If you’re looking for goat horns upon which to hang the Royals Game 7 loss, you should probably start with Madison Bumgarner. He had as much to do with their loss as anyone.
Maybe, if you’re desperate, you look to Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele for holding Alex Gordon at third base in the ninth. Rather than send Gordon home to his all-but-assured doom, he placed the season in the hands of Salvador Perez. Damned if you do, you might say.
But if you need a boneheaded play with immediate and negative repercussions for Kansas City, look no further than the man who slid headfirst into infamy after Joe Panik made a very memorable stop at second base, starting a third inning double play you’re going to get sick of seeing this winter.
No, I’m not talking about Eric Hosmer’s slide into first base, slowing him down enough for the Giants to record two huge outs. I’m talking about Lorenzo Cain, seconds earlier during the very same play.
We all remember the incredible diving and flip made by Panik, tossing to Brandon Crawford for the force. Crawford made a strong throw to just nail Hosmer. It took a video replay to determine he was really out. It’s a play that will remain in Giants lore forever.
Every split second matters on this play. And yet there is Cain, with the entire thing developing right in front of him, sliding headfirst into second base. The Giants shortstop is able to comfortably plant and fire a strike to first. If Cain makes even a passable attempt at a takeout slide, the chances of converting this improbable double play shrink even more.
It was a mistake, simply put. A brain cramp on the bases at an inopportune time by a player who perhaps contributed more to the Royals postseason surge than any other. There really isn’t any excuse for it, mind you. Cain must, at the very least, disrupt the play and make any relay throw a little more difficult.
With Bumgarner looming and the Royals offense predicated on taking advantage of every opportunity, this play was a killer. Easy to say in hindsight, but there’s no real excuse for Cain’s thoughtless base running in this situation.
Here is the Statcast breakdown of this play. Hosmer’s only out by .02 seconds even after sliding headfirst. Crawford is able to get rid of the ball after 0.77 seconds. If he’s dodging a takeout slide, that surely goes by more than two hundredths of second, right?