To calm my nerves about the Royals second appearance in the World Series, I went and saw the new blockbuster hit Back to the Future and I really enjoyed it. I can’t wait until we have flying cars like the one at the end of the film.
First a reminder, due to the alternating DH rules, the Royals will be without a DH during the World Series. I think this puts us at a disadvantage as it takes Hal McRae out of the lineup for the most part. Sure, he only had a .259 batting average, but he drove in 70 runs. That’s a big bat out of the lineup. He’ll have to pinch hit mostly.
Another concern going into this series is how Bret Saberhagen will react to getting smacked around, literally and figuratively, in Game 3 of the ALCS by the Blue Jays. He gave up five runs in just 4.1 innings and took a shot off his right side. While he still pitched in Game 7, I’m concerned.
But Game 1 has come and gone, so what’s my first reaction? Read on…
The Royals sent out Danny Jackson, fresh off a complete game shutout in Game 5, against surprising ace John Tudor of the Cardinals. Tudor showed signs of becoming a strong starter last season, but nobody expected his 21-8, 1.93 ERA and ten shutouts.
The Cardinals are without Vince Coleman due to a freak accident involving a tarp. He may be able to come back in Game 3 or so, and the Cards would like having his speed at the top of the lineup. St. Louis stole 314 bases, so the Royals aren’t off the hook for watching the running game.
This game lived up to its expectations as a pitchers duel, as Jackson shut down the first six Cardinals he faced before walking Terry Pendleton to lead off the third inning. Tudor wasn’t as strong through the whole game, but did shut down the first three Royals, including getting George Brett to strike out on a sneaky fastball on the outside corner to end the first. Brett fouled some pitches off, but must have guessed wrong. Tudor was living on the corners all day and against Brett, he went for the outside part of the plate every time.
The Royals struck first off Tudor, turning a leadoff Jim Sundberg walk into the first run of the series after back to back singles by Darryl Motley and Steve Balboni. On Balboni’s single to left, Motley moved to third on an error (it was given to Pendleton at third but should have gone to left fielder Tito Landrum, whose throw hit third base and caromed into foul territory). With runners on first and third, Buddy Biancalana missed a suicide squeeze attempt and Motley was retired in a rundown. Balboni advanced to third on the play though, so while he does strike out a lot, he at least made a smart play. Biancalana walked but Danny Jackson struck out to end the inning and the scoring opportunity.
I mentioned the leadoff walk in the third to Pendleton earlier, a play that turned costly as Pendleton came around to score after a Darrell Porter single moved him to third and National League batting champ Willie McGee grounded to second. In the fourth, the Cardinals struck again, turning back to back doubles by Landrum and right fielder Cesar Cedeno into their second run. With the exception of the third and fourth innings when the Cardinals scored, Jackson retired batters in order in five of his seven innings.
The Royals looked impatient at times. Biancalana’s missed squeeze in the second was bad, but Motley broke too far too soon. Willie Wilson, Frank White and George Brett swung at first pitch offerings in early at bats, including a juicy fastball over the plate by Tudor that could have went into the fountains or a gap, except Brett popped it up to second. He looked pained after and you knew he just missed it.
Another opportunity was squandered in the fourth inning, as Sundberg doubled down the left field line and moved to third on a fly to right field by Motley. Balboni hit a high foul ball that just stayed in play. Pendleton took off from third and reminiscent of his play in the NLCS, caught it over his shoulder. Sundberg broke for home and was gunned down by about fifteen feet. It wasn’t a bad play to send the runner, but Sundberg isn’t fast enough to score from third on that play.
In the seventh, the Royals started by a Motley fly out on a deep drive to left that Landrum tracked down and a Balboni strike out (shocker!). With Biancalana coming up, Dick Howser went to his bench, calling on Lynn Jones, who tripled into the corner. Hal McRae pinch hit for Danny Jackson and got hit by a pitch. Todd Worrell came in to relieve Tudor and Onix Concepcion pinch ran for McRae as Lonnie Smith walked to load the bases. Willie Wilson came up and poked at the first pitch and it may have dropped in some cases, but Landrum ran it down to end the threat.
The Cards added a run off Dan Quisenberry in the top of the ninth and it was enough, as Worrell stranded Pat Sheridan (after a pinch hit double in the bottom of the ninth) and preserved the win in the first game.
So, it could have gone better. The Royals shut down the Cardinals in order in six of the nine innings. Unfortunately, in the three innings where St. Louis got a runner on, they scored a run. It’ll be a tough adjustment with the pitcher forced to hit, but Sheridan, Jones and McRae all reached base. Defensively, the Royals were amazing. George Brett displayed the fielding ability that will surely win him a Gold Glove and should earn him the MVP Award at season’s end, first making a tough play on Tommy Herr in the first, gunning him out on a chopper, then again in the sixth inning as Herr dropped a perfect bunt onto the turf of Royals Stadium. Brett charged, barehanded, and threw him out by a step.
In the fifth inning, McGee hit a ball deep into the gap that rolled to the wall. Willie Wilson was playing shallow and it got past him, but he got a perfect bounce off the wall, threw a great relay to Frank White, who also threw a perfect strike to Brett at third, who made the catch and tag in one motion at the last second. It was a nice decoy move and a perfect play to nail a fast runner on the play. Any other bounce or scenario and that’s a triple 99 out of 100 times, I’m sure.
The Royals start out with a loss, but hey, they did the same thing against Toronto, falling down 2-0 before coming back to win the pennant. Tomorrow night they send Charlie Leibrandt (17-9, 2.69) against Danny Cox (18-9, 2.88) for Game 2.