Why must this always happen?
The Official Baby of RC has never seen the Royals win in Yankee Stadium.
The Royals haven't won in the Bronx since 2002. Today RC watched as the Royals dismantled the Yankees for seven innings, and we were wildly optimistic that their dreaded 11-game losing streak in New York would come to an end. But alas, it was not to be, as the bullpen coughed up a three-run lead in the eighth, and the Royals lost their 12th straight game in the Bronx, 9-7.
This game was eerily reminiscent of a game last August, when the Royals took a 7-3 lead at Yankee Stadium into the ninth inning, only to see Jeremy Affeldt and Shawn Camp blow it by allowing five runs. After that game, RC unleashed our fury on Affeldt, who recorded only one out while allowing four runs.
The goat in today's game was Andrew Sisco, who did the exact same thing (0.1 IP, 4 R). However, we're not going to get too down on Sisco. We expected Sisco to struggle a bit this season, and it's not terribly surprising that he'd have a outing like this after pitching above his head last year. And to tell the truth, Sisco didn't even look that bad today. He appeared to strike out Jason Giambi twice (on 2-2 and 3-2 counts), but he couldn't get a call from the home plate umpire to save his life, and Giambi was instead awarded a deadly leadoff walk. The pitch that Hideki Matsui hit for a single during the next at bat was a decent offering on the outside corner, and it would have been a routine one-hopper to second had Mark Grudzielanek not been at double-play depth. The only truly poor sequence was to Jorge Posada, who walked on five pitches to load the bases.
Buddy Bell is taking some heat from Royals fans tonight for bringing in Sisco after Elmer Dessens had dominated the previous two innings on just 19 pitches, but such talk is silly. RC often advocates going with the hot hand in place of a predetermined plan, but Bell's call for Sisco today was completely logical. The first three batters the Yankees were due to send up in the eighth inning were two lefties (Giambi and Matsui) and a switch hitter (Posada), and Sisco last season was murder against lefties (.216 BAA, .615 OPS). Sisco has earned the opportunity to pitch in that situation, and Bell was right to send him in, early struggles be damned.
If Sisco continues to struggle, then Bell will be forced to make a change in the way he uses the bullpen. But this early in the season, the best data available to Bell is that which Sisco compiled last season in the setup role (opposed to meaningless spring training stats), and he was absolutely right to summon him from the bullpen today. It sucks to lose a game in such a way, but it's inevitable as the Royals learn who they can and can't count on this season, particularly when they've got such young players in key positions.
Moving on, there were definitely a few positives to be taken out of today's game. The Royals played a scrappy ballgame and clawed their way out of the 3-0 deficit caused by Joe Mays' ineffectiveness. Reggie Sanders and Shane Costa both hit solo homeruns, and both Mark Teahen and John Buck actually looked pretty good at the plate. Dessens was lights out during his two innings of work, and Mike Wood did an excellent job of keeping the Royals in the ballgame after Mays' early exit.
Costa returned to the dugout after hitting his homerun today and demanded a nails-and-broken-glass sandwich.
The Royals try again on Wednesday afternoon in an ESPN-televised game. Affeldt takes the hill vs. Shawn Chacon, so we're not sure what to expect. The Royals could score some runs off of Chacon, and if Affeldt can keep the ball down and throw strikes, the Royals may have a decent chance to snap the losing streak. Odds are that Mike Sweeney will be withheld from the lineup after being plunked in the hand in the ninth inning on Tuesday, so we may see Matt Stairs for the first time this season. As usual, we'll have a full report for you tomorrow night.