Thehave existed since 1969. Their Opening Day center fielder that year was a 25-year-old Lou Piniella, and the team also featured a 20-year-old catcher by the name of Buck Martinez. The franchise is currently building its 43rd year of history, and has a pair of World Series appearances and seven postseason berths to its name.
Over the course of the Royals' existence, the team has had a number of terrific pitchers. Not so much lately, although there has been Zack Greinke. But longer ago, there was Kevin Appier. David Cone. Paul Splittorff. Mark Gubicza. Bret Saberhagen. Dan Quisenberry. Charlie Leibrandt. Dennis Leonard. Steve Busby had a stretch. Larry Gura had a stretch. And on a team level, the Royals have twice led the league in ERA. They've finished second four times, and third five times. The Royals have had some good pitching talent, and good pitching performances.
And yet it was tonight, with Felipe Paulino, Greg Holland and Joakim Soria, that the Royals might've had the best statistical team pitching effort in franchise history.
No, they didn't keep theshut out. Throughout their history, the Royals have thrown 379 individual or team shutouts. They have on 653 other occasions kept the opponent to one run. The Mariners scored two runs. But let's look beyond the runs.
Tonight, Royals pitchers faced 29 batters. They allowed two hits while walking none and striking out 16. Twice before Royals pitchers have struck out 17 batters in a game, but both of those games went to 17 innings. On six other occasions, Royals pitchers struck out 16 batters, all in nine innings.
But none of those games were walkless, and all of them featured at least two runs and at least five hits. The previous team record for strikeouts in a game without any walks or hit batters was 12, done twice. Tonight, the three Royals pitchers combined for 16, for a 33% improvement.
I'm not going to put my foot down and declare that the Royals have never had a better statistical pitching night than this, but if they have, it must be close. The lone blemishes tonight were a couple solo home runs, and one of them only barely got out. They were dominant to the eye, and they were dominant in the numbers. Maybe the most dominant ever, for them.
When you adjust for the fact that the Royals were facing the Mariners, then, obviously, some of the shine comes off. But there's a reason I've been using the word "statistical". Major League numbers are Major League numbers, and if nothing else I guess it's kind of cool that the M's might've been a part of history.
Some bullet holes for a game that I'm pretty sure nobody watched!
- If Michael Pineda is feeling fatigue from the long season, he sure as hell didn't show it tonight. Yes, he had a rough three-run first inning that featured a double and a home run, but the home run was just a good piece of hitting the other way, and from that point on, Pineda was in control. He got through eight innings with 101 pitches - 71% strikes - and he finished with a walk, eight strikeouts, and 20 whiffs. His velocity was good from the beginning, and he closed with what was recorded as a 96mph heater.
For those of you who're curious, just seven of his 101 pitches were changeups. Six of those changeups were balls. It's still not a very good pitch, or a good pitch, or a decent pitch. But Michael Pineda has done what he's done over a full season without that pitch, so one has to wonder how important it really is. Obviously, developing a consistent change would make Pineda better, but now we have a year's worth of evidence to suggest that he doesn't need it to be very good. I didn't expect that six months ago.
One start left. No matter how Pineda does, this has been an amazing rookie season. Michael Pineda is a rookie, and his strikeout rate ranks between Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum. Michael Pineda is a rookie, and he has the same K/BB as Felix Hernandez.
- In the fourth inning, Pineda reached out and tried to barehand a Salvador Perez groundball comebacker. Pitchers, of course, are never supposed to reach out and try to barehand a comebacker. Mike Blowers remarked on the broadcast that Pineda is still young, and that he'll learn. He won't learn. Pitchers never learn. Every pitcher barehands.
- Pineda closed out the top of the seventh with a swinging strikeout of Alcides Escobar, and walked to the dugout to rousing applause, and this guy:
I so badly want standing ovations to be replaced by standing thumbs-ups. I so badly want it. At least just once. For Jorge Posada. Because he looks like a thumb.
- This was a pitch that Ichiro took for a called strikeout in the sixth:
This is how that pitch looked on Gameday:
According to PITCHfx, Ichiro struck out looking at a low, inside fastball. According to reality, Ichiro struck out looking at a high changeup. Why, those two things are not alike!
Don't take this the wrong way, or make too big a deal of it. PITCHfx data is still absolutely amazing, and the pitches are accurate like 99.99% of the time. But this is not unprecedented. Sometimes PITCHfx just gets a pitch flat wrong. It's something that needs to be corrected or monitored before we start thinking about using the system to determine in-game strike zones.
- The Mariners went down 1-2-3 against Paulino in the bottom of the seventh, but that half-inning could have been very different. Before striking out, Dustin Ackley pulled a deep line drive just foul. Mike Carp followed with a deep drive that Jeff Francoeur caught with a leap in front of the yellow line on the right field wall. And then Justin Smoak drilled a liner into straightaway center that Melky Cabrera caught on the move. Those were three almost-extra-base-hits in a row that instead went for three consecutive outs. I'm pretty sure we're still paying for those Carlos Peguero/Angels games. Turns out those were really really really lucky.
- Los Marineros: where the extra lower-case o represents the lower-case offense!
- In the bottom of the second, Justin Smoak ripped a 2-2 slider out to right field for his 14th home run, and second home run in three nights. Both were from the left side, where he had the most trouble dealing with his hand injury. That would be his only hit as he finished 1-for-3, but he also had that lineout, and this is encouraging. This is power, which Smoak went so long without flashing. This is what we wanted to see from him in September.
It isn't all positive. Since coming back, Smoak has zero walks and 11 strikeouts. But I don't know how much of that is him, and how much of that is just him trying to fit in with everybody else. I don't know if you've noticed but this team doesn't walk and it also strikes out all the time.
- In the bottom of the fourth, Paulino fell behind Mike Carp 2-0. He threw a fastball down the middle of the plate that Carp fouled off. He followed that with a fastball down the middle of the plate that Carp fouled off. He followed that with a fastball down the middle of the plate that Carp fouled off. He followed that with a fastball down the middle of the plate that Carp hit for a home run.
The home run sailed out to left-center, which is the second time Carp has done that this season. Have you ever wanted Adrian Gonzalez, except a version of Adrian Gonzalez who looks worse and plays worse? Then have I got the player for you!
- This is Mike Carp laying out for a catch in the top of the ninth after a full-speed pursuit:
Eric Hosmer's liner was a sure double off the bat, but somehow Carp of all people came out of nowhere to make a highlight. Carp's probably no stranger to diving for line drives, having been a first baseman. And in the outfield, he gets to land on grass instead of dirt, which is nice.
We know that Mike Carp is not a good defensive left fielder. We know that, at best, Mike Carp is a passable defensive left fielder. Let this be proof that passable or even below-average defenders can turn in the occasional gem.
- Miguel Olivo was running from first when Kyle Seager hit a line drive to Melky Cabrera in the fifth. Cabrera made the catch and threw to first, where Olivo was very barely doubled off. Eric Wedge came out to argue, then barely argued, then nodded his head, then left. Pretty much, yeah.
Anthony Vasquez tomorrow afternoon. To level the playing field, the Royals will counter with one Everett James Teaford, an English professor of political science.