Salvador Perez cleared the bases with a pinch-hit double with the bases loaded to break a 7-7 tie and give the Royals a 10-7 lead and Greg Holland worked an easy ninth inning to preserve a wild comeback win over Cleveland on Thursday.
The Royals have come from behind before, but what made Thursday’s Independence Day battle unique is the way in which they did it.
Down 5-0 and with James Shields already pulled out of the game, the Royals started a rally in the bottom of the sixth with an Eric Hosmer walk. Billy Butler followed with one of his own, then Mike Moustakas reached on an error. Lorenzo Cain ripped a 3-2 pitch to center for a grand slam to pull Kansas City to within one and breathed new life in to the game. Then George Kottaras tied it with a solo shot in the next at bat.
Just like that, two hits, five runs, and a tie game.
Unfortunately, the Royals coughed up the lead after J.C. Gutierrez allowed a walk and a single and Aaron Crow‘s first pitch after replacing him was ripped into right-center by Carlos Santana for a two-run double. Crow shut down the next three, but the damage was done.
At least for a while. See, Alcides Escobar lead off the bottom of the inning with a walk and Eric Hosmer came through in the clutch again, driving a bomb to straightaway center for two runs and another tie score.
After the game, Hosmer said he “just wanted to make some loud noises”. He certainly did that. But again, it was two runs on one hit. After a perfect eighth inning from Luke Hochevar, the Royals set out to get a lead. Kottaras walked to lead off the inning and Johnny Giavotella was hit in the side with a pitch. Jarrod Dyson came up with the opportunity to lay down a bunt and get two runners into scoring position, but Rich Hill missed the zone with the first pitch, then missed the catcher on the second. The Indians walked Dyson to load the bases when Perez hit for David Lough.
On the second pitch, he pulled it down the line just inside the bag and brought in all three runs. His double was the only hit of the inning.
All ten runs scored off of just four hits. That’s nothing anybody can ever expect to do, but it’s an extreme example of what can happen by staying patient and accepting a free base. It also helps when you can get extra base hits. Calling for homers and walks is easier said than done, but often, the Royals seem to go up with no thought of working a walk, either swinging at the first strike they see or chasing a pitch out of the zone. They’re an aggressive team, but on Thursday, they held back.
There was discussion after the game on the radio broadcast about installing a mindset that the pitcher had the pressure and the Royals have had some success recently that looks to be giving the group a lot of confidence to take that advice to heart. They’re swinging hot bats right now and have scored five runs or more in five of their last six games.
That being said, Shields was rough, with little movement and poor command. Hopefully it’s just a midseason swoon, but with some shaky work from the bullpen lately, it’d be a shame for the Royals if the offense wakes up while the pitching staff started to struggle. Tim Collins has been bad in his last few appearances, nobody really trusts Gutierrez, and, while he’s done his job this year, nobody trusts Luke Hochevar much either. Greg Holland is as close to a sure thing as you could find but since he’s going to be as a closer by the book, he’ll only see action with a lead or tied in the ninth – that’s not ideal if your setup men are losing a lead or letting more runs extend the opponent’s lead in the seventh or eighth.
An easy solution to that, though, is to just go out and walk and then drive those runners in with a homer. If only those situations could be dialed up upon request. But now, after Jack Maloof has said that the Royals shouldn’t even try to hit homers at Kauffman Stadium and after Dayton Moore has stated that the K is a partially to blame for the Royals inability to earn walks, maybe a game like this is a lesson in what can happen if a team doesn’t get so anxious as to do half the work for the pitcher and get themselves out. You may not reach every player, but if these results might sway the organization to look at emphasizing plate discipline and patience more, you’ll reach plenty to start seeing better results.