Showing posts with label Alcides Escobar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alcides Escobar. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

David Robertson costs Chris Sale another win; White Sox recover to beat Royals

David Robertson
Kauffman Stadium has been a chamber of horrors for the White Sox, who have repeatedly endured unspeakable losses at the hands of the Kansas City Royals over the past four or five years.

With that mind, there's no way we can be dismayed over the outcome of Tuesday night's game.

Todd Frazier hit a three-run homer -- his 31st of the season -- in the 10th inning to snap a 4-4 tie and lift the Sox to a 7-5 victory over their nemesis from Kansas City.

We'll rejoice in the win, but at the same time, we'll point out that the Sox shouldn't have needed extra innings. Closer David Robertson is struggling. Three of his five blown saves this season have come since the All-Star break, and for the second time in about three weeks, he hurt Chris Sale's Cy Young candidacy by costing the Sox ace a win.

Sale labored early in this game, but he settled down to retire 14 of the final 15 hitters he faced. He went seven innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. He struck out seven and walked one.

The Sox were up, 4-3, heading to the bottom of the ninth inning, and Sale was positioned to pick up his 15th victory of the season.

Alas, Robertson couldn't get it done.

He was in position to work around a leadoff single. He had two outs, although the Royals had the tying run at second base (pinch runner Jarrod Dyson). But for some reason, despite playing Kansas City 19 times a year, the Sox still have not figured out that Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar is a first-ball, fastball hitter.

Robertson threw a fastball right down the pipe on the first pitch, and predictably, Escobar lined it into left field for an RBI single that plated Dyson and tied the game.

Baseball stupid. Typical White Sox nonsense. (I should make that a hashtag.)

Robertson (3-2) got out of the inning without losing the game, but that's about the only positive we can take from that. There's no way to sugarcoat it; that was horrible pitch selection with the game on the line from a veteran who should know better.

The silver lining? Frazier and the Sox were able to hang a loss on Kelvin Herrera, a hated and despised Kansas City reliever who has had the Sox's number in the past.

Herrera (1-4) entered Tuesday night's game with a 1.63 ERA. He had allowed only one hit and one walk over five scoreless innings previously against the Sox this season. In fact, he had allowed only three runs total at Kauffman Stadium all year. He allowed three more runs with one swing of Frazier's bat in Tuesday's 10th inning.

That gave the Sox a 7-4 lead. The Royals scored an unearned run off Jacob Turner in the bottom of the 10th, but Dan Jennings struck out Eric Hosmer to end the game and earn his first career save.

Given the Sox's record in Kansas City, it's a wonder they didn't mob each other on the field in celebration after this victory.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Madison Bumgarner cools off Royals in World Series Game 1

The Game 1 winner has won 15 of the last 17 World Series, including 10 out of the last 11.

That fact bodes well for the San Francisco Giants, who cruised to a 7-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday in the opening game of the 2014 Fall Classic.

How did the Giants cool off the red-hot Royals, who had won nine consecutive games dating back to the regular season? They did it by scoring early and allowing their ace left-hander, Madison Bumgarner, to do his job.

Bumgarner fired seven innings of one-run, three-hit ball. He fanned five and walked just one. His only mistake was a two-out homer by Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez in the bottom of the seventh inning, and by that point it didn't matter because the Royals were hopelessly behind.

San Francisco jumped out to a 3-0 lead in top of the first inning. Hunter Pence's two-run homer off Kansas City ace James Shields highlighted the rally.

You wouldn't have expected Pence to be the guy to haunt Shields. Coming into Tuesday's play, Pence was 0-for-11 with three strikeouts in his career against Shields. However, his home run was the biggest hit of the game, and he also had a double to start a two-run rally in the fourth inning that increased San Francisco's lead to 5-0.

It's no secret San Francisco has the edge in postseason experience in this series. The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and again in 2012. For many of these Kansas City players, this is their first time in the playoffs.

That difference in experience showed up in this game, particularly in the bottom of the third inning when the Royals had their best chance to get to Bumgarner. Down 3-0, Kansas City placed runners on second and third with nobody out after Omar Infante reached on a Brandon Crawford error and Mike Moustakas doubled.

It's the kind of situation the Royals have taken advantage of throughout the postseason, but it didn't happen this time. Bumgarner escaped the jam unscathed by getting overanxious Kansas City hitters to swing at bad pitches. Perhaps the combination of being on the big stage and facing an early deficit caused the Royals to press.

It sure looked that way as Alcides Escobar struck out swinging on a fastball up and well out of the zone for the first out. Nori Aoki also fanned after he could not check his swing on an 0-2 breaking ball that bounced in front of the plate. Bumgarner tried a similar strategy against the next hitter, but to Lorenzo Cain's credit, he laid off those pitches and worked a walk to load the bases for Eric Hosmer.

The Kansas City first baseman swung at the first pitch and grounded out to second base to end what would be the Royals' last and best chance to get back in the game.

I've heard some analysts criticize Hosmer for offering at that first pitch. I won't be among them. I believe in swinging at the first hittable strike in RBI situations. Sometimes, that's the best pitch you're going to get. Hosmer got an 86 mph cutter from Bumgarner that was middle to outer half. It was a hittable pitch. The only criticism I have of Hosmer is he may have tried to pull that pitch when he would have been better served to try to drive it to left field. But, I don't fault him for swinging.

The real disappointment for the Royals in this game was the poor performance of Shields, who was knocked out in the fourth inning and allowed five earned runs. The Giants went 4-for-4 with runners in scoring position against the Kansas City ace, who is now just 1-3 with an 8.26 ERA in his last six postseason starts.

MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac and others need to stop with the obnoxious "Big Game James" references when discussing Shields, because he's obviously been struggling lately.

For an actual "Big Game" pitcher, look no further than Bumgarner. The San Francisco ace has started three World Series games in his career. He's 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA in those outings. That's clutch.

The Royals will try to even the series Wednesday in Game 2 behind youngster Yordano Ventura. Veteran Jake Peavy will be on the mound for the Giants.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Royals take 2-0 lead in ALCS; Bumgarner dominates Cardinals in NLCS

The Baltimore Orioles hadn't lost back-to-back home games since June 28-29 -- until the Kansas City Royals came in and won the first two games of the American League championship series.

The Royals scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning Saturday to come away with a 6-4 victory in Game 2 of the ALCS. They'll take a 2-0 series lead back to Kansas City, where the series resumes Monday night.

I'm happy for the Royals and their long-suffering fans, but as I watched Saturday's ninth inning unfold, I couldn't help but have a bit of sympathy for Baltimore fans. That game-deciding rally by the Royals was death by 1,000 cuts for the Orioles, and as a White Sox fan, I've seen that movie before in games against Kansas City.

Here's how the Royals manufactured their two runs: a swinging bunt infield single, a sacrifice bunt, a perfectly placed RBI double right down the first-base line, an error and a ground ball through a drawn-in infield for an RBI single.

As we noted yesterday, Kansas City has been on a power surge lately, and it got another home run from Mike Moustakas on Saturday -- his fourth of the postseason -- but the aforementioned go-ahead double by Alcides Escobar was more indicative of what we typically see from the Royals offense.

They swing for contact, they put the ball in play, they "hit 'em where they ain't," and they run the bases well. In that RBI situation, Escobar wasn't trying to do anything heroic. He hit the ball to the opposite field. It happened to be in the right spot, and he got the desired result.

When your team is playing against the Royals, you feel like they should be able to stop them, but they can't. Kansas City often creates rallies out of nothing. They put the ball in play. They come at you with speed. They keep the pressure on. They force teams to execute defensively.

That approach is the opposite of what you see from a lot of teams today, where offenses are focused on being "dangerous" at all times and hitters don't care if they strike out while swinging for extra-base hits. For the most part, the Royals are looking to single and double teams to death, and they just might ride that all the way to the World Series. They are now just two wins away.

Giants blank Cardinals in NLCS opener

There is no underdog story on the National League side of the bracket. The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals have combined to win the last four NL pennants. This NLCS is a clash of the usual suspects, with most people picking the Cardinals to win.

The Giants, however, drew first blood with a 3-0 victory behind ace Madison Bumgarner on Saturday in St. Louis.

The San Francisco left-hander set a postseason record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched on the road. He ran his streak to 26.2 innings with 7.2 spotless frames in this Game 1. He hasn't given up a run on the road in the postseason since 2010.

In case you were wondering, the previous record was 23, held by some guy named Art Nehf, who pitched in the 1920s. Kudos to any reader who knows anything about Nehf.

The Giants have now won 12 of their last 13 postseason games dating back to their World Series win in 2012. St. Louis is known for being at its best in October -- the Cardinals have made the NLCS four years in row -- but San Francisco also seems to save its best ball for the playoffs.

The teams face off in Game 2 on Sunday night.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Will Chris Sale's hiccup against the Royals cost him the Cy Young?

White Sox ace Chris Sale had his worst performance of the season Wednesday night, as he allowed a season-high five earned runs on nine hits over five innings in Chicago's 6-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

Just how big of an outlier was this outing for Sale? Consider this: He's thrown 668.2 innings in his major league career, and he had never given up a home run on an 0-2 pitch until Lorenzo Cain took a hanging slider out the park for a 3-run shot in the third inning Wednesday night.

Sale gave up a second home run on a similarly lousy pitch to light-hitting Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar in the fourth inning.

It's extremely rare for Sale to give up home runs to any Kansas City hitter. No Royals player had taken Sale deep since Aug. 17, 2012, a span of eight starts.

Indeed, this was an out-of-character start for Sale, and it might have cost him whatever chance he had of beating out Seattle ace Felix Hernandez for the AL Cy Young Award. The two pitchers are statistically similar in a lot of categories:
  • Sale is 12-4 in 25 starts; Hernandez is 14-5 in 31 starts.
  • Hernandez leads the league in ERA at 2.14; Sale is right behind at 2.20.
  • Hernandez has 225 strikeouts; Sale has 198.
  • Sale leads the league with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings; Hernandez is at 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
  • Hernandez leads the league with a 0.918 WHIP; Sale is right behind at 0.958.
  • Sale's strikeout-to-walk ratio is 5.50; Hernandez is at 5.49.
Sale was ahead of Hernandez in both ERA and WHIP until his struggling outing against the Royals, which lessens his case. If Sale were to finish ahead of Hernandez in ERA, WHIP, strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio, I think you could make a strong argument he deserves the Cy Young. But, with one poor performance by Sale, Hernandez has nosed back in front in two of those four important categories -- pending his outing Thursday night against the Los Angeles Angels.

I'm pretty certain Hernandez is going to win the Cy Young at this point. If all things are fairly equal, he's going to get the nod because he's made six more starts and pitched 51 more innings than Sale this year. That stint on the disabled list Sale had in late April and early May probably costs him more than one crummy outing in September against Kansas City, but last night's showing did not help his argument.