The Royals first game is in the books and now it’s time to get started on the grind. My initial thought is that this is going to be a long season based on some questionable decisions before the game even started (Betancourt batting sixth), some interesting decisions in-game and a general lack of approach by the team. After reflecting, I may have been a little harsh in the reaction in my mind. The thing we all have to remember is that this is game of 1 of 162 and even the most optimistic predictions had the Royals at 85-90 wins, so they were going to lose at least 72 games no matter what. I might be rationalizing because the offense was terrible and that eighth inning was downright demoralizing.
- Bruce Chen was fantastic. He had hitters off balance all night and generally looked like a pitcher with a plan against a very good Angels lineup. I heard a lot of talk about how guys like Bruce Chen who aren’t all about velocity actually do better on opening day because hitters are a little more amped up than usual and have a hard time slowing down enough to wait for the slow stuff. I’m not sure how legitimate that thought is, but Chen really pitched great all night. I thought it was the right choice to pull him when Yost did, but I wouldn’t have argued if he was out there in the seventh.
- Aaron Crow’s first inning of work was filthy. He struck out the side and flashed the slider that made him an All-Star last season. A lot of people were confused by the decision to go with Crow in the seventh (I would have chosen Holland), but Crow has such great stuff that I can see why Yost chose him. When he is on, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but for one inning at a time (I’ll come back to this).
- Lorenzo Cain plays defense in center field like nobody’s business. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch him play out there all season long. There will be balls Melky Cabrera had absolutely no shot to reach that Cain will get to and turn them into outs. His offense has some holes, but man that defense will make up for a lot.
- Greg Holland allowed two inherited runners to score in 2011. Last night, he allowed three. I don’t think Holland was bad, though he made quite a mistake to Erick Aybar. He did have a couple very softly hit balls end up with runners on base that led to the big inning. He came into a nearly unmanageable situation with the bases loaded and one out, and didn’t come through like we had come to expect from him in 2011. Still, he had excellent stuff last night and looked like the same pitcher as last year.
- I hated the decision by Yost to bring Crow out for his second inning of work. As Drew Osborne (@AwzRocks) mentioned last night on Twitter, it’s very tough for a reliever to regain their intensity for a second inning of work. It’s especially tough when someone has an inning like Crow put together and then sits on the bench for even just a few minutes before getting back out there. I think there are situations where Crow can be good for multiple innings, but games like last night just aren’t it and Yost needs to understand that.
- The Royals approach last night was pretty bad. On one hand, I understand that Weaver gets tougher to hit the deeper you get into the count, but on the other hand, they have to work the count much better. Sometimes the best way to beat the game’s best pitchers is to simply get them out of the game. And the way to do that is to work the count better than they did last night.
- Jeff Francoeur’s poor baserunning cost the Royals one of their best opportunities to score all game. He got picked off after doubling with one out. That’s simply an inexcusable error. I’m not terribly confident that Francoeur will do much positive this season, and even though he doubled, he didn’t start off on a positive note.
- The top of the lineup went 0-16 with 10 strikeouts. Yikes.
- Lorenzo Cain looked absolutely lost at the plate. I think there will be games like this for him, and we have to understand that, but man is it tough to watch when it’s happening.
- The whole team looked out of sync offensively, and I think a lot of that had to do with Weaver, but a lot had to do with it being opening day. I said it above, and there are just some things that this team will do because they are so young that we won’t typically see from a veteran team with as much talent as the Royals have. It’s part of the growing process.
The beauty of baseball is that even though last night’s loss absolutely sucked, they get to get back out there today and erase the memory of the eighth inning. Keep in mind the Angels are really good, Jered Weaver is one of the best in baseball and sometimes losses happen. It just hurts more when it’s the first game of the season. Everything that happens is so glaring because it’s the only stats we can see about anything. Things will get better. They sort of have to.
Follow me on Twitter @DBLesky!