Saturday, July 18, 2009

Defense, Bullpen Struggle in Loss

Game Date: July 17, 2009
Tampa Bay @ Kansas City
Rays 8, Royals 7 / Box Score
WP: Nelson (3-0), LP: Cruz (3-3), SV: Howell (7)
KC Home Runs: Jacobs (13)
Royals Record: 37-52 / Record in July 4-9

First, let’s talk about Yuniesky Betancourt. I counted three instances in the first inning in which Frank White used the term “steal” regarding the trade for Betancourt. It seemed almost as if he was trying to convince himself that it was a good trade. But enough about all of that. The trade is complete. Betancourt plays for the Royals. So, I’m rooting for him and I was glad to see him come up with two hits last night.

Next, at the risk of stating the obvious, this game was yet more proof that defense matters. Technically the Royals only had one error, but they misplayed many other balls, making this a maddening game to watch.

In the third inning, Billy Butler was unable to handle a ground ball off the bat of Carl Crawford and as the ball rolled into right field, B.J. Upton scored. Crawford stole second and ended up scoring when Pat Burrell hit a ball that Alberto Callaspo couldn’t field. Average fielders probably make those plays. Good fielders certainly make them.

In the fourth inning, Alex Gordon dropped a pop up. It happens. He says he’s still getting his legs under himself defensively and this was his first game back. Later in the inning, with two guys on base, Evan Longoria hit a rocket at Betancourt who, in his defense, was shield by a runner advancing to third base and Betancourt crumbled to the ground as he was eaten alive by the ground ball that was ruled a hit. It probably was a hit, but you’d still like to see him make the play. Then, the Rays scored another run on a passed ball by Miguel Olivo. If Gordon catches the pop up, the Rays would have gone down in order. He didn’t and it set the stage for the Rays to score two more runs.

But the defense wasn’t the only culprit. Ron Mahay, Jamey Wright, and Juan Cruz are simply not getting the job done as set up men. The all have ERAs in the mid-fours. And even though Cruz has been pitching better lately, the other two guys continue to struggle. Given our defensive lapses and the bullpen problems, you could just see this one slipping away and sure enough, it did.

Bob Dutton has begun the countdown, pointing out that the Royals must go 26-47 in their final 73 games to avoid losing 100 games for the fifth time in eight seasons. That means they have to play .356 ball from here on out. They’re playing at a .415 pace right now, so the 100-loss season should be avoidable. But if this team quits, anything is possible.

On a lighter note, Omaha defeated Memphis 5-3 last night. I wrote a game summary and posted a video of Chris "Disco" Hayes, a submarine pitcher for Omaha, warming up. Thought you might enjoy seeing that. If you haven't caught his blog yet, here's a link.

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