Normally, I like to try and keep editorializing to a minimum in recaps. Weird stuff happens in games all the time, and you can draw just about any conclusion you’d like from a given game if you’re looking for it. But there are sometimes big enough and important enough patterns that develop and can by crystalized in an individual game or in a set of games that you can’t ignore.
In tonight’s 9-7 loss to the Houston Astros, I simply cannot fathom why pitching coach Cal Eldred has a job. Despite being staffed by a bevy of former top 100 prospects and high round draft picks, this team’s pitching performance has been an abomination. Name a metric and they’re awful at it. Walks? Too many. Strikeouts? Too few. Innings pitched? Not enough. This, despite a staff that has not suffered many major injuries.
It pains me to say, but Zack Greinke is not good anymore. He’s not terrible, but he’s not good. The Astros shelled Greinke today to the tune of 10 hits, four of which went for extra bases. Greinke only managed two strikeouts against a pair of walks, which isn’t gonna cut it. Sometimes he’s gonna have nights like this, especially against a good offense, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.
Replacing Greinke was Jackson Kowar, who was just as bad if for fewer innings. Kowar accrued three strikeouts against a pair of walks, which also isn’t gonna cut it, and allowed a pair of home runs. Kowar finished the game with three runs given up in his three innings pitched.
The Royals’ utter pitching ineptitude has become even more frustrating recently as the Royals offense started to find its groove. In the Royals first 39 games of the season, they put up an 84 wRC+ as a team, with a .123 ISO and a 7.5% walk rate. In the last 39 games of the season, they’ve put up a 103 wRC+ as a team, with a .146 ISO and an 8.8% walk rate. In part, this has been because of nice improvements by Bobby Witt Jr. and assistance from MJ Melendez. Both homered tonight. It was fun!
The Royals offense showed some grit. They scored in six separate innings, accrued nine hits, and even walked four times. Only Vinnie Pasquantino didn’t reach base tonight. But it didn’t matter, because the Astros also scored in a bunch of innings (five) and the Royals were always playing catch-up.
Another story for tonight was the truly godawful umpiring. It began at the plate with a ridiculous zone that had no anchor in reality. Is a strike a strike or is it a ball? Melendez’s framing doesn’t help here, but come on. Clearly a strike. It was called a ball.
The game also ended on another laughable strike call on a fastball—not even a curveball or something, a fastball—that was way below the knees.
But the cherry on top for the umpiring came in the eight inning, when Hunter Dozier hit a ground ball that the umps initially ruled as two outs on a double play. In reality, Jose Altuve didn’t touch second base, leaving Pasquantino safe, and Dozier beat out the throw at first. The rare double overturn, which the Royals indeed went for.
Alas, the Royals have lost 50 games. It is July 5. What a mess. They’ll play Houston twice more before a homestand that features the Guardians and the Tigers.