Brady Singer threw changeups! But the bats went into a deep freeze and the first inning defense put the Royals in a hole they couldn't dig out of.
Sometimes, it doesn’t really matter how the pitching performs. If the bats can’t get going, the entire game can be an exercise in futility.
That’s the story for Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the Astros. Brady Singer worked through five innings allowing four runs (one earned) and the bullpen tossed three scoreless. Yet the Royals offense could only muster four hits against dancin’ Luis Garcia and two Houston relievers. They had a mini rally going in the third, but TOOTBLANed themselves out of the inning and any scoring opportunity they may have had on the evening.
You can see from the win probability chart, after falling into that first inning hole, the third gave them a glimmer of hope, but Michael A. Taylor’s ill-advised dash to the plate essentially ended the game right there.
Let it loose
A day after showering praise on starter Daniel Lynch for how he changed up his method of attack when facing this Houston Astros lineup for the second time in a week, a bit of uncertainty hovered over Tuesday’s starter Brady Singer. We know he relies on two pitches—the sinker and the slider. We know how he loses effectiveness as his starts progress and the order flips over two and three times. Would he bother to adjust against this same Astros lineup? Could he adjust?
It probably wasn’t enough, but there was some promise. HE THREW CHANGEUPS.
Yeah, that deserves the all caps treatment. Because not only did Singer use his changeup (eight thrown out of 104 pitches total), he got a swing and miss on one. For a third strike. Believe it.
Damn, that cambio had some nice fade to it. It looked like it was going to catch the black on the outer half and then veered just enough off the dish that Castro was helpless. That’s a great pitch.
I guarantee Jason Castro was not expecting that changeup. What batter would? Singer had gone sinker, sinker, slider to jump ahead 1-2.
(I’m not sure why the first sinker isn’t on this chart. It was center-cut taken for a called strike. The location of the changeup is most definitely correct.)
He got the swing and miss not only because he had the element of surprise on his side, but because the pitch was damn near perfectly executed. Elevated enough to be tasty to the hitter, but far enough off the dish that, if Castro somehow managed to make contact, it would’ve been chopped foul. If he spit on the pitch, no big deal, the count moves to even. But he would’ve had to have been extremely disciplined with two strikes to let that offering pass. Neither outcome happened. It was a swing and a miss. People sent me text messages asking if I saw it. It was that monumental.
The change was deployed against Yordan Alvarez in the fourth, freezing him for a called third strike.
This one didn’t carry the same fade as we saw in the swing and miss change, but it did have excellent location, hitting Perez’s target without him having to move.
Singer opened the at bat by getting two called strikes off a pair of sinkers. I’m not sure what Alvarez was expecting, letting either one of the first two to pass. The change was down and Alvarez couldn’t pull the trigger. Alvarez had a difficult night against Singer.
Singer, courtesy of two errors committed by his infield in the first, faced seven Astros batters in the opening frame. He unveiled his first changeup against Castro, leading off the second. He didn’t throw another changeup until he whiffed Castro in the third.
Meanwhile, the rest of this start was a typical Singer grind. Yes, the first inning featured those defensive miscues, but Singer walked two to put himself further into the jackpot. He needed 27 pitches to record his first three outs. (Fine, five outs given the errors.) He required 19 in the second inning, the majority of those coming off a nine-pitch plate appearance from Michael Brantley. Another 19 were used in the third when Yuli Gurriel singled to open the inning and Carlos Correa followed with a run-scoring double. The fourth inning, when he started throwing his changeup a little more, Singer needed 21 pitches. It was as exhausting to watch Singer pitch as it was to read this paragraph detailing his pitch count.
The long battles weren’t surprising given that the Astros received a decent look at what Singer would bring to Tuesday’s game a week earlier. Again, I go back to Lynch’s start on Monday, now he changed his method of attack throwing more sinkers. For reference, here is how Lynch altered his pitch mix.
Contrast that to Singer.
Fewer sliders, and more sinkers. A larger slice of the pie for the changeup, but that absence of a true third pitch continues to put a dent in his long term prospects. We saw fickers of promise of the change, but we didn’t see it enough.
I’m conflicted. On one hand, it was certainly nice to see Singer throw eight changeups on the night. But he waited too long, unleashing six of them when he was facing the Astros the third time through the order. It would’ve been nice to see him unleash one or two of those when the Astros were threatening in the first. Just to see what would happen. But maybe this could be a springboard to using the pitch with an increased frequency. But given Singer’s history, I’m not sure I would count on that.
All down the line
Anyone want to take a stab at explaining this?
Without context, the gif just looks foolish. So let’s try to provide some.
There are two outs in the inning.
Nicky Lopez is down in the count 0-2.
Nicky Lopez is a left-handed batter.
There are two runners in scoring position.
Astros starter Luis Garcia is pitching from the stretch.
The Royals are trailing 3-0.
It’s a straight steal of home. I’m all for injecting some excitement into an otherwise typically drab Singer start, but is it too much to ask that, you know, they actually try to execute something smartly? This was almost certainly Taylor freelancing. It was definitely ill advised.
Garcia did speed up his windup. He didn’t do as much dancing on the rubber as usual, but his moves were still deliberate. Deliberate enough that he was able to fire a strike to catcher Jason Castro to apply the tag to easily nab Taylor.
I get that Lopez was down in the count and Taylor saw opportunity. Except Lopez is, as we have said for most of the last couple of months, capable of giving a professional plate appearance every time he steps into the box. This isn’t like Taylor taking the bat out of the hands of…Taylor. He’s taking the bat out of the hand of the Royals’ best contact hitter. Some well-placed contact and the Royals have not one, but two runs.
It’s a mortal baseball sin to make the first or third out at third base. Let’s go one better: Making the third out on a straight steal of home when there is a runner also on second and a decent left-handed contact hitter is up is the worse baseball sin.
It’s only rock and roll (but I like it)
You may have noticed, the headers in today’s edition are Rolling Stones songs. I don’t do a song of the day in this space (honestly, the newsletter runs long enough without my questionable music tastes presented), but in honor of Charlie Watts, here is the most rock and roll moment you can imagine. The Stones and a rogue bubble machine.
Twins 9, Red Sox 11
This was a game between two sinking teams, and just looking at the linescore, it seemed like neither cared much for winning. The Twins led 3-1 after three and a half innings and by the end of five were down 9-3. The Sox bullpen did their best to give back the lead, allowing six runs over the final four frames, including one in the ninth.
White Sox 5, Blue Jays 2
He may have left the division, but José Berríos still struggles against the Sox. He allowed the first two batters to reach via singles and Jose Abreu cleared the bases and then some with a home run. Berríos has a 5.57 ERA in four outings against the South Siders this year.
Rangers 7, Cleveland 3
Nathanial Lowe went 5-5 for Texas, with a homer, a double and three singles while driving in three. DJ Peters added four RBI.
Tigers 4, Cardinals 3
Casey Mize spun five scoreless innings and walked with the bases loaded on four pitches. Seriously! If you remember back to when the Royals played the Cardinals, this bases loaded walk syndrome has plagued St. Louis pitcher all year. You hate to see it.
The Royals go for the series victory in Houston with Mike Minor on the mound. The Astros counter with Lance McCullers. Day baseball! First pitch is set for 1:10 CDT.