KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Five observations on the current state of the Royals …
Royals fans remember all too well what became known as the Ned Game.
Back on May 6, the Royals lost a heartbreaking 2-1 game to the White Sox, a loss that unfurled when manager Ned Yost took out starter James Shields, who had thrown eight shutout innings.
Closer Greg Holland couldn’t protect a 1-0 lead, and Kelvin Herrera then lost the game in extra innings.
The stunning defeat instantly deflated the Royals, and the hangover effect from that loss seemed to linger for weeks.
Including that loss, the Royals dropped 19 of 23 games, and Royals fans on Twitter traced the collapse to the Ned Game.
Well, now Royals fans are praying another puzzling coaching decision won’t send the Royals spiraling again.
The Royals, after climbing all the way back to the .500 mark, are now 1-4 since the Eddie Game — the game Tuesday night when third base coach Eddie Rodriguez mysteriously gave the stop sign for baserunner David Lough, who was about to score the tying run from second base after a single to right by Alcides Escobar in the ninth.
Lough, it appeared, would have scored easily, but was held up by Rodriguez and eventually was trapped in a rundown. The Indians tagged out the trailing runner, Mike Moustakas, on the play and eventually escaped with a 4-3 win that first numbed Royals fans, then enraged them.
Again, a hangover effect from the crushing loss occurred. The Royals immediately spun into a four-game slide before pulling out a White Sox-aided 7-6 win Sunday.
But here’s the thing about tough losses no matter how they occur: Good teams get over them, forget about them, move past them. Good teams find a way to flush the bad, and get back in a winning mode long before monikers like the “Eddie Game” gain much traction.
The Royals owe that to Rodriguez, who otherwise has made solid decisions as the third base coach in two-plus seasons.
THE DYSON EFFECT
The Royals obviously have been searching for any kind of offensive spark they can find, ever since Jarrod Dyson was injured last month in Anaheim, Calif.
Dyson finally is back, and he provided that spark Sunday with two hits, including a homer, and a stolen base.
The trick now for Yost is finding a way to keep Dyson in the lineup, which would mean moving Lorenzo Cain to right field and would also mean putting another left-handed hitting outfielder, David Lough, on the bench. Cain presently is in a miserable slump, but that won’t last, and the Royals need his power potential. The Royals also need Dyson’s game-changing speed in the order.
DON’T MESS WITH HOZ
Here’s hoping that seeing Escobar back in the No. 2 spot in the order Sunday was simply a one-game blip.
First baseman Eric Hosmer finally pulled himself out of a season-long slump when he was inserted into the No. 2 spot, hitting .308 there with a .352 on-base percentage. But he was in the No. 3 spot Sunday and promptly went 0 for 5.
Escobar has proven he’s not a No. 2 hitter this season — just .246 with a woeful .274 on-base percentage there. Escobar, though, has thrived in the No. 9 hole — .298 with a .327 on-base percentage.
Like I mentioned, let’s hope Sunday’s order was just a one-day makeshift job.
THE TROUBLE WITH HERRERA
The good news about reliever Kelvin Herrera is that he hasn’t given up a homer since his return from the minors. The bad news is that his command has been shaky at best, and he’s flirting with a return trip to Omaha.
Herrera has walked four batters and given up five hits and five runs in his last four outings.
One Royals official told me, “He’s pitching scared, probably because of the home runs (eight) he gave up earlier. He needs to forget about the past and just challenge guys and attack the zone.”
Earlier this season, Herrera was virtually unhittable, mainly because he mixed in his changeup early in counts. Now he seems to be focusing simply on getting his fastball over, which even at 100 mph becomes hittable when hitters see it too much.
It may not always look pretty, but right-hander Wade Davis is giving the Royals exactly what they want out of a No. 4 starter.
Davis has thrown three straight quality starts, and has given up just six runs in his last 24-plus innings. At this pace, he has a good chance of holding off any challenges from starters Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino when they finish their rehab assignments.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.