KANSAS CITY -- I think if the Cubs had made one more baserunning mistake during Friday night's 6-4 win over the Royals, I was going to go down to the field and start holding a baserunning clinic myself.
Come to think of it, I would probably have to have taught the Royals, too. The Cubs had four runners thrown out on the bases (either by trying to stretch hits that they shouldn't have or via being caught stealing), and the Royals had two, including a runner who was safe at first base on a bunt single, attempted to steal second, was safe there, overran the base where Starlin Castro missed an easy tag, and only then was out in a rundown (mercifully, shorter than most recent Cubs rundowns) between second and third.
Actually, my friend Julie DiCaro summed it up best in this tweet during the game:
I'm telling you, this game is like the #Cubs playing themselves.
Let's make it clear that says "playing themselves", not "playing with themselves". This is, after all, a family blog.
When it was all over, the Cubs had their win thanks, in part, to a controversial umpiring call in the ninth inning. How these two teams managed to score four runs each by that time is beyond me, although KC's Jeff Francoeur hit a home run for two of them -- even that might not have guaranteed scoring, since it's possible to pass a runner after a home run is hit and negate a run or runs. I'm almost surprised that didn't happen.
Anyway, after Alfonso Soriano struck out, Tony Campana (who had entered the game in the eighth) popped a bunt down the third base line, which landed just on the grass in front of 3B Mike Moustakas' glove.
Or did it? Moustakas thought he caught it, but plate umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled a trap. Moustakas hesitated briefly before throwing, and that gave enough time for the speedy Campana to reach base.
That, somehow, energized the Cubs. DJ LeMahieu singled, and then Kosuke Fukudome hit what should have been a double-play ball. Even that would have given the Cubs the lead if Fukudome would have beaten the relay throw, as Campana was on third base. But it took a funny hop on Chris Getz, everyone was safe, and the Cubs added a second run on a Starlin Castro single.
As if this wasn't ugly enough, Ryan Dempster barely made it through six innings; he gave up nine hits, including Francoeur's home run, and threw just 70 strikes in 108 pitches. Since he gave up only three earned runs, thanks to his own throwing error just before that homer, he gets a "quality start" -- one of the worst such starts I've ever seen. But the Cubs bullpen did a good job of keeping the Royals scoreless, even though Chris Carpenter walked the first two hitters he faced. This is a real problem I have with the reflexive lefty/righty pitcher matchup thing that most managers do. James Russell got two quick outs on nine pitches -- but since the next hitter was LH, Mike Quade got him out of there for Carpenter, who nearly blew the inning with the walks.
Carlos Marmol was a bit shaky also, walking the first batter he faced and putting the tying run on via a Billy Butler double with two out before getting Alex Gordon to ground out to end it. Good thing, too, with Francoeur due up next. I almost expected that ground ball to do something weird, but Starlin Castro handled it flawlessly. Given what occurred Friday night, that wasn't necessarily routine.
Kauffman Stadium, known to locals as "The K", is a very nice place to watch a baseball game. The renovations to the park, completed before the 2009 season, added seats, restaurants, and a Royals Hall of Fame (which I did not see last night but intend to before I leave) in the outfield, where before only fountains inhabited the space beyond the OF wall. Everything is clean and easy to find; the seats I had in section 113 down the LF line had great sightlines (although you do have to turn a bit to face the plate). The food was good and, by 2011 major league standards, not overpriced.
Employees, mostly dressed in polo shirts of various colors (none of which was Royals blue, oddly) and cowboy hats, were unfailingly friendly. It reminded me, actually, of an overgrown spring training stadium, with the open concourses and friendly locals, although there were far more Cubs fans than Royals fans in the crowd of 32,921 (not quite a sellout, though the only open seats were at the top of the upper deck, and a sellout is expected Saturday night), perhaps 60% or more of the total. The cheering for Cubs runs, good plays (yes, there even were some of those), and the wins, were the loudest I've heard at any Cubs road game outside of Milwaukee, and maybe louder than some of those, too.
Royals management does everything right -- except for getting fans out of the parking lot. My hotel is approximately eight miles from the K. It took an hour to get back. Four lanes of traffic were shoved down to two and then one, and then onto a single-lane access road where, because I followed a sign to I-70 (the route to the hotel), I wound up going the wrong way down this road. Turning around and going the other way was no help, as traffic was being bottlenecked by police about a mile down the road -- for no particular reason, as once I got past the police, it was all open. It was the worst parking lot mess I have ever been in, and I've been to Dodger Stadium with a full house.
But other than that, the Royals were fine hosts, both for the Cubs and their fans. Thanks to the BCBers who stopped by last night; hope to see more of you tonight, and another Cubs win. The elusive three-game winning streak might be at hand.