Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw capped a run of Cy Young Award winning opponents by limiting the Royals to six hits over eight innings and extending his scoreless innings streak to 21 on Tuesday night, but Kansas City manager Ned Yost is not discouraged by the modest offensive production of late.
“I think we’ve done a nice job,” said Yost. “Last night, I thought we did a good job of trying to do what we could do with a slider that’s probably as good as there is in the game. You go into those games knowing that you’re going to have to match him, basically, zero for zero.”
The Royals did allow a run in the first inning last night, but southpaw Danny Duffy was unblemished thereafter, tossing six innings, and allowing only the lone run on four hits, while striking out five. It was the third consecutive quality start for Duffy and the sixth time in 10 trips to the bump that the 25-year-old has allowed no runs or just one.
“Danny did a good job of getting through that game and just giving up one run and giving us an opportunity,” said Yost. “You figure you might have one shot at it. We got two shots at it, but they both came with two outs. [Kershaw] made the big pitches with that slider both times to get out of it. I think we’ve done fine here lately. You don’t like to lose games 2-1 and 2-0, but you look at the pitching that we’ve faced and sometimes those things happen.”
Kansas City isn’t necessarily out of the woods just yet, however, with two-time All-Star Dan Haren set to make the start for the Dodgers on Wednesday. Haren has been particularly effective versus left-handed batters, limiting lefties to a .244 batting average and 38 strikeouts.
“He’s got a great cutter and a nice little split that he throws, too,” said Yost. “Or his change-up that acts like a split. He spots his fastball well. He does a nice job.”
Gold Glove catcher Salvador Perez will get the night off, replaced by Brett Hayes. But Yost said that the approach of Royals starter James Shields will not change despite making his first appearance without Perez behind the plate.
“Nothing changes,” said Yost. “Brett Hayes sits in on all of our catcher meetings and all of our pitcher meetings. Nothing changes. Brett has done all of his homework, and he will meet with James today and they’ll go over their plan. It’s normally anywhere from a 30-40 minute meeting about how they’re going to attack the opposition and they’ll both be on the exact same page.”
Kansas City will reach the half-way point of the season over the weekend, and Yost says that, while the club isn’t exactly where it would like to be in the standings, there is still plenty of positivity from which to draw.
“It’s not quite the way we wanted it,” said Yost, whose team is currently three games above the .500 mark. “At this point last year we were probably still seven or eight [games] under [.500]. So we’ve done a nice job there. I think our pitching has been dynamic. Defense has been good. Still a little inconsistent offensively, and I think that’s going to turn around for us. We’re going to be more consistent in the second half, offensively. But three games over .500, we could be in better position, but we could be in a lot worse, too.”
By Kolby Paxton
The Royals and Royals Charities, along with Variety Children’s Charity of Greater Kansas City and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, today dedicated an adaptive field at McCoy Park in Independence, Mo. Royals team president Dan Glass was on hand, along with Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., current Royals Michael Mariot and Lorenzo Cain, Royals Alumni Jim Eisenreich, Dennis Leonard, Jeff Montgomery and Jerry Terrell, plus local dignitaries. The projects were made possible with proceeds from the 2012 Major League Baseball Gatorade Workout Day.
If the Royals are to remain in the win column one night after ending a four-game losing streak, they will have to do so against one of the game’s most prolific starters, fresh off of arguably the most dynamic pitching performance in Major League history.
Clayton Kershaw struck out 15 batters on the way to a no-hitter vs. Colorado on June 18, coming within a fielding miscue of a perfect game, and he will look to continue another Cy Young-caliber campaign tonight in Kansas City.
“It’s a big challenge,” said Royals manager Ned Yost. “He’s one of the best pitchers in all of Major League Baseball, not just the league, but all of the game. He’s absolutely fantastic. So it’s a big challenge, but we will approach it like we do every game.
“He’s a tremendous competitor, he has tremendous make-up. He’s got three, I mean, devastating pitches. A fastball up to 94 miles per hour, power curve, power slider, he mixes in the change-up at times, he controls the running game really well, and he’s got really, really good command.”
