Tag Archives: Ned Yost

Zach Eflin delivers another complete game as Phillies shut down Royals

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Complete game shutout by Zach Eflin paces Phillies to victory

The Philadelphia Phillies (22-16) received a masterpiece from starting pitcher Zach Eflin, who completely shut down the host Kansas City Royals (14-26) by 7-0 at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday night.

Eflin tossed a complete game, his second in three starts, and his fourth Quality Start of the season. The right-hander allowed just four hits, striking out seven and walking no one in raising his record to 5-3. He tossed 110 pitches, 76 for strikes.
The complete game shutout was the first by a Phillies pitcher since Jeremy Hellickson tossed one against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park back on September 17, 2016.
That same year, Eflin tossed a pair of complete games as a rookie. It had been the most recent time that a Phillies hurler threw more than one complete game in a season.
The Phillies offense scored in four different frames. It began with a two-run single off the bat of Rhys Hoskins scored Andrew Knapp and Andrew McCutchen in the top of the 3rd inning. A passed ball charged to Royals catcher Martin Maldonado allowed Jean Segura to score a third run in that inning.
In the top of the 4th inning, Odubel Herrera led off with a double and Cesar Hernandez was hit by a pitch from Royals starter Brad Keller. With one out, Knapp drew a walk to load the bases. McCutchen then grounded to third baseman Hunter Dozier who threw the ball away as Herrera raced home with the Phillies fourth run.
Herrera got things started again in the top of the 6th inning when he lead off with a triple off Keller. After the Royals starter followed that up by walking Hernandez the right-hander was lifted by manager Ned Yost, who brought in Glenn Sparkman in relief.
Maikel Franco greeted Sparkman with an RBI single to score Herrera and it was a 5-0 Phillies lead. One out later, McCutchen produced his second RBI ground out of the night to score Hernandez and make it a 6-0 game.
The Phillies wrapped the scoring when Hernandez delivered a two-out RBI single to score Bryce Harper in the top of the 9th inning. All that was left was to see if Eflin could complete his masterpiece. He retired the first two batters but then surrendered a double to Alex Gordon, who had homered twice last night. But Eflin bore down and struck out Dozier to end it.
The two clubs will play the rubber game of this Interleague series on Sunday afternoon. The weather is expected to be unsettled in Kansas City, but they should be able to get in the game. The Phillies will be trying to win their fourth series in their last five, with the other ending as a two-game split with Detroit.

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING PERFORMANCE

  • Zach Eflin: 9 IP, 3 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts,    pitches with   for strikes.
  • Brad Keller: 5 IP, 5 hits, 6 earned runs (5 earned), four walks, three strikeouts, 102 pitches with 57 for strikes.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PLAYER OF THE GAME: ZACH EFLIN

The Phillies starting pitcher threw a masterpiece. It was his third consecutive strong start. He tossed a complete game to beat the Miami Marlins on April 28, then went seven innings in downing the Washington Nationals on May 5, both at Citizens Bank Park.
This was Eflin’s first road victory since he downed the Nats in his first start of the season back on April 2 at Washington. Over the last three outings he has allowed just 15 hits across 25 innings with a 15/2 K:BB ratio.

NEXT GAME

  • Sunday May 12 at 2:15 pm vs the Saint Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium III
  • TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
  • Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP, WTTM 1680 (Spanish)

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Zach Eflin complete game shutout leads Phillies past Royals

Whit Merrifield breaks out as Royals return to contention

Whit Merrifield emerges as productive second baseman
When the Kansas City Royals opened play for the 2017 MLB season, very few prognosticators picked them to be a contender.
The Royals captured back-to-back American League pennants in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. And in 2015, they won the second-ever World Series crown in franchise history. That isn’t all that long ago.
But fortunes of big league mini-dynasties can turn around in a hurry these days. The Royals slipped to a .500 finish a year ago. With the Cleveland Indians on the rise in the AL Central Division, and with an aging homegrown core, the Royals looked like yesterday’s news.
Flash forward a few months, and here we are in the Dog Days of summer. Heading into play on Tuesday, August 8, Kansas City is tied for one of the two American League Wildcard playoff berths. The club also sits just three games behind the Indians in the division.
As the season was set to open back in late March, Royals skipper Ned Yostannounced that then 21-year old Raul Mondesi Jr had won an open battle for the team’s second base position.
The losers in that battle, Whit MerrifieldChristian Colon, and Cheslor Cuthbert, were left to battle for bench roles with the club in the final days of spring training.

