Royals strand 14, screw Elarton again...

So much for the winning streak. Royals' starter Scott Elarton pitched seven brilliant shutout innings, but again was denied his first victory of the year. The Royals had no trouble putting men on base, but they again failed to deliver in key two-out situations. It's a tough loss to take, but the Royals played well, and this isn't the type of loss to hang your head over.

One must wonder what the result of tonight's game would have been if Mike MacDougal was healthy. Ambiorix Burgos -- who has been pretty dominant thus far -- would have been summoned for the 8th inning, and, God willing, MacDougal would have had the opportunity to close the game out. But as it was, Buddy Bell summoned Luke Hudson from the bullpen to begin the eighth, and disaster ensued.

Now, RC doesn't quarrel with Bell's decision to bring in Hudson. We've seen him pitch well in such situations, and he hasn't been any worse thus far than any other pitcher out of the pen this year. Hudson brings an excellent fastball and occasionally great curveball to the table, so RC was hoping we'd see him hand the game over to Burgos in the ninth with a one-run lead. Of course, fate intervened with the modified plan.

Hard to blame this one on Luke Hudson.

Lew Ford led off the inning with a weak grounder to SS, but the ball was perfectly placed and Angel Berroa was unable to throw him out off the backhand. Ruben Sierra pinch hit, and after a passed ball by John Buck, Sierra drove in the game-tying run with a grounder through the hole between SS and 3B. Berroa had been cheating toward second with Ford on base, and the ball was hit precisely where he'd have been if Ford was still on first. The result was an RBI single for Sierra, and pinch runner Nick Punto moved to third when Shannon Stewart lined a single up the middle.

The Royals then summoned Andrew Sisco from the pen, and Sisco did an excellent job limiting the damage. After coaxing Luis Castillo into a harmless foul pop fly to Doug Mientkiewicz, Sisco surrendered a shallow sacrifice fly to Emil Brown in left. Brown bounced the throw to home, and Punto was safe with the go-ahead run. Burgos was called from the pen to end the assault, which he did by coaxing a pop-up to Mark Grudzielanek to end the inning.

However, the damage was done, and the Royals could do nothing with their remaining six outs. It's a shame to see them waste so many scoring opportunities, and the loss drops them back to 10 games under .500. They face rookie Scott Baker tomorrow, so hopefully the offense can get into gear and support Runelvys Hernandez, who is making his first start of the season for the Royals.

  • Shane Costa continues to impress us. He went 2-for-4 today, raising his batting average to .302, and he made an excellent sliding catch on a Rondell White liner to left-center. Costa has been one of the most consistent contributors to the lineup, and he's starting to raise questions about what happens when David DeJesus returns to the lineup.

    Shane Costa is making people forget about AAAAron Guiel.

    Does he spell Brown and Reggie Sanders on occasion vs. righties, or has he earned the right to start regularly? RC is proud to proclaim that we were the first media entity to predict his success this season (admittedly, at Omaha), and we hope the Royals find a way to continue getting him into the lineup as the season progresses.

  • We mentioned yesterday that Justin Huber was injured during Omaha's game on Monday, but we are happy to report that the injury was not serious. Huber suffered a dislocated pinky finger while diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt, and there was no ligament damage. The O-Royals expect him to miss a couple of days, but he should return quickly and contine his assault on PCL pitchers.


    At 4/26/2006 10:34 AM, Blogger Max said...

    Costa should probably start over Brown in LF when DeJesus comes back.

    This is a bad, bad lineup. I chucked this spring when local pundits insisted "this team will score runs - its a matter of the pitching."

    This is a bad lineup, even with a healthy and productive Sweeney.

    At 4/26/2006 11:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    When DeJesus is back, Costa should be the fourth outfielder spelling the starters at all three outfield positions. I'm excited that he has shown the ability to play center!

    Costa can give DeJesus a day off once in a while (not often), but also play more of the corner spots allowing Sanders to rest and moving Brown to DH when Sweeney is hurt or needs a break. If Brown doesn't start hitting, Brown can see more pine in favor of Costa. Costa should get plenty of ABs as the 4th OF on this team.

    At 4/26/2006 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    At this point I'd have to think Costa is a better alternative than Brown. His defense is years better and he appears to have things figured out at the plate.
    I was really impressed with Elarton. Especially the way he worked out of that jam in the seventh.
    Is it just me, or would Sweeney's long fly to left been sitting in the fountains on any other night? Looked like it was hit well, but the rain and wind knocked it down. Just a thought.
    Keep up the great updates, thanks Dave.

