Thursday, April 17, 2008

Game 15

Game Date: April 16, 2008
Royals 3, Angels 2 / Box Score
WP: Meche (1-2), LP: Weaver (1-3), SV: Soria (5)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 9-6

Gil Meche still doesn't look like the Gil Meche of last season, but he was good enough to leave the game after six innings with a 3-2 lead and the bullpen took it from there.

Meche's biggest problem this year has been his inability to make a quality pitch when he's ahead in the count or has two strikes on a guy. I don't know if he's losing concentration after getting ahead or if he's just trying too hard to avoid throwing too many pitches and therefore he's catching too much of the plate, but whatever the reason, he says that he's pitching angry right now. Here's the full quote from the Royals website:

"The good thing is I got this win," Meche said. "I've been pitching with a lot of anger on the mound, which is totally not me. It's not my approach and I've just been getting really upset at little mistakes I've been making. Not making the put-away pitches when I need to and not getting out of that jam didn't help either."

I really doubt that he's feeling pressure to perform up at the same level as Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke because even Bannister and Greinke can't possibly stay on the pace they are on. Meche just needs to settle in, make the quality pitches he's capable of when he's ahead in the count, and trust his defense and bullpen. I suspect he'll do just that.

The Royals got off to a great start against Jered Weaver. Joey Gathright bunted for a single (but then got picked off). Mark Grudzielanek singled. Mark Teahen singled. Billy Butler singled to drive in the first run of the game. After Jose Guillen flew out, Alex Gordon singled in Teahen and the Royals had a 2-0 lead. In the second inning, the Royals manufactured a run with two outs when Gathright singled and then stole second. Grudzielanek hit a ball in the hole between first and second base that Casey Kotchman, the first baseman, was able to field, but Weaver was late on his break to cover first. Grud busted it down the line and slid in head first. Weaver, in a panic to beat Grud to the bag, dropped the toss from the first baseman and Grud was safe, allowing Gathright to score what turned out to be the winning run.

The Royals won this game for several reasons, not the least of which was a great performance by their bullpen, but Grud's hustle was a huge factor as well--something Billy Butler could learn a little about. In the fifth inning with out out and Grud on first (notching a pattern here?) Billy Butler popped up to the first baseman and he stood and watched it. Kotchman glanced at Butler, noticed that he wasn't running, and allowed the ball to drop in fair territory. He fielded it, stepped on first, and then threw the ball to second base where Grud was eventually tagged out. If you are wondering why the infield fly rule didn't come into play, it's because it only applies when there is a force at third.

Not hustling is never defendable and it's something that I just cannot stand to see take place on a baseball diamond. Trey Hillman mentioned it in his comments after the game yesterday and I'm sure he'll have something to say to Butler about it, but a major league manager shouldn't have to say anything to get a guy to hustle.

Enough about that.

How about the bullpen? The combined efforts of Ramon Ramirez, Jimmy Gobble, Leo Nunez, and Joakim Soria shut down the Angles over the final three innings, giving up just two hits. My only complaint about the bullpen so far is that Jimmy Gobble is being used as a situational lefty. He's been lights out in that role (do you realize he hasn't even given up a hit this season?), but he has good enough stuff to eat more innings. Maybe he'll get a chance as the season goes on. It's hard to argue with how Hillman is using the pen right now given their success.

The Royals look to sweep the Angels tonight. Brett Tomko (1-1, 2.08) will go up against Jon Garland (1-2, 5.50). Tomko is 0-0 in his career against the Angels with a 4.67 ERA in 17.1 IP. Garland is 16-6 against the Royals with a 3.54 ERA in 201.0 IP.

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