The Royals ran themselves out of an inning and back into a tie for first place

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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:

[mlbvideo id=”36103845″ width=”600″ height=”336″ /]

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.

Report: Some MLB teams using outside labs for COVID-19 testing

MLB COVID-19 testing
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The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Zach Buchanan report that the Diamondbacks are one of several teams that have used labs other than the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Utah to process COVID-19 testing. MLB has encountered delays with its testing, despite promising 24-hour turnaround time, so teams have tried other avenues — with the league’s endorsement — in order to get faster results.

The SMRTL had processed performance-enhancing drug screenings for MLB. The league converted it to process COVID-19 tests amid concerns that having a season and all of the testing that would be required throughout would take away testing resources from the general public. That some teams are utilizing labs other than the SMRTL suggests the league, indeed, is usurping those resources.

In prospect Seth Beer’s case, he tested positive for COVID-19. He needed to test negative twice consecutively to be cleared to return to play. Beer went to a third-party site in the Phoenix area. He received his second negative test and was cleared to return on July 9.

The Diamondbacks said that the labs they have used have assured them that they are not taking away tests from the public. That seems like a claim MLB and the D-Backs should demonstrably prove. Per Rosenthal and Buchahan, the D-Backs have gone to an outside lab about 20 times, which accounts for less than one percent of COVID-19 tests taken by players and staff. Still, those are 20 tests that could have been used by the general public. And if the D-Backs and a handful of other teams already are using outside labs, then the rest of the league likely already is or soon will be doing the same. In the end, there will be a lot more than 20 tests taken at outside labs by MLB players and staff. Considering that “Tier 1” players will be tested every other day throughout the season, the total of third-party tests taken — if things continue the way they are now — could easily reach into the thousands by the end of October.

We all want baseball back, but the players, coaches, and all other staff are no more important than cashiers, teachers, and delivery drivers, so they shouldn’t have more access to COVID-19 testing simply by virtue of being associated with Major League Baseball and all of its influence and financial muscle. It would be unethical for MLB to be cutting in line ahead of other people who need testing just as much as if not more than the players.