Games » New York YankeesAug12
Jason Kendall struck out to end this game with the tying run on third. I’ve been asked how I can watch this many games (seems like about 2,111 so far) played by a team that has won so little. At-bats like this are the reason I stay interested.
OK, here we go: Bottom of the ninth, two out, tying run on third, winning run on first, Kendall at the plate. Everybody knows Jason likes the ball out over the plate, so that might dictate that you pitch inside. On the other hand, teams don’t like to get beat inside late. That’s where the power is, and even though Kendall hasn’t hit a home run since Ronald Reagan was president, the Yankees have clearly decided they can live with him flipping a ball into right to tie the game, but don’t want him driving the gap and allowing the winning run (represented by pinch-runner Chris Getz) to score from first.
0-0: The first pitch from Yankees reliever David Robertson is a low and away fastball at 94 mph. It misses.
1-0: Another 94-mph fastball, this time a strike, but too low for Kendall’s liking.
1-1: An 84-mph curve that starts in the zone and dives out. There’s only a split-second (or maybe like a 10th of a split-second) to make a decision about the ball’s final location. Kendall guesses wrong but fouls it off.
1-2: Another 94-mph fastball. It’s well outside, but Kendall dives to the outside corner and fouls it straight back. When a ball is fouled straight back, it means the hitter’s timing is right on. The pitcher has some options at this point: He can safely go up out of the zone since the hitter’s swing was under the ball; he can change speeds to mess with the hitter’s timing or, if he has a pitch to waste, he can use a “purpose pitch” to set up the “out pitch.”
Robertson wants to clear the outside corner since Kendall can clearly handle a ball well off the plate. So he goes up and in at 91 mph and narrowly misses hitting Jason in the face. Kendall has been hit by a pitch 253 times. I’m guessing it’s mainly because he refuses to back off in this situation and concede the outside corner to the pitcher.
2-2: Robertson throws another curve, probably not quite where he wants it, but hopes “buzzing the tower” will make Kendall leery of diving to protect the outside corner. It doesn’t. Jason dives and is able to get a piece of the pitch and foul it off.
2-2: Robertson throws another 94-mph fastball to the outside corner. Jason still refuses to back off and fouls this one straight back also. So now what? Kendall is clearly covering the curve down and the outside corner. It’s hard to go inside because he’s diving and if you hit him, you push the winning run on first into scoring position. Billy Butler’s on deck, and you don’t want to bring him to the plate with a chance to win the game with a single.
So Robertson subtracts.
2-2: Another curveball, but this one’s at 80 mph, and the 14-mph difference between the last fastball and this pitch gets Kendall. A swinging strikeout, drive home safely.
I know the Royals are losing, but how can you not enjoy a battle like that?
A few other plays…
Wilson Betemit hit a double and seemed to stay in the box admiring his handiwork a tick too long. No telling if he could’ve made third if he’d busted out of the box, but there was one out, it was hit to right and if you’re going for a triple, that’s the time to try. Naturally, Kendall made the second out on a fly ball to center field that would’ve scored the run had Betemit been on third.
Butler hit into another double play, and it appeared that Kendall had a chance to break it up, but peeled off. Neither of these plays were scored mental mistakes, mainly because it’s not clear if a different approach would’ve yielded different results and because it’s kind of hard to know what’s going on in a guy’s head.
There are obvious mistakes (and I’ve tried to catch those), but there are other borderline plays that were originally scored mental mistakes and then changed once I got further information. You see a guy loaf on a grounder and it seems an obvious mistake, and then you find out he was nursing a sore hamstring and ordered not risk injury.
If I get a chance to ask about these, I will.
Mike Aviles got an error on a double-play ball, but he had help. His throw to Yuniesky Betancourt was low, but could’ve been caught with a better effort by Yuni. Plays like this drive everybody crazy, even Betancourt’s defenders. The play didn’t result in the Yankees scoring, but cost Bruce Chen extra pitches he shouldn’t have had to throw.
Wilson Betemit made an error on the first batter in the seventh inning. That led to the winning run being scored. Leadoff walks and errors are more destructive than walks and errors later in the inning, because the offense has all three outs available to push the run around the bases.
Case in point: The error was made on Derek Jeter. He advanced to second on a single, advanced to third on a fly-ball out and came home on a groundout. If Betemit had made the error with even one out in the inning, the run wouldn’t have scored, and the Royals would’ve tied it in the ninth. Hence (that’s a word, right?) the old baseball saying, “Get the first out and the inning is half-over.”
Sounds like Yogi Berra.