Games » Los Angeles AngelsSep16
Close is not good enough
The Kansas City Star
After losing Sunday’s game to the Los Angeles Angels 4-3, Royals manager Ned Yost was asked whether there was any comfort in playing so competitively with a very good team. Ned said a little bit, but not a lot, “We’re beyond that now.”
In a weird way, that’s encouraging. It’s encouraging to hear that the Royals expect to do more than put up a good fight. It’s encouraging to hear that they expect more of themselves. It’s encouraging to hear that whoever the opponent is, they now expect to win.
Of course, the higher the expectations, the deeper the disappointment when those expectation aren’t met.
• In the first inning, the Angels’ Erick Aybar hit a flare down the left-field line. To the naked eye (or at least my naked eye), it appeared Alex Gordon made another sensational catch. Give credit to third-base umpire Ted Barrett for hustling out, getting in good position and making the right call: fair ball, no catch.
• Criticizing umpires might be the true national pastime, but when you get a chance to see the plays in slow motion, it’s surprising how often umpires get the close plays right.
• With Aybar on second, Albert Pujols popped up. Torii Hunter then hit the ball up the middle and might have been out if the ball had not deflected off pitcher Will Smith’s foot. Aybar scored, and the run that came so close to not happening at all proved to be the difference in the ball game.
• In the second inning, Smith gave up two singles and then a homer to Mark Trumbo. In the clubhouse after the game, Will said the pitch to Trumbo was pretty much right down the middle. When someone pointed out that Will settled down in the third inning, he said it would be better if he did that in the first.
• It’s always worth noting what a pitcher does after giving up a long ball. After Trumbo’s homer. Smith walked the next batter, Bobby Wilson (hitting .214), on four pitches.
• After Wilson walked, Mike Trout hit into a fielder’s choice, Wilson was out at second. Aybar then singled to center field, and Trout went first to third. Jason Bourgeois threw to third to get Trout, which was probably the wrong play. With one out, keeping the double play in order is a big deal. Jason’s throw probably should have gone to second, but when it went to third, Aybar tried to move into scoring position and Mike Moustakas redirected the throw, cutting Aybar down at second base.
• In the bottom of the second, Salvador Perez doubled and Mike Moustakas moved him over to third with a groundball to the right side. Jeff Francoeur then picked up the RBI with a groundout, but don’t miss Mike’s contribution to the first Royals’ run.
• In the fifth inning, Albert Pujols hit a long drive to center field. Bourgeois got too close to the wall and let the carom get past him. The ball was rolling around in center field, and Albert decided to try for a triple. (Bad idea. There were two outs in the inning and he should have stayed at second base.) Bourgeois threw the ball to Alcides Escobar, and Esky relayed the throw to Moustakas. What started as a bad defensive play turned into a great one, and the Royals were out of the inning.
• Smith was done after five innings and 82 pitches. After the game, Ned Yost said he felt as though he needed to hold the Angels to four runs if the Royals were going to have a shot, so he went to his pen early.
• With Monday being an off day, Ned could use whomever he liked. The best relievers often are saved for games in which the Royals are leading, but with a day off looming, Yost could empty out the pen.
• With one out and the Royals trailing by one in the ninth inning, Moustakas singled. Jarrod Dyson came in as a pinch-runner. To no one’s surprise, Jarrod tried to steal second. Even though the Angels guessed right and pitched out, Dyson was safe — for about a half a second. Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick was smart enough to keep the tag on Dyson, hoping Jarrod would over-slide the bag. Dyson did and was called out.
Sunday morning, the Royals clubhouse was crowded with the September call-ups. Some of the guys have been to the big leagues before. Others are making their first appearance. The new guys not only have to deal with the pressure of making their first on-field appearances at the major-league level, but they also have to negotiate all the unwritten rules regarding rookies.
For instance, getting on the team bus or airplane before a veteran does might cost a rookie his meal money. On the last road trip of the year, the rookies are expected to wear whatever humiliating outfits the veterans deem appropriate. Not only do the rookies have to wear the outfits to the airport and on the plane, the team bus usually stops a few blocks away from the hotel so the rookies can walk the last few hundred yards in their ridiculous getups.
Strolling through downtown Detroit dressed as the world’s least attractive hooker might make facing Justin Verlander seem easy.