When Detroit catcher Alex Avila took Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie’s 0-1 delivery and lifted it just over the left-centerfield wall for a two-run, opposite-field homerun to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead early in the bottom of the second inning, Guthrie did what he has done time after time this season.
The lanky right hander hunkered down, scattering 11 Detroit hits, and finding a way to keep his pitch count low, as he battled inning-for-inning against Cy Young favorite Max Scherzer to give his Royals a chance to pull out a win and keep their October hopes alive.
Five-and-a-half innings later, when light-hitting shortstop Alcides Escobar doubled to left and stole third base before scoring the game-tying run on a wild pitch by Detroit reliever Drew Smyly, Guthrie had done his job.
He’d gotten out of multiple jams, most notably in the fifth when after a lead-off single by Miguel Cabrera and a double down the right-field line by Prince Fielder left Guthrie and the Royals facing runners on second and third with no outs. The right-hander calmly coaxed weak ground ball outs to the right side off of the bats of lefties Victor Martinez and Andy Dirks. Then routine grounder to Escobar killed the Tiger threat to end the inning.
Fast-forward back to that bottom of the eighth inning after Escobar nabbed the game-tying run and the scene is set for the type of thing that has been maddening, confusing, and undoubtedly making countless Royals fans pull their own hair out for the better part of the 2013 season. A season that happens to be the first time that many of those fans have been a part of a real October hunt in their lifetimes.
The Royals, who have ridden run-saving defense, good starting pitching and the best bullpen in baseball — a bullpen that has remained one of the freshest in baseball all season — to within 3.5 games of the Wildcard, were right where they needed to be as the game headed into crunch time.
Only Ned Yost either didn’t see it, or even worse, he blatantly ignored it.
Rather than look to any one of his bullpen arms that have been so solid, Yost trotted Guthrie and his 12 hits allowed out to the hill one more time.
This move on its own, though questionable, isn’t the facepalm worthy call deemed just the latest “Yosting” that the Royals’ skipper has pulled off this season. The Tigers led off the home half of the eighth with Omar Infante, a right handed hitter, who was 0-for3 up to that point and followed suit by striking out looking at Guthrie fastball.
If Royals fans weren’t ready for the bullpen to begin the inning, they were surely screaming at their televisions as the lefty Avila walked out to the plate for another opportunity to put the Tigers ahead.
Yost did nothing.
Three pitches later Guthrie left a slider out over the plate that Avila launched into the right-center field seats to give Detroit a 3-2 lead that they would hold for the win. Guthrie recovered to retire the next two Tiger batters, but the damage was done. Avila, who had already homered off of Guthrie earlier, had done it again and there really was no good reason for it to have happened. You can’t blame him either. He never should have been put in that position in the first place.
The man on whom the blame falls for that Avila homer — the one that dropped the Royals to 4-games back in the Wildcard race — is the man, Ned Yost, who was seen staring blankly ahead as Avila circled the bases after ripping the hearts out of countless Royals fans on a Sunday afternoon in the fall.
At a point in the season where every game, every inning, every at bat is magnified these “Yostings,” like this afternoon or Yost’s discombobulated management of the batting order in the top of the ninth inning in the Royals’ 3-4 loss at Cleveland last Monday, a team in a playoff hunt just cannot afford for these type of occurrences to happen.
Unfortunately for long-suffering fans in Kansas City, their best team in a generation is getting snake-bitten right out of the playoff picture by a manager who cannot get out of his own way.