I felt a little insane listening to the Fox booth lavish praise on the Royals for Eric Hosmer’s dash home to score the tying run on Lucas Duda’s bad throw. “Brilliant baserunning?” Did they see that throw? If Duda doesn’t peg a beer vendor, Hosmer is out and the game is over.
It wasn’t improv from Hosmer; it was the gameplan. Kansas City’s scouts had talked about Lucas Duda’s questionable defense at first, and vowed to test it whenever possible. (“He’s a good bat,” first base coach Rusty Kuntz put it charitably. “One of those kinds of deals.”) David Wright checked Hosmer with a look—Hosmer stood his ground, because no one was covering third—and Hosmer was breaking for home before Wright had released the ball.
There was still plenty of time for Duda to take the ball and make the throw, and would have had Hosmer by feet if he hadn’t sailed the ball high and left.
So, how much to credit Hosmer and the Royals for a decision that was more likely than not to lead to making the last out of the game at the plate?
In the larger picture, Hosmer’s dash fits right in with a philosophy that’s served K.C. well these past few years. One of the reasons they’ve been a nightmare for opponents—and why they’re so much fun to watch—is their aggressiveness, which spills over into occasional recklessness. They’ll steal bases, go first-to-third, generally try for the extra base if it’s remotely available. They’ve run themselves out of rallies, but they’ve also played havoc with opposing fielders, and their success rate—well, it’s impossible to quantify, but they’ve won a pair of pennants and now a championship, and that’s tough to argue with.
The Mets, especially their infield, are prone to mistakes, so the Royals if anything increased their risk-taking.
“Our scouts told us that coming in: “Any time you can maybe ... “ and they remember that stuff,” Kuntz said.
This is all a fair point: if you put pressure on a defense, sometimes it cracks. The Mets cracked in two huge situations in this series, and it happened to two fielders with questionable reputations so it’s more than just randomness. Duda said he was a “little bit surprised” when he saw, out of the corner of his eye, Hosmer breaking from home. Did that shock cause him to rush or clench up on his throw? Probably.
In this isolated instance, the odds were still against the Royals. Kuntz even intimated that this was a call they made only because they were up 3-1 in the series, and considered that two-game lead a safety net. It’s a genius move now because it worked, and no other reason.
But there’s something to be said for a team willing to take risks. Duda may not have been likely to throw the ball away, but without Hosmer’s unhesitating break, Duda definitely wouldn’t have thrown it away. It was a gamble, and even long odds can pay off. And when the stakes are as big as they were last night, there’s no need to worry about regressing to the mean. “It took some balls to make the play,” Duda said. Balls aren’t brains, but sometimes they get the same result.