Small ball prevails … in a 9-8 game

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Seven stolen bases. Four sacrifice bunts.

That’s going to be the lingering story from the Royals’ defeat of the A’s in Tuesday’s wild card game: the Royals small-balled the A’s to death, finally prevailing 9-8 in 12 innings.

It seems to be a ludicrous way to sum up a game that included 17 runs scored and 28 hits. But there’s no denying that the Royals did the “little things” exceptionally well.

The Royals were 7-for-8 stealing bases. Their big baserunning blunder came in the second, when Billy Butler was caught wandering off first base. Unfortunately, the caught stealing there went to Eric Hosmer, who took off for home rather than leave Butler hanging out to dry.

The Royals sacrificed in the third, ninth, 10th and 11th innings. The first two preceded runs. In the third, Alcides Escobar moved Mike Moustakas from first to second. The Royals went on to collect an RBI double and an RBI single with two outs in the frame. In the ninth, pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson was sacrificed to second by Escobar and then stole third, scoring the tying run on a sac fly. In the 10th and 11th, the Royals failed to plate the runner from second with one out.

It was in the eighth that the Royals’ speed was the biggest factor. Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, pinch-runner Terrence Gore and Alex Gordon all stole bases as part of a three-run frame. Perhaps all three runs would have scored anyway; the last runner to score in the inning, Eric Hosmer, didn’t need to steal a base to do so. But perhaps not. The Royals’ speed certainly had the A’s jumpy, not just in the eighth.

So, the steals worked, undeniably. The bunts? One could certainly argue that the Royals would have been better off playing it straight up, and one certainly would be arguing that right now had they lost. After all, the Royals’ hit .341 on the night. It was the eighth, when they didn’t use the bunt, that they had their biggest rally and wreaked the most havoc.

 

Yasmani Grandal played himself out of NLCS Game 4

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Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal has not had a good postseason. Entering Monday night’s NLCS Game 3, he was batting .111/.238/.278 in 21 trips to the plate across the NLDS and the first two games of the NLCS.

Defense has also been an issue for Grandal. In Game 1 of the NLCS, Grandal was on the hook for two passed balls. In the sixth inning of Game 3 Monday night, he couldn’t corral a curve in the dirt, which allowed Travis Shaw to score the Brewers’ second run of the night. Starter Walker Buehler was charged with a wild pitch. In the eighth, with Ryan Braun on first base and Shaw at the plate, Grandal again couldn’t corral a pitch in the dirt, allowing Braun to move to second base. Fortunately for the Dodgers, Alex Wood was able to escape the inning with no damage.

Manager Dave Roberts said that Austin Barnes, not Grandal, will start behind the plate for Game 4 on Tuesday night, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports. That comes as no surprise at all. When Grandal struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, Dodger fans regaled him with boos.

Barnes will be an upgrade defensively, but he’s lacking with the bat. He had an 0-for-3 performance in Game 2, though with an RBI, bringing his career slash line in the playoffs to .200/.281/.300 across 57 plate appearances. During the regular season, his career 100 adjusted OPS is a fair bit behind Grandal’s 115. Roberts is trading offense for defense in Game 4. Rich Hill will get the start opposite the Brewers’ Gio González.