The Tuesday Takeaway
Close your eyes and think of the Royals. There has perhaps been no more unique team over the past two years. They’ve won in a way that was at first foreign, and—seemingly, at times—illogical. The long ball isn’t the weapon of choice here; rather, they wield defense, a never-ending procession of elite relievers, and Ned Yost’s gut. Close your eyes and think of the Royals. You see Wade Davis. You see Alcides Escobar and his sub-.300 OBP leading off. You see Salvador Perez poking the ball under Josh Donaldson’s glove down the left field line. You see Omar Infante running rampant in the All-Star voting. It feels unconventional, but it feels right. There’s something magical about what they have done and what they have been. Something that makes the corners of your mouth curl up and forces a chuckle out of your throat.
That mental image of the Royals was absent on Tuesday. The slap hitting, the bullpen, the defense. All of it was missing in action, locked away with the princess in another castle. What instead was on display at Yankee Stadium was perhaps the antithesis of what Kansas City baseball has been about for nigh on two and a half years.
Lorenzo Cain has blossomed into a brilliant player. He entered the night with just 35 home runs in his career. He would leave with 38.
It would matter not. Kris Medlen would only complete two innings of work. The legendary Kansas City bullpen was tasked with completing the game. They certainly did, but allowed six runs, five of them earned. The unearned run came as a result of a booted ball by Alcides Escobar. Another one of those runs scored when Dustin Ackley hit a shallow fly ball to left field and Brian McCann, with all the speed of drying paint, chugged home from second base on a questionable send by third base coach Joe Espada. Gordon has a good arm, and was fairly close to the infield dirt. It didn’t matter.
Gordon’s throw sailed over Perez’s head. An accurate shot would have ended McCann.
The defending champions sit at two games below .500, 15-17. Baseball is a strange game indeed. Perhaps this is simply the latest in a long line of obstacles for the Royals to overcome. Perhaps it is karmic punishment for thriving for so long with so little starting pitching. Perhaps it is regression; perhaps it is bad luck in a bad month, a bad year. We will find out the truth of the matter soon enough. For one night, the Royals were not themselves. For 32 games, they have not been themselves.
Quick Hits from Tuesday
Klay Thompson is famous. He is second fiddle to the first unanimous MVP in NBA history, but is also one of the premiere players in basketball. Sixth in the league in buckets made. Second in three-pointers. Tenth in points. The Golden State Warriors just set the record for most wins in a season with Thompson at the middle of it all.
That’s given his brother Trayce quite a bit to live up to. He’s playing baseball, but it’s seemingly impossible for him to so much as step up to the plate without Klay being mentioned and staring expectantly over his shoulder. Why, just look at the first paragraph of this section.
For one night, though, Trayce was the star.
Thompson sent a towering shot into the Dodger Stadium bleachers to walk it off against the Mets. In that moment, there were no Warriors, no record-setting seasons, no deep stepback threes being drained. There was only victory, and a win.
At some point in their young life, almost every child dreams of the thrill of hitting a big league home run. Billy steps up to the plate, here’s the 3-2, and Alison hits a high flyball to right field! Going, going, gone! Caleb’s just hit a grand slam! The crowd is going nuts, chanting her name, Ava! Ava! Ava! Ava!
Those dreams stay with us. More often than not they’re buried deep inside, but sometimes there are moments that unlock a particularly irrational thought. I could do that. I could pitch. I could hit a home run. Then sanity seeps back in, and the thought is locked away for a few months, or maybe a year or two.
Some players make us think and dream. Not all of us have to be built like Bryce Harper to play ball.
Dae-Ho Lee is a work of art. He is the dream given shape and dressed in a Mariners uniform. Dad bod and all, Lee left superstardom in Korea to be a part-time player in the States. He could have continued to be one of the most notable figures in the sport in his corner of the world, but instead he is here, getting the occasional start and pinch-hitting appearance, and hitting home runs. Lee is part of what is making Seattle’s continued ownership of the AL West so very exciting. He is far from the stereotypical athlete. He is pure, unadulterated fun.
No conforme con regalarle lentes para el sol al resto del equipo, Dae-Ho Lee le brinda souvenir clave a fanaticada. pic.twitter.com/bwBrojSTRu
— Marineros de Seattle (@LosMarineros) May 11, 2016
Nobody truly knows how Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage works his magic. Sure, there are mechanical tweaks, pitches added to repertoires, or changes in approach. That’s all well and good. Conventional wisdom and rational thought deem those to be sound answers to our existential pitching questions.
But what really happens in Pittsburgh? Does Searage sacrifice chickens to the ghosts of Walter Johnson and Mordecai Brown? To Jobu? Is Searage actually some sort of mad scientist/soothsayer/witch doctor/Chris Bosio/warlock?
Whatever the case may be, his fell touch worked on J.A. Happ. The lefty was traded to the Pirates last year and immediately found success. The Blue Jays bought in and brought him back to Toronto, and the results have been brilliant. Tuesday night saw Happ lower his ERA to 2.05 by going one out short of a complete game shutout against the Giants. We could go in depth and discuss just how Happ surgically dismantles his opponents.
Or we could believe that Ray Searage is a demon and will one day turn us all into mid-rotation starters. One or the other. Choice is yours.
Defensive Play of the Day
Honestly, what is there that Jose Altuve can’t do?* He’s fast, he’s got great contact skills, and now he’s hitting home runs. Here he is doing ridiculous things with his glove and legs and arm. Francisco Lindor was on the business end of some great defense for once, too.
*(Don’t say reach the top shelf of the cabinet. I’m sure he owns a very nice step stool.)
What to Watch on Wednesday
Do you enjoy fiery personalities? Do you like top-line starters matching up? How about superstar position players? Yes? Then wow, is there a game for you today. Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Stroman are facing off in San Francisco at 1:45 local time, and it’s sure to be a doozy of a game. Right-handed batters are hitting .273/.340/.441 against Bumgarner, and the Jays feature a small army of righty sluggers. As for Stroman, he’s an incredibly fun player to watch. If you don’t know that by now, you should check out one of his starts.
Later in the day, Jordan Zimmermann will make his grand return to Washington as a Tiger. He’ll be opposed by Max Scherzer, who won a Cy Young with the Tigers. Major League sources cannot confirm if Bryce Harper will sign with the Tigers and Nick Castellanos will sign with the Nats.
Then, venture on out to Chavez Ravine, where Noah Syndergaard and Kenta Maeda will face off. The game figures to be a classic battle of power vs. finesse, as Syndergaard will be pumping gas all night, and Maeda will be relying on movement and deception to get the Mets out. Maeda had a very strong first few starts in the big leagues, but has been getting hit recently. Let’s see how he handles Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Lucas Duda.
Also, what better way to cap off your night than with some Vin Scully?
Thank you for reading
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