PLAYER PERFORMANCES RESULT IN CHANGED PLANS

Merrifield had an option remaining, and so ended up opening the year back with Omaha in the Pacific Coast League. He quickly showed that he could rake AAA pitching. Over 37 plate appearances, he hit for an outstanding .412/.432/.794 slash line with three home runs.
Meanwhile in Kansas City, to say that Mondesi was over-matched would be an understatement. He slashed just .103/.167/.179 over his first 14 games and 46 plate appearances. Mondesi did steal five bases, but he simply wasn’t reaching often enough to make a real difference in that regard.
Into the breach stepped Merrifield. Given an opportunity to start with the big club, he took it and ran. The 28-year old is now hitting .294 over 401 plate appearances. He has 13 homers, 49 RBI, 50 runs scored, and stolen 18 bases. In short, Merrifield has been an unexpected gem for the Royals.
A little over a week after Merrifield took over the job at the Keystone position, Kansas City began to win. Since May 1, the Royals have a 50-38 record.
Rustin Todd of the Kansas City Star noted in a piece earlier this month that the Royals’ vice president for communications, Mike Swanson, was reporting that Merrifield was in rare company.
Per Swanson, Merrifield was just the seventh player in big league history to produce 175 hits, 80 runs, 40 doubles, and 20 stolen bases over the first 162 games of his career.
“With his versatility, there’s a lot of things he can do,” Yost was quoted by Todd. “He can steal a base, he can bunt, he can swing the bat, he hits the ball to all fields. He gives you a good at-bat.”

IMPROVED APPROACH LEADS TO BREAKOUT

Merrifield was Kansas City’s selection in the 10th round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft out of South Carolina. As he rose through the Royals farm system, a strong 2014 season split between AA and AAA was the only sign that he might be more than a big league bench player. At least so far, he has turned out to  be so much more.
In a recent piece for Beyond the Box Score, Anthony Rescan broke Merrifield’s success down in a more analytic fashion.
“This year, Merrifield has displayed a solid amount of offensive upside. His aggregate offensive statistics have spiked up significantly. He currently sits at a 111 wRC+, .339 wOBA, and a .289 TAv. All of this is being done at a .309 BABIP as well.” ~ Anthony Rescan
Merrifield’s consistent production has been a key to the turn-around of the Royals lineup. Not once this season has he gone more than two games without producing a hit.
Since the MLB All-Star break, Merrifield has only upped his game, hitting for a .327/.366/.577 slash line and six home runs in that span.
The Royals have surprised many by fighting back into contention here in the 2017 season. However, the club has now dropped six of their last eight games. And they just lost their all-star catcher and team leader Salvador Perez until September.
To stay in the race, Kansas City is going to need their remaining veteran core of Eric HosmerMike MoustakasLorenzo Cain, and Alex Gordon to step up in the lineup. Continued production from Merrifield is also sure to go a long way towards the Royals returning to postseason baseball.

Surprising Jason Vargas leads starting rotation of resurgent Royals

Vargas has been a surprise rotation leader for KC
The Kansas City Royals were contenders in the AL Central Division each season from 2013-15. In 2015, the Royals not only captured that division crown, they also won the World Series.
Last year, Kansas City slipped to a third place .500 finish. The club struggled through the first couple months of this season, and as late as June 9 the Royals were still buried at 26-34.
Since that time, the Royals have gotten hot, winning nine of their last 11 games. The winning stretch has pulled the team back within a game of the .500 mark. They are now 3.5 games behind the first place Cleveland Indians, and just two games out in the AL Wildcard race.
One of the key factors in the Royals ability to stay in the race this season has been the strong performance of pitcher Jason Vargas. The 34-year old lefty is 10-3 with a 2.27 ERA and 1.134 WHIP, and has allowed just 79 hits over 87.1 innings.
Vargas 10 victories has him leading the American League in that category, tied with Clayton Kershaw for the MLB lead. The ERA mark is second-best in the AL, his WHIP mark ranks 8th in the league. His .243 Batting Average Against is 12th in the American League.
In short, Vargas has been one of the best pitchers in the AL this season. During this recent hot stretch the Royals have won both of his starts. In fact, Vargas has registered a victory in each of his last five outings. Vargas has allowed just six total runs over his last four starting assignments.

