe if he beats the tag, even if he comes off the bag and is tagged unless the runner attempts to advance to the next base. That’s fine with me if that’s the rule, but it’s not the rule right now.
Major League Baseball is experimenting with stolen base attempts in the minor leagues this year. The size of the bases is being increased by a few inches. The hope is that slightly shortening the base paths will increase the number of stolen bases. They want to bring more action back to the game.
The Ryan Lefebvre rule and the shortened base path by increasing the base size might be great for increasing action in games. Stolen bases and going for the extra base are some of the best parts of baseball. However, remember that rule changes, just like changes to the law, always have unintended consequences.
My short-term concern with changing these rules is injuries to base runners. If baserunning is encouraged, and if you are safe for coming off the bag as long as you get to the bag before the tag, runners are going to slide later to get there faster. This means leg, hand, and arm injuries from getting jammed hard into the bag. I’m not saying the rules would be bad. I’m just saying this could be a result until players get better at running bases.
Minor Improvement: Mike Minor struggled mightily against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, but he allowed just one run through four innings before being pulled because of his pitch count. Minor’s 85 pitches in four innings were too much to continue. He allowed base runners in every inning.
Minor got into trouble multiple times in his four innings, but he always found a way to get out of it with minimal damage. This was an improvement over his first appearance, but it’s not where you want him to be. Regardless, Minor battled through his troubles and gave his team four innings and a chance to win.
Bullpen Evolution: Mike Matheny uses his bullpen based on the matchups and isn’t just having traditional roles by inning. However, we see that Matheny views Josh Staumont as one of his top relief pitchers. In a tie game Sunday against the Chicago White Sox heading to the bottom of the seventh, Staumont was brought into the game to face the heart of the order: Luis Robert, Jose Abreu, and Yoan Moncada. Traditional approaches to the bullpen would have left Staumont for the ninth inning, even though the seventh might be the toughest inning remaining in regulation.
Matheny’s approach worked perfectly in the eighth. Josh Staumont easily retired the heart of the White Sox lineup in order. Staumont is the closer even if he doesn’t always pitch in the ninth.
Base Running Is Important (Take 2): I’m not even going to try to explain the complete offensive turnaround by Nicky Lopez since he was recalled from the minor leagues after being down for about eight hours. But Lopez worked a walk in the eighth inning of a tie game. He then stole second base to get into scoring position with just one out. Then, Andrew Benintendi got his first RBI as a Royal, and the Royals took a 2-1 lead. The Royals need to be good on the bases. They struggled early in the game, but it was baserunning that gave them the lead in the eighth.
And then Benintendi is caught stealing…
Walks Will Kill A Pitching Staff: The two best pitchers for the Royals Sunday were the only two without a walk. Is it a coincidence? No. It’s not. Pitchers have to trust themselves that they can get outs. If they throw strikes, the opponent might get hits. If they throw balls, the opponent doesn’t need hits.
Smooth: Carlos Santana led off the ninth with his first home run as a Royal to tie the game at 3-3.
Safety Dance! Ummm… Squeeze: The Royals started the tenth with Michael Taylor at second base and Nicky Lopez at the plate. Lopez came through again with a sacrifice bunt, which moved Taylor to third with one out. The White Sox decided to walk Whit Merrifield. You don’t want Whit to beat you with the bat.
As Andrew Benintendi stepped to the plate, I yelled for a safety squeeze. It seemed to be a surprise to the announcers when Benintendi put down the bunt. Heck, it seemed to be a surprise to Garrett Crochet and his throw home bounced well in front of the plate and got away from Zack Collins and allowing Taylor to score.
Next Up: The Royals return home for a ten-game homestand against the Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays. The goal would be a 6-4 homestand, but that could be a challenge against that lineup of teams.
Thanks for reading…
|– Alberto, ph-3b||12||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|– Williams, dh||19||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|– Eaton, ph-rf||42||2||1||1||2||0||1||0||0||1||0||0|