Replaying the Sixth Inning for the Royals
By David Hill
Everything appeared to be going the Royals way. In their first playoff game in 29 years, the Royals had battled back from giving up two runs in the top of the first, and squandering a prime scoring opportunity in the bottom of the inning. After shaking off his struggles, James Shields took a 3-2 lead into the top of the sixth. All the Royals needed were three more outs to get the the vaunted back of the bullpen.
Unfortunately, Shields was unable to get any further. A base hit and a walk later, and Ned Yost came to the mound, bringing out young fireballer Yordano Ventura to attempt to escape further trouble. Instead, Ventura gave up a three run home run, a base hit and a wild pitch before recording his only out on a fly ball to right. With that, Ventura’s night was done.
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It is easy to second guess Yost there. James Shields was acquired for moments like this, and he was pulled for a 23 year old rookie. In theory, Yost could have had Kelvin Herrera warming up at the start of the inning, possibly using Wade Davis for two innings before bringing in Greg Holland. That would have been the safest move, aside from letting Shields have the chance to work out of the jam.
Instead, Ned Yost took a chance. He brought in Ventura, the flamethrower, looking to get a strikeout and/or a double play. Even though the results indicate otherwise, this was the right call to make.
With the way that Shields had started, and with his struggles of late, it would be easy to think that he had begun to lose his control again. Yost found himself in a virtual no win situation there – stick with Shields and, if he loses the game, then he gets called out for that move. Pull Shields, and if the bullpen gives up the lead, then he’s an idiot for removing Shields.
These are the decisions that managers need to make in the playoffs. Every move is magnified, scrutinized over and over. If the move backfires, then it was a terrible move and one that will be replayed until Spring Training begins. As it turns out, the move did not work. But this was a chance that Yost had to take.
Ned Yost did what he thought was best to preserve the lead. Even if it did not work out, it was still the right move.