Dayton Moore must have been proud of himself around the fifth inning today.
In one fell swoop, Jeff Francoeur doubled to put himself and Lorenzo Cain in scoring position. Miguel Tejada hopped out of his casket and followed Frenchy with an RBI groundout. Then prized PTBNL of the Wil Myers trade, Elliot Johnson, singled to bring home Francoeur and put the Royals up, 2-0 on the Phillies.
In the seventh, Moore had to have been radiant. Francoeur led off with another double. Miggy traded places with him to put the Royals up, 3-1. The Royals were nine outs from climbing over .500 and setting up a possible sweep of a National League powerhouse (I can only imagine Moore still views the Phillies as a powerhouse considering such stalwarts as Ryan Howard, Michael Young and Delmon Young are on the payroll).
Two innings later, the Royals did what they do so well, turning a two-run lead into a 4-3 loss to drop back below .500. Again, I won't be surprised if they remain there the rest of the way. Like a game of Tetris, just when everything appears to be under control, the pieces start falling faster and faster until they're out of control and you're left staring at a jumbled mess.
Five times they went down in order. The Phillies put their leadoff man on base just twice on Saturday. Both times came back to scramble the Royals' Tetris matrix.
Luis Mendoza was excellent, striking out seven and allowing just five baserunners in six innings. He attacked an altogether weak lineup, throwing 17 of 23 first-pitch strikes. His one mistake was allowing a leadoff walk to John Mayberry Jr. in the bottom of the fifth, which turned into Philadelphia's first run.
Alas, Ned Yost stepped in to allow the game to slip away. Rather, he refused to step in, hanging Greg Holland out to dry and walk the bases loaded in the ninth. Three batters later, Holland gave up a bases-clearing, game-winning double to Kevin Frandsen.
This leads me into last week's episode of The Baseball Show with Rany and Joe. With Joe Sheehan bringing up the topic, the two discussed the Royals' loss on Opening Day. Sheehan in particular discussed how the Royals will be submarined by Yost's mismanagement this season.
(Effectively Wild also discussed the Royals' fitting start to the season last week if you feel like giving it a listen.)
In general, I'm not one to place too much blame on a manager. Recent research has shown lineup construction has a minimal impact on run production over the course of a season. So that leaves the manager with two means of influencing a ball club: 1. Clubhouse atmosphere; 2. Late-game substitutions.
As Sheehan points out, Yost already whiffed on pinch-hitting opportunities the first game of the season (although I thought it was wise to pinch run Jarrod Dyson for Billy Butler late). I didn't see Saturday's game, but in general I can't defend keeping a pitcher in the game after he has walked the first three batters he's faced to put the winning run on base.
The Royals had one of the best bullpens in baseball last season. The bullpen has done nothing thus far for Yost to lose faith in it as a whole. Only Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera pitched out of the pen prior to Holland. Only Tim Collins threw an excessive amount of pitches on Friday afternoon.
So I don't really care that Holland struck out the fourth and fifth batters he faced on Saturday. He shouldn't have had the opportunity in the first place. It doesn't matter if the calendar just flipped to April. Every winnable game matters. To a certain degree, you have to treat every close game as if it's a playoff game and in Game 7 of a playoff series, there's no way Holland stays in the game in that situation.
Now Cole Hamels stands between the Royals and a series victory and 3-3 record. Seeing how the Royals have only managed to defeat Gavin Floyd and Kyle Kendrick (the two most Royals-y pitchers to never have suited up for the Royals — yet), the odds are against them.
And if it doesn't happen, the Royals will need to take four of six on their opening homestand to get back to .500. After that, it's a nightmare eight-game road trip to Atlanta, Boston and Detroit. Considering the Royals' history with the Twins and the Blue Jays' overall talent, it's not a stretch to imagine April slipping away before the Royals ever had a grasp on it. In much the same way Saturday's loss unraveled.
Fire Dayton Moore