by John Viril—
A day after the Kansas City Royals made the defensive play of the year to preserve a 1-0 victory, manager Ned Yost managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with yet another bonehead decision. Tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 8th against the Detroit Tigers, Yost sent starter Jeremy Guthrie out to the mound. Guthrie had given up 12 hits. He’d had to pull Houdini-like escape acts to surrender no more than two runs on the day up to that point. By some miracle, the Royals had just tied the game against dominating Detroit starter Max Scherzer. For some unknown reason, Yost decided to tempt fate by continuing with Guthrie—despite his 102 pitches at the start of the inning.
Yost quickly got burned.
After striking out Omar Infante to start the bottom of the 8th, Guthrie hung a slider to Alex Aliva—who parked it over the fence for a 1-run Detroit lead. The Royals were unable to score in the 9th, which allowed the Tigers to hang on for a 3-2 win.
Old School Stupid strikes again. I really can’t imagine what Yost was thinking at that point. He has the BEST FREAKING BULLPEN IN BASEBALL. He has a starter who has wobbled through the entire game and the Tigers had finally pulled Max Scherzer after 116 pitches. You had to like the matchup of KC’s outstanding pen vs. a Detroit relief staff that has been a weakness all season. What possible reason could Yost have to continue with Guthrie?
Was it a simple case of monkey-see, monkey-do? Detroit manager Jim Leyland had gone 116 pitches with Scherzer, so could Yost have simply thought, “If Leyland goes with his starter for 116 pitches in a pennant race, then I guess I better do the same thing. Leyland has won three pennants and one World Series.” Or, could Yost have felt some bizarre obligation to give Guthrie a “chance to earn a win” by finishing off the eighth as the pitcher of record?
Fans who like to defer to baseball authority constantly remind critics that, “You don’t know everything that X knows”. I can’t imagine some secret knowledge that could have justified this decision. Yost had 11 relievers available with the expanded September rosters. You can’t tell me that all 11 of them were unavailable to pitch in a playoff run. It’s not as if Guthrie were dominating. He was surviving by smoke and mirrors.
As much as I have criticized Ned Yost this season, I do give him some credit for the Royals continued relevance in the playoff chase. While it is true he’s made tactical blunders and his team has had an unfortunate tendency to allow tough losses to snowball into losing streaks, the Royals have also rebounded multiple times after looking like the season was going down the tubes. This resiliency is to Yost’s credit.
Yet, Yost seems to give back everything he gains with regular tactical mistakes. It’s as if Yost picks up the bullpen phone and a traditionalist demon eats his brain.
In the end, Yost’s Old School Stupid alter ego is likely to cost his team a playoff berth.
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