Across the diamond, Kansas City will send 25-year-old left-hander Danny Duffy to the hill to oppose Kershaw. Duffy is amid an excellent campaign in his own right, having allowed three or fewer runs in four consecutive starts and seven of nine overall.
“Everybody out here likes to compete,” said Yost. “They like matching up against the best in the business. Danny’s not really competing against Kershaw, he’s competing against the Dodgers lineup, but he will be ready for it.”
Yost said one of the keys to Duffy’s success has been then tightening of his control.
“He’s refined his command,” said Yost. “He goes out every day now, for the most part, every start, and like Kershaw, has a number of plus pitches, power pitches that he’s throwing strikes with. And that’s the key to this game. If you’ve got plus stuff and you can command it, you’re going to be in great shape. Some guys have command and not plus stuff and they do okay. Some guys have plus stuff and can’t command it and they do okay. But it’s the guys with plus stuff and command that are really, really productive.”
Kansas City activated Bruce Chen from the disabled list on Tuesday, sending Tim Collins to Triple-A Omaha to make room for Chen, who will work long relief, on the 25-man roster.
“[Tim] has always been a guy that has commanded his curveball and his change-up,” said Yost. “He could fall behind on his fastball but he had those two plus pitches that could get him through innings. This year, the percentage of breaking balls and change-ups have dropped pretty dramatically, and his ability to throw strikes with them has also dropped. We need him to go and just refine his secondary pitches and get them back in the strike zone.”
Yost said Collins, like Louis Coleman, remains an important piece to the puzzle moving forward.
“We built this bullpen around, of course Greg Holland and Wade Davis on the back end of it, but Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow, Louis Coleman, and Tim Collins are an integral part of having a dynamic bullpen down there. We need to get Louis and Timmy both back on track.”
After spending a 10-game stretch as the hottest team in baseball, the Royals have hit a rough patch, following 10 straight wins with four straight losses and a three-game sweep at the hands of the Seattle Mariners. Manager Ned Yost does not yet see any cause for concern, however.
“We really had a good game against [Hisashi] Iwakuma,” said Yost. “That’s a guy we haven’t scored off of in two years and we score five off of him, [but] Holly (Greg Holland) has a little hiccup – and that’s something he hasn’t had in a long, long time. The other three games out of the four, you lose 2-1. But if you go back and look at those, one well-placed hit over the course of any of those games, and we could have been 4-0. So you don’t go too crazy right now.”
First baseman Eric Hosmer has been scuffling individually, of late, with just three hits in his last 28 at-bats. He will move into the two-spot in the order this evening, while Omar Infante slides down the sixth spot.
“It’s a little bit of timing,” said Yost. “For his last 100 at bats he’s hitting about .220, but the thing about Hos, and he showed it last year, for his next 100 at bats he could hit .360. Last year he took off when we put him in the two spot, so we’ll slide him back in there right now and let him ride that out for a while.”
By moving Infante down in the order, Yost hopes to create more RBI opportunities for the 32-year-old second baseman.
“He’s been doing a really, really good job, as good as anybody we’ve got with runners in scoring position,” said Yost. “But he hasn’t had many opportunities out of the two-hole. The way that Salvy and Billy and Gordy have been getting on base, we’ve dropped him down to sixth to see if he can drive in more runs. We think that his approach with runners in scoring position is as good as anybody we’ve got on this club.”
With Nori Aoki hitting the disabled list, a third Royal has been displaced from his typical slot in the batting order, with outfielder Lorenzo Cain assuming lead-off duties. But Yost says the club does not want Cain to change his approach.
“We don’t want him changing anything,” said Yost. “We want him to continue swinging the bat like he’s been doing. It’s kind of nice having a lead-off hitter that’s got some speed, got some power, that’s got a real nice on-base percentage over the last three weeks to hopefully get on base for guys to drive in.”
Nothing has changed for Alcides Escobar, who will play shortstop and bat eighth, escaping without serious injury after being plunked on the shin by a pitch in yesterday’s game.
