Baseball is a game of opportunities. The best teams take advantage of their opportunities more frequently than lesser teams, and for the better part of May, the Royals have performed like a lesser team. In this month, they’ve lost 6 games by 1 run, in large part for their failure to capitalize on opportunities. In some games, they’d leave too many runners on base. In others, they’d waste a dominant outing by their starting pitcher. The Royals simply hadn’t grabbed hold of the chances they were given.
That is, until late last night.
With the Royals down by a run, with 2 outs in the 9th inning, the Blue Jays’ win probability sat at 96.2%. Alex Gordon followed with a broken bat single (shocking, I know), and pinch runner Jarrod Dyson then stole second base. Salvador Perez hit a routine chopper to Jose Reyes, and the Royals’ hopes appeared to be completely dashed. But at that moment, an opportunity presented itself.
Reyes threw the ball into the dirt, and Edwin Encarnacion was unable to scoop it, even knocking it back toward second base. Perez was safe at first, and the carom allowed Dyson – who was running hard on contact – to come home and tie the game. The Royals finally took advantage of a mistake.
They did miss out on other opportunities earlier in the game, most notably in bases loaded situations in the 6th and 7th innings, both ending without a run scoring. Omar Infante was the man at the plate in one of those spots, although he lined into a double play to end the threat. Opportunity lost.
Infante was given one more chance, however, in the top of the 10th inning. After Alcides Escobar and Pedro Ciriaco both reached and advanced on a Nori Aoki sacrifice, the Royals’ second baseman came to the plate. Todd Redmond was on the mound for the Blue Jays. Infante chased the first pitch, a slider that was well off the plate. The second pitch, a slider, was right on the edge of the zone, but Infante swung through that one, too. Infante laid off the third and fourth pitches, both sliders, that were low and out of the zone. You may have noticed a trend here.
Redmond likes his slider, and for good reason. It’s his best pitch by whiff rate, and since he generated a couple whiffs earlier in the at-bat, he and his catcher thought they would stick with it. Josh Thole called for the pitch on the outside edge of the zone, where it could still fall in for a called strike if Infante took another one.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, Redmond slightly missed his spot:
Toronto’s reliever made a pretty big mistake, and Infante made him pay, driving in the game-winning runs with a liner over the third baseman. The Royals were given an opportunity, and they made the most of it.
This lineup has really struggled to punish mistake pitches this season, and this one line drive doesn’t mean they’re fixed. They still have a long way to go before they’re even close to being an average offense. However, it was nice to see the team finally do something with the opportunities in front of them. Obviously they weren’t perfect in that department, as evidenced by 11 men left on base, but it’s a start. Those miniature victories combined to create a full-size victory that was so desperately needed.
The Blue Jays’ run prevention abilities leave something to be desired, so those plays last night likely won’t be the last of their mistakes in this series. If the Royals want to end May and start June on the right note, they’ll have to take advantage of those mistakes as often as possible.
Tags: Kansas City Royals