Games » Los Angeles AngelsAug9
“Think small.” That was Al Leiter when asked what a team that appeared on the verge of victory needed to do to close out a win. It’s pretty good advice in almost all situations. Concentrate on the details and the big things take care of themselves.
OK, so how does this advice relate to the matter at hand?
In the first inning with runners at first and third, Billy Butler failed to go to his cutoff position on fly ball to Gregor Blanco. The runner at third wasn’t tagging, but a throw home gives the Royals options: if the runner on third tags, and the throw has a chance of getting him, the throw goes through. If the runner doesn’t tag or the throw won’t get there in time, it’s cut. That controls the runner at first.
Except Billy didn’t get to the right spot (and it’s not the first time that’s happened). The runner on first tagged and advanced to second. The next ball was a grounder to Getz that could’ve been a double play that ended the inning, but because Butler didn’t do his job, the runner on third scored.
That’s one run.
In the 2nd inning Sean O’Sullivan walked the number nine hitter. As they say, he’s hitting ninth for a reason. Sean didn’t throw enough strikes, Bobby Abreu doubled next and a guy who’s hitting .160 scored.
That’s two runs.
That’s three runs.
In the ninth with Alex Gordon on third and Willie Bloomquist on second, Mike Aviles hit a soft liner to center. Gordon seemed to think it would drop and didn’t tag. The ball was caught and the throw came into third (which is the right play, Bloomquist was the tying run and they were conceding home plate to Gordon). If Alex had been tagging he could’ve scored easily once he saw the throw coming to third. (Plus, he cost a teammate an RBI and an at-bat.)
That’s four runs.
Some of this needs to be put in perspective: The Angels we’re letting Gordon go home because the important run was represented by Bloomquist and Texeira gave up a hit after the balk that would’ve scored the run anyway.
But a team that is short on talent can’t afford to make mental mistakes and screw up fundamentals. These guys are being given an extended chance to show what they can do at this level and this game was not good for their resume. The good news is this stuff is fixable.
Just think small.
In the ninth inning, Willie Bloomquist got a hit and moved Alex Gordon to second. He immediately yelled “Gordo!” and whistled. Once he had Alex’s attention, he swirled a finger around and pointed at his own eyes, the sign for ‘look around’. That’s a smart older ballplayer reminding a young one to check the fielders. If you know where they’re standing, a runner might be able to take off right away instead of waiting to see if a ball drops.
Lots of change-ups featured in this game. One of the best pitches in baseball and one of the most neglected. Young guys like to light up the radar gun or see the snap on a great breaking pitch, but get a little less excited about throwing a pitch that moves like a Yugo running out of gas…but they’re wrong. That fastball they blew by lesser competition needs a little help in the big leagues and the change-up is it. Anyone can learn one: the fastball is held out in the fingertips, the change is buried in the palm. Make an ‘OK’ sign, bury the ball in your palm and then throw it without snapping down the fingers (like you’re pulling down a window shade). You can throw it as hard as you want and, because of the inefficient release, it’s got the same trajectory as well-thrown dead fish.
Speaking of velocity; Wilson Betemit clearly swung at ball four in his at-bat in the eighth inning. If you haven’t played, you might wonder why he would chase a pitch that bad. Here’s the answer: 97 mph. That’s how hard Fernando Rodney was throwing. When hitters face a guy bringing it like that, they don’t swing harder. It doesn’t work (there’s a technical explanation, but trust me…it doesn’t work). Facing gas, hitters swing earlier, but that makes their pitch selection worse through no fault of their own. So don’t blame Betemit. If Rodney wants to throw that hard, they should make him throw from behind the mound.