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Splash Hits: Opening Day edition
The Royals get a captain, the full powder blues are sweet, Greinke has a solid first start of the season and we close with some filth from the bullpen.
It was Opening Day on Thursday, but someone forgot to alert the Royals’ offense. No runs. Two measly hits. Eleven strikeouts. Blah. It was just the fifth time in franchise history they were shut out on Opening Day. This won’t come as a surprise, but the two hits recorded were the fewest for an Opening Day contest.
On the down side, it was an abysmal showing from the bats. On the up side, it can only get better.
In case you missed it, I debuted a new feature yesterday I’m calling “Three Up, Three Down” where I send out a quick analysis of the just-completed ballgame. Yesterday’s dispatch went out almost immediately after the final out. I’m not saying that it will always be that quick, but it is something I hope to continue throughout the season. So if you decide to subscribe, you may get two issues from me a day. As always, it’s free to enter your email address and click the submit button.
Because yesterday was Opening Day, there was a ton of action to discuss both on and off the field.
The news was important enough that the Royals PR department sent out a press release.
I’m not mocking the release. Not at all. This was an important moment for Salvy and the franchise. As the Tweet says, the Royals have had three captains in franchise history: George Brett from 1989 until his retirement in 1993, Frank White from 1989 until his retirement in 1990 and Mike Sweeney from 2003 to 2007. To have the three former captains in the locker room to bestow the honor on Perez was truly special.
Perez is certainly deserving of the captaincy. He’s respected not only in the clubhouse but throughout the game. Salvy loves baseball and baseball loves him back. He’s a leader and a constant. The nameplates above the locker may change, but Perez is always there and remains the spark that often ignites the Royals.
It was very cool to see that “C” on his chest.
Opening Day is always a time of celebration and I was delighted when the Royals brought out several members of the 1973 team for pregame honors. Anytime Cookie Rojas, Amos Otis and Steve Busby are out on that field, I’m going to get a little nostalgic. I can’t help myself.
Yet while those three are Royals Hall of Famers, what was truly special was that they brought back other players from that team. Guys like Kurt Bevaqua and Gene Garber and Tom Burgmeier. The 1973 team posted 88 wins and finished six games back of the juggernaut Oakland A’s. It would be three years before the team would reach the postseason, but that team was the foundation.
They were brought back to celebrate the return of the full powder blue uniforms as the ‘73 edition was the first team to wear that color. It’s also the 50th anniversary of that team, as well as the 50th anniversary of the opening of Royals, now Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals have a rich history. It’s nice to see them celebrate it and it’s great fun to have the players back. They should do it more often, with something like a full-blown alumni weekend.
Speaking of the powder blue uniforms, I didn’t realize just how spectacular they would look on that field. I have to admit, I’ve always been a bit lukewarm on the powder blues, even when they were the full-time road unis back in the day. I now believe my ambivalence toward them was due to the fact the team never fully embraced them. Seriously, powder blue tops with white pants wasn’t a good look.
The full powder blues? That’s what we need.
The City Connects are still my favorites. The powder blues are a close second. Whatever the Royals wear, they’re going to look a million times better than the Twins and their ridiculous caps. That “M” with the star above it is not a good look.
First game with new rules and I have to admit, I didn’t really think about the pitch clock. And the pace was brisk, finishing in 2:32. There were a handful of mid-inning pitching changes, and obviously the Royals offense helped move the game along, but the Twins had traffic on the bases almost all afternoon and in the last few years it wasn’t uncommon for even a 2-0 ballgame to stretch beyond the three-hour mark. I think we’re going to get used to that one in just a handful of games, if we haven’t already.
The no-shift rule gave us one of the more unique moments of the afternoon when Joey Gallo yanked a ground ball between first and second to be fielded by MJ Melendez, who was playing an extremely shallow right field in something of an outfield shift. Gallo, who became the poster child for the ban the shift movement, often saw an alignment with an infielder positioned in short right field. The rules this year say the infielders have to be on the dirt, but outfielders can play anywhere.
Melendez couldn’t field the ball cleanly. That’s the difference right there. An infielder makes that play. An outfielder not used to fielding a ground ball with the purpose of throwing to first to get an out…maybe not so much. Manager Matt Quatraro has said they will use that alignment when a number of external factors call for it. In other words, we’re not going to see it that much. But it may behoove the team to have their right fielder take a few sharp ground balls on the grass to get used to it.
Opening Day, I’ve written a couple of thousands of words across a pair of entries, and this is the first I’m getting to Zack Greinke. The dude was his usual, veteran, steady self. He touched 92.1 MPH in the first inning, which is notable given that he threw only seven pitches faster than that all of last season. However, he threw mostly offspeed stuff—his curve and slider were his most frequent pitches.
He kept the curve down for the most part.
It’s not a swing-and-miss pitch for Greinke, more of a foul ball pitch as it’s coming it at around 74 MPH and the hitters are adjusting to fight it off. As you would expect, if there’s going to be an issue with that pitch, it’s when he hangs it in the middle. Get it close to the edge though, and it can lock you up.
On the other hand, the slider is a swing-and-miss pitch.
Greinke recorded four whiffs on 10 swings against the slider. Including this beauty against Michael A. Taylor in the second.
As Quatraro said after the game, you’ll take five-plus innings of six-hit ball from Greinke every time. As I noted in yesterday’s recap, he was this close to avoiding trouble at all. If Kyle Isbel can come up with that catch on Byron Buxton’s liner to open the sixth, it could have been a different outcome. (Although that is glossing over the fact the Royals' offense was nonexistent on Thursday.) Still, four strikeouts? Yeah, that will work.
I’ll continue to focus on the pitching because…the offense…blah.
How about Jose Cuas? All the guy did was punch out the side in the eighth. All three came on lethal sliders out of that deceptive sidearm delivery. Would you want to hit against this?
Filthy. That was—per the definition from the Pitching Ninja—a sword. How about from the left side?
Cuas and Carlos Hernández were the highlights from the bullpen. Amir Garrett allowed an inherited runner score, put three runners of his own on base and was fortunate to emerge without getting charged for a run of his own. Dylan Coleman recorded two quick outs before coughing up back-to-back walks and a single to load the bases. He, too, escaped without any damage. Still, if the relievers are supposed to adhere to the “fill the zone” mantra, it didn’t stick with Garrett and Coleman. Garrett threw 24 pitches, with 13 for strikes. Coleman recorded just nine strikes in his 22 pitches.
With a fully rested bullpen at his disposal, it seemed to me that Q had his relievers on a bit of a longer leash, allowing both Garrett and Coleman to get out of jams of their own making. I kind of dig it. Probably because it worked. We’ll learn more about his bullpen management style as the season unfolds.