The Royals dropped the series opener Friday to the Detroit Tigers 7-5.
BIG PICTURE: Mike Matheny needs to take a step back and look at how he is using the bullpen. His use of Greg Holland has to change. And yes, I have been saying this for a while now.
The Royals did some good things in the game. Mike Minor pitched decent but gave up ten hits in six innings. Kyle Zimmer and Jakob Junis pitched well out of the bullpen. But Tyler Zuber struggled to throw strikes and got into trouble, and Greg Holland made a terrible pitch that killed this game. And although Zuber struggled, it ultimately came down to Holland giving up a grand slam. But Zuber gets the loss because of the awful rules for awarding wins and losses in Major League Baseball.
THERE REALLY IS STRATEGY: Many times, people think that baseball teams just go out and play. Sure, pitchers have a strategy for attacking the lineup they will be facing. And batters have a strategy against the pitcher they will face. But that’s really about it, right? Actually, no.
Remember Eric Hosmer’s mad dash home in the 2015 World Series? In the ninth inning of Game 5, and representing the tying run at third base, Eric Hosmer dashed for home as soon as third baseman David Wright threw to Lucas Duda at first base.
The Royals had seen Lucas Duda struggle defensively earlier in the series. They had talked about being able to take advantage of it at some point. In fact, Hosmer was on third previously when Duda dropped a pickoff throw and saw the ball get away from him a little. He thought about going home that time but didn’t. The team also saw Duda make a throw to absolutely nobody earlier.
So when Hosmer had an opportunity to tie Game 5 of the World Series, he took a chance. He was successful. The rest is history.
Back to this game. When Andrew Benintendi singled to left with two outs in the first inning, and he was thrown out going to second base by a large margin, I initially thought it was a bad decision. But then I thought of Hosmer, and I thought maybe the Royals had talked about this before the game.
The Tigers had Eric Haase in left field. Haase is a catcher who was playing left field. As a catcher, you think his arm strength wouldn’t be a problem. That’s not why you would take the chance. But Haase wouldn’t be as familiar with fielding the ball and making that throw. Add to everything else, with two outs, it makes sense to try to get into scoring position. So maybe it was worth the chance.
It turns out that Haase made the play, and Benintendi was out by a large margin. I initially thought it was a terrible decision. But then I thought back to the 2015 World Series. Sometimes, things just don’t go your way. That doesn’t mean you were wrong.
HOLLAND’S ROLE NEEDS TO CHANGE
Have we seen enough yet? I talked a few weeks ago about pitching prospects being promoted and wondered if Greg Holland or Wade Davis would lose their job. And Mike Matheny thought it was a good idea to bring Greg Holland in to face Miguel Cabrera up two runs with two outs and the bases loaded.
I turned to my wife when the count got to 3-2 on Cabrera and told her I hoped Holland would walk him. My thought was that anything else would be bad. My wife thought I thought he would hit a grand slam. I didn’t think it was necessarily that bad, but it would be bad. Then Cabrera hit a grand slam.
Why wasn’t it Josh Staumont in the game instead of a Greg Holland? Matheny needs to stop going to Holland just because he has experience. There is a point where skill deterioration exceeds when experience can provide.
HUDLER CALLS TODAY’S BASEBALL SOFT: A play at the plate had Tyler Zuber take a throw from Salvador Perez and tag out Jacoby Jones. Jones didn’t slide and just gave himself up. Royals TV analyst Rex Hudler was noticeably upset with how the play happened. Jones’ decision to just give himself up seemed to rightfully anger Hudler, who called the sport today soft. He’s not wrong.
NEXT UP: The Royals will try to even the series against the Tigers on Saturday afternoon. Brady Singer takes the mound for the Royals.
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