Last night, in a pivotal game against the Tigers, the Royals put two men on with a couple of singles with one out in the ninth inning. Down by two, with two of their better hitters coming up in Sal Perez and Eric Hosmer.
Joe Nathan was pitching for the Tigers. Nathan is easy to run on. Indeed, 44 of the last 46 runners who attempted to steal against Nathan going back to 2006 had been successful. Not one had been picked off. Maybe running on him in an effort to get runners to second and third base is a good idea?
Of course, it’s worth wondering how many of those successful steals were really situations where the scorer could have called it defensive indifference. A lot of closers in to protect three-run leads don’t give a toss about a runner on first. Also working against the idea of stealing: Ned Yost put in two pinch runners after those two singles, which did everything but install a neon sign that said “I’m going to double steal here,” which at least put Nathan and the Tigers on notice. Doesn’t mean it’s now a terrible idea to run on Nathan. But it does mean that it’s not a total slam dunk.
Yost had the runners run. Jarrod Dyson went too quickly. This happened:
I’ve seen many defending Yost in the wake of this play, choosing to blame Dyson instead. And yes, Dyson screwed up. But it’s also the case that Yost and the Royals were engaging in one-run strategies when they were down by two. They took the bat out of the hands of Royals hitters facing a closer who has been anything but automatic this year, and who was already in mid-meltdown. It’s easy to second guess, and yes, I’m second guessing, but why you’d risk running yourself out of an inning like that is a question that should be asked.
The Royals are now tied with Detroit. They’ve got one more game against them today. If it’s a close game, it’s hard to see how the Tigers don’t have an advantage.