Saturday, July 26, 2008

Game 104: Tampa Bay @ Kansas City

Game Date: July 25, 2008
Rays 5, Royals 3 / Box Score
WP: Jackson (6-7), LP: Bannister (7-9), SV: Percival (21)
Royal Home Runs: Butler (5), Buck (7), Gload (2)
Royals Record: 46-58

It seems like every time the Royals make a mistake, they pay for it. And since this is the Major Leagues, they probably should pay for it, but you'd think that they might catch a break one in a while.

In the first inning, Mark Grudzielanek wasn't on the bag when he received a throw from Mike Aviles and what should have been a double play turned into one out. Evan Longoria had a two-out RBI single later in the inning. Then in the fifth inning with the score still 1-0 in favor of the Rays, Mike Aviles made an error with two outs, allowing another run to score.

The Royals countered with three solo home runs from Billy Butler, John Buck, and Ross Gload, but it wasn't enough to overcome the mistakes and the two-run home run that Leo Nunez gave up to Carlos Pena in the eighth inning.

But the Royals also made a bad decision that might have been costly late in the game. In the eighth inning, with the Royals down by one run, they had David DeJesus on base and elected to try to bunt him over to second, but Aviles hardly had a chance to get a sacrifice bunt down because the Rays were charging from both corners. Carlos Pena easily fielded Aviles' bunt and fired to second to get the force out there. In a situation like that, you've got to give the hitter the freedom to swing away. Maybe Hillman did give Aviles that option and he didn't take it. I don't know.

Brian Bannister finally settled down and had a decent outing. He gave up two earned runs in 5.1 innings. His pitch count was ridiculously high (100), but he pitched well enough to keep the Royals in the game. According to Bob Dutton, Banny might be on the verge of losing his spot in the rotation. Here's what Dutton said in an article in the Star: "Bannister, 7-9, entered the game in need of a solid start to solidify his spot in the rotation after allowing 24 runs and 29 hits in 19 1/3 innings over his previous four outings." Before the season started, who would have imagined that Banny might lose his spot?

You have to wonder about putting Nunez into the game in such a pressure situation given his lengthy time on DL, but Hillman doesn't have a lot of options in the pen right now. Most of the guys in there are tired and Nunez was a fresh arm. And he was lights out before he got hurt. But he left up a pitch up to Pena, who hit the aforementioned home run in the eighth that put the game out of reach.

Tonight, Luke Hochevar (6-8, 5.47) will go up against Scott Kazmir (8-5, 2.80). Hochevar is 0-1 in his career against the Rays with a 15.75 ERA in 4.0 IP. Kazmir is 1-2 against the Royals with a 5.90 ERA in 29.0 IP.

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