Yesterday, the Royals fired hitting coach Pedro Grifol and hired former Cubs manager Dale Sveum to replace him. Despite some promising bats in their lineup, the Royals enter play tonight with the league’s second-worst on-base percentage at .308 and the worst slugging percentage at .352. The league averages are .322 and .394, respectively.
Entering Friday’s action, only three Royals have slugged three or more home runs: Salvador Perez (5), Mike Moustakas (4), and Alex Gordon (3). Moustakas, with a .543 OPS, was demoted to Triple-A last week. As a team, the Royals only barely outpace Nelson Cruz in home runs, 22 to 19. It’s been bad.
Sveum has a theory on why the Royals have been so bad offensively. Via MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel:
Sveum’s immediate take on the Royals is they’re not feasting enough on high pitches, instead going after too many low in the zone.
“It’s not rocket science,” Sveum said. “If you don’t get a good pitch up in the zone, you’re not going to be very successful. That’s basically the bottom line. We have very talented hitters that have done it in the big leagues and have had good years in the big leagues so sometimes it’s as simple as pitch selection, sometimes it’s as simple as maybe a mechanical flaw.”
It will be interesting to see if Sveum makes a noticeable difference on the team, or if the Royals are simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Raul Alcantara was in the business of distributing home runs on Friday night.
Robinson Cano caught the tail end of a 94.1 m.p.h. fastball in the first inning, driving it to center field to put the Mariners on the board. In the second, Norichika Aoka found his fourth home run of the year on a similarly-placed heater. The Mariners then targeted Alcantara’s off-speed stuff, picking on the right-hander’s changeup and slider to get two more home runs in the third: the first, another dead-center blast by Cano, and the last, a bomb by Nelson Cruz that popped off the center field wall and survived an umpire review.
Taijuan Walker, who enjoyed the spike in run support from his 3.6 average, was not immune to the home run bug either, giving up the first and only run of the night on Ryon Healy’s 102-m.p.h. home run in the sixth inning.
While Walker excelled at run prevention, he also came one walk shy of hitting a career-high mark, with five walks spread over six innings. Seattle’s bullpen stepped in for three perfect innings to close out the game and, despite six perfect frames from Oakland relievers Zach Neal and Daniel Coulombe, quashed the A’s hopes of closing a four-run gap.
The Mariners’ win on Friday puts them one game back of the wild card; if they take the rest of the series and the Tigers and Blue Jays lose one of their remaining weekend games, the Mariners will tie for the remaining wild card spot. With Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez on the hill this weekend, winning shouldn’t be an issue. Getting the Blue Jays to collapse against the Red Sox (and, to a lesser extent, the Tigers against the Braves) is another story.
Here are the rest of the box scores from Friday’s games. Keep an eye out for the first modest bat flip of Jose Bautista‘s career, Madison Bumgarner‘s eighth RBI of the year, and the Orioles’ three-homer inning.
Orioles 8, Yankees 1
Marlins 7, Nationals 4
Mets 5, Phillies 1
Cubs 7, Reds 3
Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
Tigers 6, Braves 2
Rangers 3, Rays 1
Rockies 4, Brewers 1
White Sox 7, Twins 3
Indians 7, Royals 2
Cardinals 7, Pirates 0
Diamondbacks 5, Padres 3
Angels 7, Astros 1
Mariners 5, Athletics 1
Giants 9, Dodgers 3
If tonight was his last night in a Cardinals uniform, Matt Holliday made the most of it.
After sitting out most of the second half with a fractured thumb, the 36-year-old was activated from the disabled list on Friday and slotted in as a pinch-hitter during the seventh inning of the Cardinals’ 7-0 shutout. What happened next could hardly have elicited more sentiment had it been scripted:
The solo shot was Holliday’s first home run as a pinch-hitter, and his first home run of any kind since August 9. The triumphant moment might have been the last of its kind in St. Louis, as it was reported earlier today that the Cardinals do not plan to exercise Holliday’s option in 2017.
Prior to the game, the left fielder released a statement in which he expressed his gratitude for the past eight seasons with the Cardinals’ organization:
I would like to thank Mr. Dewitt, Mo and the entire ownership group for the opportunity to play for the St. Louis Cardinals.
I am proud of what we have accomplished on and off the field during the past seven years. I have also been humbled by the incredible support and participation in our Homers for Health program.
It has been an honor to play in front of such great fans and for such a historic organization. I can honestly say it has been a dream come true.
While I’m disappointed this could be it here in St. Louis, I understand that it might be time to move on.
I’d like to express my love and admiration for Tony, Mike and all of the coaches and staff that I have had the pleasure to do life with these past seven-plus years.
The most emotional part of this is my teammates and the relationships I’ve built with some of these guys over the years. Particularly, Adam and Yadi, to be considered part of the core with two of the finest human beings I’ve ever known.
Finally, I’m eternally thankful for the Lord bringing me to the city of St. Louis in August of 2008. Lots of cool stuff has happened since then. On behalf of my wife Leslee and our children Jackson, Ethan, Gracyn and Reed: Thank you!