Mariners' closer Fernando Rodney walked Alcides Escobar on four straight pitches to start the top of the ninth inning and then threw ball one to Nori Aoki, but Ned Yost elected to give away an out by having Aoki bunt Escobar to second. That was charitable of him as Rodney then threw four of the next five pitches to Eric Hosmer for balls. Really, that's not hindsight: everyone on this site was wondering why give up an out to a pitcher who couldn't throw strikes BEFORE Hosmer was walked.
That was not the first time this evening that Ned Yost managed his way into the middle of the game. Unlike the ninth, however, I could not find fault with three earlier decisions.
After a Mariner double to lead off the third was followed by a sac bunt and an out, Yost had Danny Duffy intentionally walk Robinson Cano. Now, the third is awfully early to intentionally walk anyone, but look at the Mariner lineup. Given that Duffy struggles with his control, simply pitching around Cano might have led to Danny unintentionally leaving something juicy in the hitting zone. Besides, Corey Hart was on deck. Who wouldn't prefer to pitch to Hart over Cano with two out? Of course, Hart singled in the only run of the game, but it's hard to hang that one on Yost.
Later, Alex Gordon was caught stealing (maybe he went on his own, but I'm thinking Yost was making the calls in 1-0 game in the 7th) for the final out of the inning. With Danny Valencia at the plate facing a right handed pitcher, it seemed like a reasonable move. Yost, thanks to his and Dayton Moore's bitchin' roster construction, had zero options at second with Omar Infante out again tonight.
Finally, despite having watch Danny Duffy retire ten batters in a row, Yost lifted his starter immediately after he plunked Kyle Seager to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning. That was kind of a quick hook (Duffy was at 88 pitches, so he wasn't going to last much longer), but Danny can go south in a hurry. Kelvin Herrera was nasty, retiring six straight after that, so give Ned credit there.
That said, after giving up an out to a pitcher who could not throw strikes in the ninth, one can hardly blame Yost for Billy Butler swinging at four straight pitches from Rodney and striking out. Salvador Perez offered little resistance, ending the game with a weak grounder to short.
1-0 losses are discouraging, especially when Mariner starter Hisashi Iwakuma strikes out seven, walks none and allows four singles in eight innings. Discouraging? Hell, that wasn't fun at all!
The only bright spot was Danny Duffy, who allowed only two hits and a single run over six innings and a batter. Now, let's not get crazy here: the southpaw walked three (one intentional), hit a batter and struck out just four. He was good, not dominant.
That said, Duffy did enjoy a 15 pitch fourth, a 15 pitch fifth and a 5 pitch sixth. Fluke or progress? I don't know that we can really say, but when your alternative is soft-tosser Bruce Chen (assuming he's healthy on May 17th - the next date the Royals will need a fifth starter), does not one almost have to let Duffy have another turn at starting?
This was not a good game for the Royals, but this is also the best Mariner starter they will face in the four game set (King Felix is not on the agenda). While winning three in a row seems unlikely after hitting just four singles on Thursday night, a series split and a 4-3 road trip seems reasonable.