    At 4/26/2006 12:23 PM, Blogger PghChris said...

    I was a little surprised that Bell didn't go to Sisco to start the eighth. I thought it was the right move to take Elarton out, but I just probably would've gone with Sisco. It seems this would have been a good situation to put him in to get some confidence back. Going against a struggling Twins team, at home, against the bottom of the lineup.

    That said, I didn't think Hudson was that bad of an option, but Bell just has terrible luck/judgment right now. It seems no matter what move he makes, it blows up in his face when it comes to the bullpen.

    That said, the reason we lost this game was because of soooooo many missed opportunities offensively. If your pitching only gives up 2 runs over 9 innings, you HAVE to win the game. Especially considering it's not like we were facing Santana or an elite pitcher. Lohse came in with a double digit ERA and gave us all kinds of chances with his walks.

    We really need Sweeney to get going. Not to lay this solely at his feet, but he is the leader and best hitter on the squad. This has to be about his worst stretch when he's played regularly in the last five plus years. We obviously just don't have the depth to afford him hitting .150. But it does seem as a whole this team is starting to swing the bats better, at least compared to earlier in the season.

    I'm more encouraged, though, by our pitching. We've had string of couple nice starts by our starters, and if we're going to be successful, it has to be because of the pitching.

    I must also give credit to Elarton. I was not thrilled at all about his signing (even insinuating he might pick up right where Lima left off), but he's been really quite good for us. He really battled last night, and when he got out of that 1st and 3rd jam in the 7th, I thought maybe it was going to be our night. How quickly I forget what being a Royals fan means and how the game always ends up...

    I would also agree that Costa is really making a good impression right now, and when Dejesus comes back, he will no doubt have to warrant some time in LF with Brown. I think the thing to remember about Emil, though, is that he was terrible early last year too. In fact, and I can't remember who it was, but I believe in early May last year Brown had been so poor that the Royals were getting set to designate him when someone else got injured, and they ended up keeping him on the roster because of the injury. That's when he started playing better. He really didn't get going until late May, and he put together a very nice June-Sept.

    So I'm not going to bail on Brown yet. I think his bat could be a very valuable piece of our lineup. Maybe he's just a warm weather guy like Beltran seemed to always be.

    I know this probably will sound bad, and I do really want to win, but I'm more concerned right now with how this team plays versus actually winning and losing, and right now they seem to be playing better ball, pretty competitive ball, compared to earlier in the year.

    I'm not expecting much from Runelvys tonight, but he strikes me as a guy that is very unmotivated and thus I wonder if he really wasn't that motivated at AAA ball, whereas now that he's back in the majors, he will get a little bit of that fiestiness back in him that made him a decent pitcher at the mlb level. At least that's what I hope....

    At 4/26/2006 12:56 PM, Blogger wadephillips said...

    good point about Hernandez, I have never thought about that. I watched him in Omaha for his first start in AAA and he was horrible, so I am a little scared.

    I was fine with Hudson coming in last night I just don't understand why Buddy has said several times that Sisco is my eighth inning guy.

    At 4/26/2006 1:56 PM, Blogger PghChris said...

    I do agree. That's the only thing that bugged me about last night. Two weeks ago when Buddy went with Sisco against the Yankess and Sisco struggled instead of staying with Dessens, that's all Buddy told us. Sisco is the 8th inning guy, and we're going to run him out there and let him do the job. While I disagreed with the move at the time, that's OK.

    But why not now, when a perfect opportunity presents itself to get Sisco into a game against a struggling team at home against the lower part of their order. Why not be consistent and stay with the plan? That's the only thing that really irritates me about last night's game. It's not like Sisco was hurt or wasn't rested.

    I thought Sisco turned in his best outing of the year last night too. He almost got out of that jam, and probably would have if we had a better defensive LF that had a better arm than Brown. But even after Teahan's error on the routine grounder, Sisco bore down and prevented further damage.

    Like I said, ultimately the offense is more to blame than the pitching for this loss. And while I may not agree with a certain plan the Royals try to go with, I at least want them to be consistent. If Sisco is the setup/8th inning guy, then let's put him out there. If not, then don't. But putting him out there on opening day in Yankees stadium in one of the toughest environments there is (in my opinion putting him in a position that was going to be easy to fail in) and then turning around and not doing it in a much easier environment at home is wildly inconsistent and reeks of a lack of knowledge of how to put your young players in a position to be successful.