SECOND-HALF SUCCESS KEY FOR PLAYER AND TEAM

In his most recent start, Vargas battled through six innings for a 7-3 win over the Angels. After that game, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com quoted Royals skipper Ned Yost on his pitcher. “He did what he does best — limit the damage,” Yost said.
Vargas is scheduled to next take the mound on Saturday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. There he will face the Toronto Blue Jays, who got off to a similarly poor start to their season but have also fought back into the race.
Vargas is now in his 12th big league season. He has a career 77-73 record with a 4.05 ERA and 1.297 WHIP mark. Vargas has made 210 starts over 230 total appearances in which he has pitched 1,309 innings.
He will be a free agent following this season, so Vargas is absolutely pitching for a contract. Vargas will turn 35 years old just before 2018 spring training gets underway. His ability to earn a big contract is likely limited.
However, if he continues to pitch at this level for the rest of the season, Vargas will certainly get a nice offer for next season somewhere. He could even get a multi-year deal. That continued strong pitching is vital to both his future, and the Royals ability to stay in the 2017 race.

Can the Royals Bounce Back and Contend in 2017?

The Kansas City Royals and their fans suffered through nine straight losing campaigns and 17 of 18 dating back to the 1994 strike season.
Then in the early part of this decade, the club began to build up one of the top farm systems in the game.
It all came together for them at the big league level with back to back AL pennants in 2014 and 2015, and a World Series championship in 2015.
But this year the Royals slid back to the .500 mark, finishing in third place in the American League Central Division. They were 13.5 games behind the division-winning Cleveland Indians, and eight games behind the AL Wildcard pace.
It was a frustrating summer for the defending champs. But that eight game difference between themselves and the playoff teams is not insurmountable.
The Royals plan to return to that postseason contention in 2017, but is that a reasonable goal? With a few tweaks, some breaks, and not unreasonable improve performances, the club can indeed reach the postseason once again.

LINEUP LOSSES IN PLAYERS AND PRODUCTION

Kansas City lost a bunch of key players from their lineup in 2016, costing them both firepower and veteran influence.
Ben Zobrist was always likely a one-year rental, and possibly an expensive one considering good-looking pitcher Sean Manaea went to Oakland in that 2015 trade deadline deal.
Since Zobrist was a key player in actually winning a World Series, it will always have been worth the cost. It worked out for him, of course, as Zobrist became the MVP of another World Series winner with the Cubs.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas lost his season in May to a torn ACL. Moustakas is expected to be ready for spring training and the 2017 season when, at 28 years of age, he should be just entering his prime.
Two of the club’s best run producers, first baseman Eric Hosmer and DH Kendrys Morales, slipped this season.
While Hosmer hit seven more homers and knocked in 11 more runs, he also roped nine fewer doubles and scored 18 fewer runs. His average and on-base percentage each fell more than 30 points.
Morales hit eight more homers but knocked in 13 fewer runs, while his average and on-base percentage each dropped precipitously as well. He will turn 34 years old in June, and ended up leaving for the Toronto Blue Jays via free agency earlier this month.

MOUND MINUSES AND INJURIES HURT

On the mound, Edinson Volquez needed to step up this year. Instead, he stepped down. Volquez’ ERA rose nearly two full points, as did his Hits/9 ratio. He is now a free agent.
Yordano Ventura went from an 8.5 to 9.2 H/9 , allowed nine more home runs, and saw his K/9 drop from 8.6 to 7.0.
Wade Davis was dominating in 2015 when he pitching in a staff-high 69 games. He missed half of July and then the entire month of August due to a forearm strain this season.
Greg Holland had been a strong closer in 2015. But he became a free agent after that season, and then missed the entire 2016 season after needing Tommy John surgery. He is back on the free agent market, though a return to Kansas City is almost certainly not going to happen.

HOW ROYALS LINEUP COULD CONTEND IN 2017

With so many losses and question marks, how can Kansas City hope to contend in 2017?
Part of that answer comes from their own homegrown core of players in Hosmer, Moustakas, catcher Salvador Perez, and left fielder Alex Gordon. Every one of those players was down in some way this year. A bounce-back from those four would go a long way towards contention.
Another key player who needs a recovery season is center fielder Lorenzo Cain. He went from nearly winning the AL MVP in 2015 to being just another guy this past season. Cain has much more talent than he flashed in the 2016 season.
From August 9 on, Jarrod Dyson hit .321 with a .372 on-base percentage and 14 stolen bases. He can be a lineup catalyst.
25-year old Hunter Dozier re-emerged as a prospect, and then made his big league debut. If he can translate his minor league improvement into big league production, it would add another potent bat to the mix.

