I’m not a Royals fan. I don’t even like Lorde. It’s not that I actively dislike Kansas City’s baseball team, just that I view them with sort of a detached indifference. Maybe if I had a thing for fountains? Oh well, whatever. I guess what I’m getting at here is that I didn’t really have a horse in the race.
My compulsive need to root against any team from New York colored my opinions, sure, but this Mets team isn’t nearly as punchable as its neighbor in the Bronx or even the Mike Piazza-led squads from years gone by. But I didn’t harbor any vitriol, wasn’t watching to see them lose. Rather, it was something else entirely that held my rapt attention.
This Royals team, man, they are just something else (I’m doing a Jon Gruden voice in my head right now). As a Cubs fan who watched a season of musical lineups, each made up of a bunch of dudes with big time swing-and-miss tendencies (and I’m not knocking it, just making a statement of fact), it was absolutely fascinating to see how Ned Yost’s team puts in work. The Royals have had the same lineup in all 13 of their postseason games and it’s made up of a bunch of dudes who never swing and miss.
Okay, maybe not never. But in a 4-run 5th inning against Jacob deGrom, they absolutely BIP’ed the Mets to death. Walk, single, single, ground out, line out, single, single, single, ground out. There were no moonshots or frozen ropes, just clean base hits. And if you thought I forgot the “BA” earlier in this graf, the omission was not by accident. You see, it wasn’t just about the hits.
Just as it’s not all about the uppercut in pugilistic sports, you can really damage an opponent with body shots. Sometimes, even the punches he blocks will add up over time. So even when deGrom was getting outs, he wasn’t missing any bats and wasn’t preventing baserunners from moving up. The Royals jab, jab, jabbed away and just demoralized their opponent. You expected them to put a bat on everything.
They were at it again in the 8th, opening the frame going single, double, double, sac fly, triple, ground out, pop out. In total, Royals batters saw 24 pitches from 3 pitchers in the frame (14 from Jon Niese, 6 from Addison Reed, 4 from Sean Gilmartin). Of those, exactly one-third (8) were strikes that were not in play: 5 called, 2 fouls, and 1 swinging. Yes, you read that right. Of the 10 times 7 Royals swung a bat in the inning, only one did not make contact.
In fact, KC whiffed on only 3 pitches all night, not a single one of them a fastball. They fouled of 23 more offerings, spoiling would-be out pitches and extending at-bats. Just incredible.
I could list any number of complaints about the actual coverage of the game, from the broadcast booth to the inconsistent strike zone — both what the ump was calling and what FOX would actually show us graphically — to the weird deal where the Peanuts characters led an uptempo 7th-inning stretch, but watching the Royals was not one of them. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a twinge of melancholy mixed in there too, though.
As I wrote in the header, this team is like the bizarro Cubs, or at least that’s what it looked like to me as I saw them methodically picking their opponents apart. I’m not saying I want the Cubs to get all small-bally, but it might help to ease the little ache in the pit of my stomach I felt when I knew it’d be boom or bust. I still want all kinds of monster-mash homers — hicks do, after all, dig the longball — but little death-by-a-thousand-cuts action would be nice too.
There’s every reason to believe the Cubs can do better in the future when it comes to contact too, as Eli Gieryna wrote just the other day. I’m actually getting a little tingly now just thinking about the idea of the Royals’ and Cubs’ approaches spawning a bastard love child that Joe Maddon can raise to become a mighty warrior. And if any of you are privy to a weird analogy contest, can you please enter that on my behalf? Thanks.
All that pop with a little more discipline? Whoa…