    Again, it wasn't like I thought going with Hudson was a horrible move. He has been alright for us. But it's just the gross inconsistencies that really bothers me.

    That game played out perfectly to what the Royals would have wanted. 7 great innings from your starter to get a lead, then you go to your main setup guy in the 8th and the closer in the 9th. Yet for some reason, Bell decided to go a different direction and got burned. Just leaves you scratching your head to what we're trying to do here.

    I'll get off my rant now...

    As I said in my previous post, I am feeling better about the way this ballclub is playing, it's just the manager's decisions that often leave me wondering.

    At 4/26/2006 4:04 PM, Anonymous Garth said...

    Great news about Huber -- and an idea on Runelvys -- was he trying to lose weight between starts? If so, he could have been winded before he even began pitching. Hopefully, with his weight somewhat stabilized, might he be pitching better? Hope so.

    At 4/26/2006 5:06 PM, Blogger Max said...

    Good news for MacDougal, he plays catch today. Hopefully all goes well and he can come back in June.

    Also, Denny Bautista insists he's not injured. What's the story there? I guess players aren't the best judge of when they are hurt/not hurt as Runelvys can testify. But I'm also not that confident the Royals training staff's ability to correctly diagnose injuries.

    At 4/27/2006 2:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I think that Brown's 2005 season earned him at least the right to not have a rookie take his job by the middle of May. A rookie who really should be in AAA learning how to loft the ball and take advantage of his strength, so that his BP power shows in games.

    Costa has strength, shows big power in BP, controls the zone well enough to show power in games, but doesn't. I don't want the guy to think it's fine to be a corner OF who hits 10-12 HRs a year. He needs to hit 20-25, or else he's going to remain a 4th OF when we have the prospects arrive in town. Butler is coming to KC soon, and it isn't going to be as a 1B or DH.

    At 4/27/2006 3:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    couple things,

    -I have my doubts about Buddy sometimes, but I find it hard to criticize his bullpen moves so early in the season.
    He's working with a lot young players, new players and guys without defined roles. Unfortunately he also ( hasn't held a late lead in many games so far to set roles or a rhythm to he bullpen. He handled the bullpen well at the end of last season so I give him the benefit of the doubt. If he's making these calls in September, then I'll worry.

    -A mea culpa: I'll gladly admit I was wrong, about Shane Costa.
    As good as Shane's looked, expect a cool down, he's green and I expect the league to catch up (basically he's a not .300 hitter who'll slug .500). Costa's future with this team is as a fourth outfielder.I'd start to groom him as one when DeJesus returns, let him get used to sporadic playing time and coming off the bench.

    -Nice to see Elvys pitch well yesterday, the guy takes way to much shit from Royals fans. Sure his agent is Boras, and he's overweight (as if that's an impediment to being a good pitcher), the fact is that he's been a constantly decent player for this franchise during some of it's recent terrible years.
    Elarton-Redman-Elveys, all looking good so far.

    -We need more Estaban, and we need more agressive baserunning. The royals need to steal, and take the extra base more, especially after looking at the #'s on some of these AL catchers!


    At 4/27/2006 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I think Costa will get plenty of playing time spelling Reggie, especially when he inevitably gets hurt. Also, why the @#$@#$ wasn't sweeney in the lineup last night? It wasn't even getaway day, but they wanted to give him a day off? (to get Matt Stairs some at-bats, according to Bob Davis). He can't be that tired after going 1-1 with 4 walks the night before, can he? I thought the whole point of playing DH was so he could stay in the lineup everyday!

    Also, amusing Royals humor at:

    At 4/27/2006 12:05 PM, Blogger Dave said...

    Sweeney was out because they would have ordinarily given him a day off today, but Buddy wants him in the lineup vs. Johan.

    There are all sorts of things I don't like about that, but that's why.

    At 4/27/2006 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    That's a pretty bad reason, no doubt about it. I don't think we can afford to give both Sanders and Sweeney two days off every week, plus the scheduled off-days.

    On the plus side, our starting pitching the last 3 games has been as good as I can ever remember in the Baird era. Surely, letting Runelvys get rocked in Omaha was all part of "the plan" to motivate him to succeed, right? As was pretending to move Affeldt to the bullpen, only to put Bautista (who isn't injured?) on the DL and force Jeremy back into the rotation with a chip on his shoulder. What can I say, the people who run this team are just smarter than all of us.


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