ROYALS PITCHING RECOVERIES ARE KEY

On the mound, the Royals 2016 Player of the Year was lefty Danny Duffy. He will be a full-time member of the rotation next season after an outstanding summer split between the rotation and bullpen this year.
Jason Vargas was able to return to the rotation at the very end of the season after missing most of the 2015 and 2016 seasons following Tommy John surgery. He is being counted on as a member of the 2017 rotation.
Duffy, Ventura, Vargas, and steady Ian Kennedy would make up a group that, if healthy, can be a Wildcard-contending rotation. There are a number of fifth starter candidates who could also step forward.
In the bullpen, Davis needs to come back strong. If he can return to closing and get solid support from veteran Joakim Soria and youngsters Kelvin Herrera and Matt Strahm, this can be a strong relief corps.
A few of these players will become free agents after the 2017 season, so if it doesn’t work out over the first few months, the trade deadline probably becomes time for management and ownership to make deals to replenish the farm system and try building once again.
With a smart, inexpensive free agent signing or two and the right answers from the players mentioned here, Kansas City can again contend in 2017. With the wrong moves and the wrong answers, they could find the whole team blown up just two years after winning a World Series.

The Other Team Shows Up

Omar Infante’s HR twisted dagger into Hunter Strickland

A funny thing happened last night on the way to the San Francisco Giants inevitable World Series championship. The other team showed up.

The Kansas City Royals erupted for five runs in the 6th inning, then turned the game over to their shutdown back-end bullpen. The result was a 7-2 victory and a 1-1 tie in the 2014 World Series.

That 6th inning eruption likely came as a surprise to many pundits and scribes who, particularly after San Fran’s 7-1 romp in the opener, had already begun the Giants coronation as 2014 champions.

A gentle reminder to them: it’s a best-of-seven series, not a one game elimination.

The Giants still may win this thing. They accomplished the bottom line basic of any team that opens such a series with a pair of games on the road, they won at least one. They go home now for three straight in front of their raucous fans. They hold home field advantage in what has become a best-of-five.

But they did not drive a stake into the bodies of the Kansas City team. Instead, it was the hosts who showed the visitors that they’ll never be Royals (apologies, Lorde.) Kansas City won for the 10th time in 11 postseason games this Fall. Not only did they stay alive, they made a statement.

In a tight 2-2 game in the 6th inning, longtime Royals slugger Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler, whose 1st inning single had tied it early and kept the Giants from mentally burying KC, delivered again. His 2nd rbi single put the Royals on top 3-2 and opened the flood gates.

Butler served up some Country Breakfast in the 6th to put KC on top

Many of those same scribes and pundits who had already buried the Royals have also taken frequent potshots at manager Ned Yost. But it was Yost, again, who pushed the right buttons with his team. He pinch-ran for Butler, and when Salvador Perez ripped a 2-run double to the power alley just to the left of centerfield that runner, Terrance Gore, came around to score, and the Royals had a 5-2 lead.

The damage was done by the Royals against Giants’ reliever Hunter Strickland, who has been consistently crushed during this postseason. But Giants skipper Bruce Bochy, the World Series’ “genius” manager in the eyes of the scribes and pundits, continued to run him out there in key moments.

Strickland wasn’t done making Bochy, or himself, look bad. The next batter, contact hitter Omar Infante, drove a no-doubt-about-it homerun over the left field fence. It was 7-2, and Strickland lost his mind, as he has previously. His screaming tirade directed towards who-knows-who appeared aimed towards Perez, and the two jawed.

In the end, Hunter Strickland devolved from simply a young flame-thrower who got beat in a couple key moments to a young man acting the fool on the biggest stage that baseball has to offer. For Bochy, it has to go down as a “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” moment.

The overmatched (sic) Yost then turned to that shutdown back-end bullpen of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and closer Greg Holland. Herrera dominated in the 6th to get starter Yordano Ventura out of a jam, then struggled a bit when called in to also do the 7th after the long wait while KC scored their runs. But he kicked it up a gear, got out of his own jam, and the Giants were effectively done.

Kelvin Herrera did a nice job powering KC out of two jams

Over the final two innings, Davis and Holland did what Davis and Holland do: they allowed next-to-nothing, and they got touched almost as infrequently. The two allowed just one combined hit, and struck out 5 of the 6 batters they faced.

The bottom line of this affair was that the other team in this series, the Kansas City Royals, finally showed up. Maybe it was a game late, but they answered the Giants romp in the opener with one of their own, looking every bit as dominant on this night as the GMen had on Tuesday.

If there is one lesson that those many scribes and pundits learned as a result, it is that you don’t bury a good team because of one bad game. The Kansas City Royals are a very good team.

In my Power Ranking at the end of the regular season, the Royals finished as the top-ranked team in all of baseball. That team showed up last night, and now we have a series. It probably should have been expected. It was by me.