Last night the future became today for Royals fans. For eight and a half innings we were able to daydream about the future by witnessing the present. Johnny Giavotella hit a triple to the gap. Salvador Perez was dominating the Rays' running game. Felipe Paulino gave up just one run in 5 innings.
The telecast even asked the viewers which Royals player was going to win a Major award first: Salvador Perez, Johnny Giavotella, Mike Moustakas, or Eric Hosmer. (As if it was a given that all of these guys would develop into star caliber players.)
When Melky Cabrera hit a three run home run in the top of the ninth it was an awesome way to cap off the evening. Aaron Crow was then rushed in from the bullpen and we he took the mound he was surrounded by five other players that hadn't yet turned twenty-five.
But then the Royals collapsed. For a team that had for eight and a half innings had looked an awful lot like the fabled 2014 World Series Champion Royals, they looked an awful lot like the 2004, 100 loss Royals in the bottom of the 9th.
To start the inning Ned Yost rushed Aaron Crow to the mound for one reason: a statistic. Remember that mantra "You play to win the game." Well in baseball, Managers play to build up statistics. I don't want to get deep into my feelings on how the modern bullpen is operated, but when Soria was already warmed up and ready to go he should have been put into the game. It isn't as if he has been over used lately.
Instead when the Royals took the four run lead, Ned Yost frantically had to alter his plans because Soria had no place pitching in a non-save situation. So the route Yost took was to rush in a pitcher that hasn't had his best stuff since the All Star break. Sure we learned he was pitching through some ailments. But even if those have recovered, the stuff hasn't.
For a guy that has lacked crispness since the break, rushing in from the bullpen was a recipe for disaster. Two batters later Yost was pulling Crow from the game and calling for his closer. Soria by the way had already warmed up once, sat back down and then as quickly as Crow was forced to warm up for the 9th Soria was asked to rewarm up to relieve Crow.
A few hitters, some shoddy defense, a throw that bounced off a base runner, no one backing up third, and five runs later the Royals were exiting the field without the opportunity to shake hands in the middle of the diamond.
I was an extremely frustrating finale to an otherwise awesome night. It sure felt like 2004, and until this team can put together 9 quality innings on an everyday basis there will be other gmes when we are reminded of the past as well.
But for now we'll try to write this off as a growing pains, a common problem for young teams. Let's just hope we can get them out of our system fast, because I don't know if Royals fans can handle much more bad baseball when the light at the end of the tunnel is supposed to be blinding.