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Joakim Soria and the 8th inning

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Was Jack back?

Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Soria made a grand entrance to his first season back with the Royals on Sunday. He hasn't been with the team since 2011 when he collected 160 saves over his time as a Royal. This winter the Royals signed him on to a three-year deal with an option year for the fourth. A deal that was liked by some and hated by others (myself included - though hate is a strong word).

Soria made return in the 8th inning of Sunday's 4-0 game with the Royals up by four runs. He just needed to get outs and cruise the Royals into their first win of the season. Unfortunately what should have been a stress free inning turned the game into a near nail biter before being relieved by Luke Hochevar after giving up three runs.

Soria threw 29 total pitches in the outing; 23 of them fastballs. That's basically an 80% fastball mix. Last year Soria's fastball usage came in around 55%. However fastballs just weren't working for him that night. There wasn't really a discernable difference between his Sunday night fastball and his fastballs from last year. The velocity was the same, as was the horizontal and vertical movement on the pitches. Meanwhile there wasn't a change in arm angle either.

Let's walk batter by batter to see if it was poor pitches or bad luck.

Juan Lagares

That's the 1-1 fastball Soria pitched and fortunately for Joakim, Lagares was just underneath it and fouled it off. He got a bit lucky there, but unfortunately there are two forms of luck.

A slow, 73 MPH curveball and Lagares pokes it back up the middle for a hit. He's gotten just two hits previously in his career off curveballs low and away (now three). Soria made a mistake and Lagares couldn't take advantage. Then Lagares swings at a chase pitch and ends up on first base.

Curtis Granderson

Not much to show here. Soria walked Granderson on four pitches and really only one of them was close to the zone.

David Wright

This at bat started off with a fifth straight ball from Soria before umpire Gerry Davis gave him the benefit of a borderline strike.

At 1-1, Joakim hurled Wright a challenge fastball and David couldn't live up to the challenge.

That's right down the middle a 94 MPH. Not an overpowering speed but Wright may have been looking for something offspeed as he was late to the pitch and swung through it.

He did get an offspeed pitch next, but like the fastball he swung through and went down on strikes.

Yoenis Cespedes

For this outing Soria's fastball and command was all over the place, missing outside the zone often.

Borderline strike (0-0)

Changeup in the dirt where he basically falls over (0-2 count)

Well inside on a fastball (1-2 count)

Changeup in the dirt (2-2 count)

Fastball down the middle

Missing way high on a fastball (3-2 count)

Soria had Cespedes down 0-2, but let him get a free pass on a few pitches that weren't even close. Suddenly the Mets had the bases loaded and the tying run at the plate.

Lucas Duda

Wha's Soria even going to do about this one... A high and inside fastball at 92 MPH and Duda almost hits it with the bottom of his bat. The BABIP gods do exist and with only the second ball in play in the inning after the bases were loaded, this ball gets deposited in no man's land between third base and left field.

Duda actually hits fastballs in this location well (.300 since 2013 - his breakout year) and .364 if you just look at zone 3.

Neil Walker

Another batter, another missed fastball.

This pitch brought the crowd to a low groan as the go ahead stood in the box. Soria was a bit on the ropes and couldn't find his command.

Neil Walker would eventually bring home a run on a force out, but it could have been worse. Soria left pitches very much over the middle and Walker fouled them off.

92 MPH fastball down the middle on 1-0

93 MPH fastball down the middle on 1-1

Then the pitch he actually retires Walker on wasn't really any better than the other two.

A 94 MPH fastball up and over the plate and Walker grounds it fairly weak to Infante at 2nd. The ball was just hit soft enough though that the Royals couldn't turn two, and Cespedes would cross home.

Michael Conforto

Take a guess what pitch Soria threw? Now guess if it was a ball or a strike?

If you said fastball:ball then you are correct. Another one well off it's intended target as Perez setup low.

He missed high again on 1-0 but Davis called this one a strike to even the count.

The death knell for Soria. Like Duda earlier, Conforto deposits a high fastball that was only twenty feet or so from the exact location Lucas dropped his single earlier.

Soria was either leaving his fastballs over the plate and the Mets weren't taking full advantage, or he was missing wide. Maybe it was opening night jitters or perhaps he had some bad pasta. Whatever the cause of his bad night was a combination over his unusual overreliance on fastballs and inability to command the pitch.

Soria would make an appearance two days later on Tuesday, coming in the ninth inning with the Royals down 2-0. This was a much better Soria. His command was better to be sure and he pitches overall were more effective. He then also calmed down on using his fastball, getting back to his normal usage.

For now, Sunday night is just a blip on the radar; a small sample size. However we've always got to be reminded of Soria's age and injury history. If he's effective continuously then we can of course ease our concerns.