The Royals, while coming close, still show that they are a young team needing to learn how to win. They had a number of chances, especially early, against Rangers' ace Yu Darvish. However, they let those opportunities go to waste. As their young players mature, they will learn the value of bunching their hits together, and hitting in the clutch, which is what they need to do to score runs.
Play of the game:
This has to be Billy Butler getting thrown out at home plate in the top of the 2nd inning. Major league coaches keep a chart of times it takes for outfielders to throw home, so when Jeff Francoeur hit a fly ball to fairly deep center field, 3rd base coach Eddie Rodriguez probably figured that Butler could beat the throw easily. I'll have to ask him about it when the Royals make it home from their road trip, but I'm guessing that the read on Rangers' center fielder Craig Gentry's catch and release time, combined with his arm strength, would allow Butler to score.
However, Butler didn't score. Francoeur did his job. Rodriguez did his job. Butler needs to learn to do his job. For an All-Star who should be a team leader, he had a terrible game, not getting any hits or driving in any runs. He is supposed to be the kind of guy who leads by example, but here's hoping none of the Royals follow his example from today.
On to the recap.
Bottom of the 1st:
Ranger Nelson Cruz fouled a ball off of the top of his foot and was clearly in a lot of pain. After the Rangers manager and trainer came out to check up on Cruz, you could see Cruz explaining to the home plate umpire where he got hit on the foot and what he could have done to avoid it. This is a big league move, as major league hitters know they need to keep the umpires on their side. Being aloof to the umpire or even totally ignoring him is not the right thing to do. Sharing tips of the trade with the umpires is the right move, and one that could pay dividends down the road.
Hosmer also had a nice dig on a throw from Moustakas. A lot of fans are concerned with his low power totals, but the guys on the team love Hosmer, as they know he saves them many errors.
Top of 2nd:
This is where Butler was thrown out as mentioned above. Lost in the action was the at-bat Chris Getz had later in the inning. He lined out to deep center with the bases loaded on a hit that would have scored even Butler. Fans have also been down on Getzy, but this was a professional at bat. It's unfortunate for him that it came with 2 outs, so he didn't get the credit for an RBI.
Top of 3rd:
The Royals didn't mount a threat in this inning, but Hosmer did line out to 3rd. He is as snakebit of a player as I can recall, as he hit the ball on the screws but had nothing to show for it. Remember, all of my sources within the Royals indicate he is far too talented to not eventually put everything together.
Bottom of 3rd:
Not much happened, but Francoeur caught a fly ball in right and Getz had a put out at second. Yes, those the kind of plays that major league players should make, but both of these guys make those plays. It is quite a relief for a manager to be able to know that he can count on those guys to make the plays they should.
Top of 4th:
Billy Butler led off the inning with a walk. Billy's power is noticeably down this year, and when a team is perhaps struggling a bit to score runs, their All-Star needs to generate some action. Billy ended the game with a .254 average, far below where the Royals need him to be.
I know some fans are in love with the walk, especially ones of the leadoff variety, but notice that walk did no damage, and Billy did not come around to score.
Top of 5th:
Chris Getz grounds out to 1st after a 6 pitch at-bat with no balls. In the box score this might seem like a failed at bat, but at this point Darvish is dealing, and Chris's ability to extend the at bat without having to rely on balls really endears him to his teammates. Remember this for later in the game.
Bottom of 5th:
Ervin Santana walks the leadoff batter in the inning, Geovany Soto. Ervin was quite lucky Soto did not come around to score, as giving up walks, especially ones of the leadoff variety, can be especially harmful to pitchers.
Another overlooked play was when Alex Gordon caught a shallow fly ball after calling off shortstop Alcides Escobar. It was the kind of play that could lead to a collision and an injury, but the Royals are solid in their fundamentals, and they work on this play. Whenever Gordon thinks he can catch the ball, he yells "Percy Sledge, Percy Sledge". This puzzled me at first, so I asked Royals manager Ned Yost about this, and Yost explained it is a reference to the Percy Sledge song, "Out of Left Field". Yost believes that mnemonic devices like this are a good way to instill the fundamentals.
Top of the 6th:
Billy Butler opened the inning by flying out to deep center field. This is the kind of ball that Billy would have most likely hit for a homer last year, but this year it dies on the warning track. He really needs to turn it around for the sake of the entire team and for the sake of his career.
Top of the 7th:
Both Frenchy and Getzy recorded outs, albeit on tough, gritty 4 pitch battles. Again, remember these kind of professional at bats.
Bottom of 7th:
Nelson Cruz lined a single to right. When it first came off of his at bat, I was wondering if Cruz would go for two, however, it appeared that he gave no thought to it. Another indication of the respect that players have for Frenchy's arm, and another way he contributes without showing up in the box score or noticed by fans.
Chris Getz turned in another defensive gem by starting a routine double-play to help Santana get out of the inning. No matter what the fans say, his teammates love Getz and greatly appreciate the way he plays.
Top of 8th:
Instead of Darvish coming out to pitch, the Rangers turned to their bullpen. By this time Darvish had thrown 99 pitches, and at bats like Frenchy and Getzy had throughout the game played a big part.
Not coincidentally, this is the inning that the Royals scored their run. It began with an Alex Gordon double. While it is great that the Royals scored, you hate to see them have to wait for an inning with a double to score. You can't always rely on doubles, and teams that are struggling to score often are unable to string together a series of singles, which are much more reliable. Often, when players try to hit a double they end up getting an out.
After the double Gordon was sacrificed over to 3rd by Esky. He then scored on an expertly placed ground ball by Eric Hosmer. As soon as Hosy (or The Hosmanian Devil as his teammates call him) made contact Alex was off and running. As he was approaching the plate, you noticed that he slid in to home plate. Big league players will often do this in an attempt to elude the tag. The theory is that if they slide instead of running straight ahead, the extra distance to the ground causes the catcher to take just a little more time to tag the runner, thus making it more likely for the runner to score. While the casual fan might not know this, big league players drill on this kind of stuff for hours at a time. Gordon of course scored, thus tying the game.
Later in the inning Moustakas got his second hit of the game. Although both were weakly hit singles, it is those kinds of plays that can get a player out of an extended slump. Look for Yosty to give Moose much more playing time in the future.
All in all this was a great inning for the Royals. They were able to turn a double, a walk, and a single into 1 run.
Bottom of 8th:
Yes, Jurickson Profar hit a home run that ended up being the difference in the game, but if the Rangers continue to rely on that kind of home run they will eventually pay the price. First, home runs are unreliable. That was Profar's 37th at bat this year, and only his second home run. That means that 35 other at bats did not have a home run. Those aren't the kind of odds you can build a team around. Second, that is probably an out at the K. So, for you fans wondering why the Royals don't hit those kind of home runs, just keep in mind that they can't. Teams like the Rangers get rewarded, but teams like the Royals don't.
Top of 9th:
While the Royals failed to score a run, Getzy had another great at bat, facing 7 pitches, before grounding out to end the game.
Despite the Royals coming up on the wrong side of the scoreboard, this was a fun game to watch. The Royals are learning to play the game the right way, and they are building for the long-term, not depending on short-term hits that will prove unreliable in the long run. Keep patient, and things will even out in the end.