“He’s a little sore, but no problem,” said Yost. “I know he feels much, much better today. The swelling has gone down some, it’s a bruise. Luckily it was a curveball and not a hard slider or a fastball off of that shin. I looked at it his leg and it looks much, much better than it did yesterday. Still a little sore, but more than playable.”
With the Los Angeles Dodgers in town for some interleague action, many fans will find intrigue with the opportunity to watch Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig roam the outfield for the visitors. Yost said that the fans won’t be the only ones excited to see Puig in action.
“He’s a tremendous offensive player, he’s very, very athletic,” said Yost. “He plays with a lot of energy, plays with a lot of passion. He’s a very strong individual. He’s very aggressive in the box. We’re all excited to watch him.”
By Kolby Paxton
Monday, June 23: Dish 441 or 412-29
Tuesday, June 24: Dish 441 or 412-29
Wednesday, June 25: Dish 441 or 412-29
Friday, June 27: Dish 441 or 412-29
Saturday, June 28: Dish 441 or 412-29
Sunday, June 29: Dish 441 or 412-29
The Royals won a ninth straight game on Tuesday, moving into first place in the A.L. Central.
It’s the ninth winning streak of at least nine games in club history and second in as many years (KC won nine straight from July 13 to 20, 2013). A Royals win on Wednesday would mark the fifth streak of 10+ games in franchise history and first since 1994, when Hal McRae’s squad won 14 straight from July 23 to August 5.
The Royals are batting .333 (107-for-321) as a team during the streak! Alcides Escobar is batting .412, Billy Butler .406, Salvador Perez .400, Jarrod Dyson .389, Omar Infante .316, with Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas both at .313. The starting rotation has been exemplary with a 2.59 mark (17 earned runs in 59.0 innings) with 7 of the 9 games going as “quality” starts.
KC has won seven in a row on the road, marking the longest road streak since 2008 (eight from September 13 to 27).
Monday, June 16: Dish 441 or 412-29
Tuesday, June 17: Dish 441 or 412-29
Wednesday, June 18: Dish 441 or 412-29
Thursday, June 19: Dish 441 or 412-29
Friday, June 20: Dish 441 or 412-29
Saturday, June 21: Dish 441 or 412-29
Sunday, June 22: Dish 441 or 412-29
With an off-day awaiting Kansas City before it begins a a six-game road swing through Chicago and Detroit, manager Ned Yost will take an opportunity to rest centerfielder Lorenzo Cain for multiple days.
“We gave Nori [Aoki] two days, we want to give Cain two days with the off-day tomorrow,” said Yost. “It’s good to pick your spots like that, especially when you’ve got a late night game and then coming back early the next day.”
Yordano Ventura will be on the bump for the Royals as they look to sweep the two-game set with Cleveland this afternoon, and Yost says his hard throwing right-hander will not have a leash.
“There’s never a [pitch] limit,” said Yost. “I’d take him to 110 [pitches]. That’s his limit.”
Several players have battled through early season swoons at the plate for Kansas City, but, if the past couple of weeks – and, more specifically, last night – are any indication, the offense appears to be well on its way to restoration. Yost spoke on the inherent advantages with winning the battle versus adversity.
“You want guys to have adversity, you want guys to battle through adversity, because that’s how you learn and that’s how you become stronger and better,” said Yost. “It’s painful when you go through it, but it can be a great teaching tool, and it can be a great experience tool to make you better when you go through adversity.”
According to Yost, the key to riding out the storm is a player’s belief in himself, a manager’s belief in his players.
“It always wears on them a little bit,” he said. “They all come into the year with expectations and goals and they know in their mind what they’re capable of doing. And when it doesn’t happen for them it wears on them a little bit. But they’ve got experience knowing that the exact same thing happened last year and at the end of the year, their home run totals were up. So they know that they’re capable of doing it.
“You’ve got to have faith in your players. If you don’t have faith in your players then you’re in trouble. But when you have faith in the players and you know in your mind what they’re capable of doing, it makes it easier to stay patient and keep the waters as calm as you can when everyone else wants to make them choppy.”