Before I recap last night’s game, let me apologize for the pun. I couldn’t resist.
Two solo homeruns by Mike Morse and Cristian Guzman turned out to be enough to defeat Bruce Chen and the Royals on Monday.
Chen pitched well enough to win, holding the Nationals to only three hits over six innings of work. He did walk four, but the Nats never took advantage of them. Chen made two mistakes and it cost the Royals a win. In the second inning, Chen fell behind Morse, who hit a bomb into left field. Then in the sixth inning, Guzman hit a deep line drive over the left field fence for his first homer of the year.
And that was it. The Nationals only mustered four hits and still pulled out a win.
The Royals put their first batter on base in seven of nine innings, yet only scored one run. As a team, they went 1-11 with runners in scoring position, and that didn’t even drive in a run, as Scott Podsednik‘s third inning double hung in the air so long that Yuniesky Betancourt had to hold between second and third base to ensure it fell safely and only advanced to third once it came down for a hit.
Giving up three outs on the bases didn’t help either. Scott Podsednik led off the game with a single, but was caught stealing after a bad jump. In the fifth, Mike Aviles led off with a single and was also thrown out at second on a steal attempt. In the seventh inning, it looked like the Royals might have something going, getting consecutive singles by Alberto Callaspo and Aviles, but Callaspo wandered too far off second and Ivan Rodriguez picked him off, assisted by a great block of the bag by shortstop Ian Desmond.
Maybe the Royals thought they could run on Livan Hernandez‘s junior varsity velocity, but they were mistaken. Hernandez has learned to quicken his move to the plate and having Pudge behind the plate doesn’t hurt either. Going into last night’s game, teams had only attempted to steal on Rodriguez 15 times. He’d caught six until nailing Podsednik and Aviles.
As difficult as it is to get only one run on 11 hits, the Royals found a way. Only two went for extra bases, and one was a leadoff double by Billy Butler (who was stranded, of course). Hernandez stayed ahead of Royals batters despite the base hits, throwing 65 of 99 pitches for strikes, and getting 24 called strikes. The outside part of the strike zone looked about as large as the national mall, and while the announcers have to say it was fair on both sides, watching it seemed like home plate umpire Jerry Layne was channeling the late Eric Gregg as Hernandez lived three inches off the plate and got the call time after time. Credit to the veteran, though. He made the Royals look like they hadn’t ever seen a fastball with movement before.