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.

 

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.