Royals looking to get quick fix against Tigers
Steals leader Dyson says speed element crucial to offensive success
DETROIT -- Stop the Royals' speed game and you can beat them. That seems to be the Tigers' plan and it certainly helped in their 6-3 victory on Friday night.
The Tigers were ecstatic about catcher Alex Avila's throw-out of Emilio Bonifacio at second base and pitcher Justin Verlander's pickoff of Jarrod Dyson at first base in the game.
Speed is one of the most important weapons of the Royals. They lead the American League in stolen bases -- 141 through Friday -- and are last in home runs (103).
"It's real important to this team, because we've got a bunch of guys that really don't hit the long ball so we've got to take advantage of every bag we can get, every base we can get," said Dyson, the team leader with 31 steals. "It isn't really important to too many teams. Like Detroit doesn't lean on stolen bases, they lean on guys getting on so their power hitters can get up and do what they're paid to do."
The Tigers offer a stark contrast -- they ranked last in stolen bases (32) and were fourth in home runs (165).
Speed is crucial, though, for the Royals who led the season series against the Tigers, 9-8, entering Saturday night's game.
"It's an advantage for us, but clubs have done a good job here lately of really focusing on it," manager Ned Yost said. "But the more you focus on that, it takes away your focus from other things, too."
The Royals had far more steals -- 24 in 29 attempts -- against the Tigers than any other opponent so there's no doubt that Verlander was focusing on Dyson after he bunted his way on base with two outs.
"Verlander's very quick. It all predicates on the pitcher. The catcher's the one that gets all the stats, but if the pitcher is quick to the plate and has a quick move to first, you can stop it," Yost said. "He's extremely quick. He's like James Shields-quick over there."
The Royals' Shields, who strikes like a rattlesnake, has the most pickoffs (27) of any right-handed pitcher since 2006. Verlander emulated him with a snap throw to catch Dyson when the Tigers' lead was just 3-1.
"They can be game-changers, because they know if we get to second, we're scoring on almost any base hit so their main job is to control our running game," Dyson said. "Our job is to take advantage of it."
Later in the game, Alcides Escobar and Dyson each pulled off a stolen base, but neither resulted in a run so Tigers manager Jim Leyland was satisfied with his club's effort.
"We finally were able to stop some of it," Leyland said. "I'm proud of them because for one night at least, we shut it down pretty good."
Don't look for the Royals to be slowing down, though.
"We're mostly gap-to-gap guys. We hit a lot of singles and doubles and we take extra bases. That's what we do," Dyson said. "You love to see the long ball because the guys on the bases don't have to do anything but jog. But if you don't have the long ball, you've got to go to your next tool and that's taking advantage on the bases."