Kansas City Royals: Ned's strategy works as Bullpen shines in 7-4 win over Angels
“Oh no”, I thought when Tim Collins trotted out for the 10th inning of the Royals’ Saturday night tilt against the Los Angeles Angels.
“I QUIT” was the message that I sent to the Royals official Twitter account when Ned Yost put Aaron Crow in the game for the 11th.
The argument is still out there on whether Ned Yost’s strategy of saving closer Greg Holland until his team got a lead is the correct one or not, but there’s no denying that it worked on Saturday night in an eventual 7-4 Royals victory. It took 13 innings and over five innings, but Kansas City got what they wanted to do – even the series.
The Royals have been burned by Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, and other relievers not named Greg Holland when Yost has opted to save his closer. Every time, fans take to Twitter to complain about how foolish the move was – including myself. An out-of-context quote emerged when Ned Yost said “I really wanted to win that game” on behalf of the one time he did put Greg Holland in a tie game on the road back on Opening Day in Detroit. It’s a widely controversial issue in the baseball world, and the issue goes beyond Ned Yost. Earlier in the season, the Royals benefitted from this when Toronto manager John Gibbons brought his closer in during a tie game in the eighth inning and the go-ahead runs in scoring position – the Royals would score six times in the frame en route to a 10-7 win. I would have brought Greg Holland in for the 10th inning after Wade Davis’ masterful two innings of perfect relief, but that’s why I’m not the manager of the Royals.
This was a game that the Royals probably lose in early May. Ace James Shields was 13-1 with an ERA of 1.76 in his last 16 road starts – he struggled, laboring through six innings, blowing a 3-0 lead and departing having given up four runs on nine hits in his shortest road outing since April 22. The offense did produce 16 hits, but only two of them went for extra bases. For the fifth straight game, there were no home runs from anybody wearing Royal blue uniforms. Tim Collins and Aaron Crow (twice) opened up three consecutive relief innings by allowing a single, putting the winning run on base each time as fans collectively groaned. This was a game that the Royals should have lost – but they didn’t.
It is just one game, but the Royals just may be showing signs of maturity. Their record in May improved to 10-12 after starting 1-6, a mast improvement from their dismal 8-20 mark from a season ago. Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, and Greg Holland combined for seven spectacular shutout relief innings with a combined five hits, six strikeouts and zero walks. Eric Hosmer had four hits in seven at-bats – and saw 38 pitches. Billy Butler drove in two runs. Danny Valencia, despite injuring his wrist in the middle of his 13th inning at-bat, clubbed a double into the gap in left-center field that eventually produced the go-ahead run. It was a game that shows how the Royals can win baseball games – with great pitching and small-ball offense. Hey, if it’s going to work like this every time, fine by me.
Ned Yost still has plenty of faults, as does every other manager in baseball. However, I firmly believe that he is improving in his performance as a manger. There were fans who honestly believed that we were “Yosted” so many times last year, it cost the Royals 20-25 games. A caller on Josh Vernier’s postgame show was quoted by saying that the Royals would have won 100 games in 2013 without Yost. That, my friends, is crazy. Ned Yost may not be Joe Torre or Terry Francona, but he CAN lead this team to the playoffs. If the Royals miss the postseason for a 29th consecutive time, it will be because of the players and their lack of performance – not because of the order that they were batting in.
As Royals fans, it is understandable to be frustrated when the manager or players don’t perform to our expectations. However, on a night like this, even the biggest Ned Yost critic must tip their cap and admit that Yost’s strategy, despite being inept in the eyes of some fans, worked. It got the team a win. The Royals posted a winning percentage of 1.000 today. As Royals fans, that’s all we hope for on a daily basis.