Games » Detroit TigersSep3
If you’re trying to figure out how this one got away, you could do worse than looking at the following two plays: In the second inning Gregor Blanco hit a triple, driving in a run and putting the Royals up 4-0. Blanco stood at third with one down and Mitch Maier coming to the plate with a chance to drive in the fifth run of the inning: So far, so good.
Even though it was early in the game, the Tigers brought the infield in, a bit of a desperation move. Bringing the infield in supposedly puts about .100 points on a hitter’s average, but it’s done when you just can’t afford to give up another run on an infield grounder.
(Timeout for a sidebar: Zack Greinke on the mound changes things. When a pitcher is that good, the opposition knows they can’t get too far down: they won’t be able to make it up. Conversely, the stud pitcher’s team knows they don’t need that many runs to win and might play small ball early. In fact, Brayan Pena had shown bunt in the second inning, right before his double, so the Royals were thinking along the same lines. The Tigers clearly felt being down five runs against Greinke would be too much, so the infield was in…OK, time back in.)
With less than two outs, before a pitch is thrown, the base coach lets the runner on third know whether he’s going on contact (any ball coming off the bat at a ‘down angle’) or making the ball get through the infield before heading home.
When the infield’s in, the contact play is rarely on. I mean, that’s why the defense is in: so you can’t score on a grounder. You’ve gotta be way fast to pull this off, but Gregor is, so maybe the play was on. (Sorry, there’s a lot of explanation to understand what happened, but hang in there…it’s worth it.)
OK, so maybe the play was on, maybe it wasn’t, but the infield was in for sure. Mitch Maier needed to drive a pitch to the outfield, but didn’t do it. He hit a weak grounder to first, but Gregor was on his way home anyway.
When the first baseman picked up the ball, Blanco was still about halfway home and should’ve had time to stop and get in a rundown. That’s the correct play here: run back and forth like a teenager with a new iPod until your teammate (Mitch) can get to second.
Gregor didn’t do that. He just ran home and got tagged out by…oh, a rough estimate would be…a whole lot. So Maier was still at first when Billy Butler hit a groundball single. That might’ve driven Mitch in if he’d been in scoring position.
That’s one run.
The second play is much easier to describe (thank God… or, for the agnostics in the crowd, thank goodness): In the seventh inning, Robinson Tejeda threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded. The immensely likeable Brayan Pena tried to backhand it, instead of blocking it, and the ball bounced away.
That’s two runs…and your ballgame.
P.S. That’s a little unfair: one or two plays never decide an entire ballgame, but they can be crucial. That’s why you’ve got to do things right ALL the time: you never know what the crucial plays will be until the game’s over.
P.P.S. Two more walks scored and that didn’t help either.
By the way…
Gregor Blanco has been crushing the mental mistake category since his arrival. It doesn’t mean he’s dumb. There’s smart and there’s baseball smart. Baseball smart is having the right reaction in the right situation and a guy with a two-digit I.Q. can learn to do that with hard work…look at me. Plus, this is a small sample and maybe Gregor’s just going through a bad spell, but he’s got six mental mistakes already (he also failed to go back and tag up on a ball to the outfield when he was at second with 0 outs). Whether this is a regular pattern or an aberration I can’t say, but it’s worth watching.
More points of interest…and there were a lot of them…
Brayan Pena got base running points for a great read on Yuni’s soft single to left center and scored from second (for a guy built like a parade float, Brayan’s faster than you’d think) and Betancourt got points for a good read and advancing to second on the throw home.
Kila Ka’aihue got a mental mistake when he stayed at first and forced Gil Meche to go a long way to field a sacrifice bunt (almost too long). Chris Getz was doing his job and coming over to cover. Any doubt on the pitcher making the play and Kila needs to go to the ball.
Josh Fields made a crucial error when he didn’t move forward on a groundball. Like Keith Hernandez said, if you’re not moving forward, you’re probably in trouble. On the other hand, Josh saved extra bases with a great play earlier.
Eddie Rodriguez deserves some love for handling a tough situation well: two base runners close together, one needing to go home the other one needing to stay put. (Third base coaches get no recognition for guys being safe, but get buried when guys are out…what’s fair about that?)
The play came up when Fields correctly went back to second on Brayan Pena’s deep fly ball to the outfield (the same play Blanco blew earlier). If the ball had been caught, Josh would tag and be at third with one out. Alex Gordon also did the right thing for a runner on first: advance as far as you can and see what happens. The end result? The two runners were standing right next to each other when the ball fell in and they took off for third. Eddie now HAS to send Josh: two runners standing on third is one over the limit, but he’s also got to get Alex stopped. With two runners this close together (and I think they were holding hands) the timing is tricky, but Eddie pulled it off. Kudos. (Whatever the hell that means…they say it on the editorial page a lot…actually, too much.)
Positive points for the Blanco-Getz-Pena relay to nail a runner at home, Mitch Maier’s sliding catch against the wall and turning a double into a single with a good route, Kila handling an in-between hop, Yuniesky running from short to Overland Park to grab a flare, Fields pickup at third and two plays off the mound by Zack. There are plenty of games that don’t have a single outstanding play: this one had at least eight. Lots of good defense in one night, too bad it didn’t end better.