Royals head into the sixth inning with a commanding five-run lead over the Angels

8 Comments

The Royals have been doing it all in Game 3 of the ALDS as they attempt to finish off a series sweep against the Angels. They chased starter C.J. Wilson after scoring three runs on an Alex Gordon double in the first inning. Eric Hosmer hit a two-run home run in the third inning, and the Royals tacked on two more in the fourth on a Mike Moustakas solo home run and a Lorenzo Cain sacrifice fly, making it 7-2. Offense: check.

Something unexpected happened in the third inning. After Hosmer’s homer, Billy Butler walked, and then — you may want to sit down for this — he stole second base. It marks his first stolen base since July 5, 2012. It was also his last attempt at swiping a bag. Speed: check.

In the top of the fifth, the Royals flashed some leather as Cain made two spectacular sliding catches for the second and third outs. With runners on first and second and one out, Albert Pujols hit a soft fly ball to shallow left-center. Cain galloped over and made the head-first diving catch just before the ball could make contact with the grass. The next batter,  Howie Kendrick, hit a line drive to center field. Cain calmly strode in and made a feet-first sliding snag to end the inning. Cain emphatically pumped his fist and yelled something in celebration. As the Royals left the field, starter James Shields doffed his cap to Cain to show his thanks. Defense: check.

We’ve seen plenty of comebacks and big innings already in this young post-season, so nothing is certain yet. But the Royals are 12 defensive outs away from punching their ticket to the ALCS to match up against the Orioles.

Starters? Openers? Who cares? It’s the lack of offense killing the Brewers

Getty Images
2 Comments

The talk of Game 5 of the NLCS — and, indeed, the talk of the postseason so far — has been the Brewers’ creative use of their pitching staff. Indeed, Craig Counsell calling for Brandon Woodruff, and removing Miley from the game after just one batter and five pitches, stands as one of the more audacious acts of bullpenning in recent memory.

In light of that strategy, it was tempting to compare and contrast the Brewers’ approach to that of the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw gave up an early run and, as has so often been the case lately, didn’t look super sharp early. But as the game wore on he got stronger, his curve got more devastating and he turned in an ace-like performance, leaving after seven innings of work, retiring the final 13 batters he faced. The Brewers may have an army of pitchers they throw at you, but the Dodgers, on this night, had a Hulk.

That’s all a lot of fun, and it was a tempting narrative to grab a hold of, but you know what? It doesn’t matter a bit. The fact of the matter is that the Brewers have scored two runs in the last 17 innings between Games 4 and 5. Two runs, with one of them being an oh-by-the-way run with out in the ninth tonight. They’ve only scored three runs in their last 24 innings. They could have a college of coaches using a murder of pitchers and they’d still be staring at being down 3-2 like they are right now because the bats have gone cold.

The presumptive NL MVP, Christian Yelich, was 0-for-4 in Game 5 and is only 3-for-20 with three singles in the entire NLCS. Ryan Braun is 5-for-21. Lorenzo Cain is 6-for-24. Games 3 and 4 have, obviously, been the big problems for the Brewers. In those games the entire team is batting .168 with 26 strikeouts and they are 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Craig Counsell could go back in time, bring back Pete Vukovich, Rollie Fingers, Teddy Higuera, Moose Haas and Jim Slaton, use them all for an inning and two-thirds each and it wouldn’t matter if the Brewers can’t score. That’s the story of the series so far. No matter how much we might want to talk about the pitching shenanigans, that’s the only thing that really matters.