Games » Minnesota TwinsSep6
This is another one of those ‘he-pitched-better-than-the-box-score-indicates’ games, but as Sean O’Sullivan said himself, sooner or later you’ve got to get results. O’Sullivan’s been working on keeping the ball down in the zone (it’s the key to the Royals’ pitching philosophy), but he was too down at times and walked five.
Only one of them scored, but take a wild guess how much the Royals lost by.
Sean was also down in the zone when he threw a 2-2 pitch to Jim Thome in the 5th. Down and away will work on a lefty (also up around the hands), but down and in to a left-hander is deadly (if you see a pitch headed there, get ready to wince). Jim went all Tiger Woods (pre-sex scandal) on that pitch and golfed it off the top of a flag pole in right. If it hadn’t of been for Ol’ Glory, that ball might’ve landed in Canada…or whatever the next country is beyond Target Field’s right field fence.
In the 8th inning Denard Span hit a sinking line drive to Alex Gordon. This is one of the hardest plays for an outfielder to judge: should it be played on a hop or can the catch be made?
Most ballplayers want to make the catch. If they lay back and let the ball drop in, it looks bad and they get booed. Fans may appreciate a diving attempt that doesn’t result in an out, but managers take a dimmer view.
So what’s the right play? Depends on a lot of factors: Score (if the catch isn’t made what are the results?) Outs (two outs nobody on, play it for a single and make them get two more hits to score the run…two outs bases loaded already down by three, you might want to attempt the catch). Stage of the game (early, be conservative, make them earn the run and if they get it, you’ve got plenty of time to get it back, late, be aggressive, one run may mean the ball game).
The fielder also needs to take trajectory into account (a missed flare won’t be far away, a line drive will continue to the wall) and whether it’s in the gap (help should be coming) or down the line (you’re on your own). Lots to think about and it all needs to be considered BEFORE the ball’s in play. There’s not time to think about this stuff while you’re on the run.
In any case, Alex mangled this one. He got caught in-between, which is understandable, but played it off to the side, which is not. If you miss one of these, you want the ball to hit you and stay in front. The catcher takes a beating nightly and infielders are expected to step in front of 100 MPH grounders. Outfielders aren’t making much of a sacrifice when they sacrifice their bodies on this play. Alex didn’t get in front and got burned.
Score one for John Gibbons. He told me Gregor Blanco’s arm was better than I thought (I’d seen two mediocre throws and a downright lousy one), but in the 8th inning Gregor made a great throw. With Denard Span on third, what looked like a sac fly was hit to Blanco in centerfield. Gregor made the throw home on the fly…maybe he just needed inspiration…or desperation…whatever it was, great throw. Gibby’s right, he might not be consistent, but it’s in there.
On the other end of the throw was Brayan Pena. You actually don’t see a lot of guys thrown out at home plate and there are reasons: bad throws, not the best glove (or in this case: mitt) for making the play and a guy waiting for the ball who knows he’s going to get blasted at some point. (The same reason football receivers going over the middle drop easy passes.) Knowing you’re about to get hit by a 210-pound man moving at high speed can affect your concentration.
Brayan made the play…sort of. The catcher puts his left foot directly on the third base line and his right foot points toward the defender throwing the ball. After receiving the ball, the catcher holds his glove closed or holds the ball in his first wrapped in the glove (the runner will try to knock it out) and collapses towards the back half of the plate. That’s the part that was left open so the runner will head there and the catcher will try to get there in time to ‘ride him off the plate’. Go all Mr. Miyagi on the runner and redirect his momentum away from the dish.
Pena did most of this, but as the runner approached, Brayan dropped his left foot back and never blocked the plate. Span was actually safe, but the umpire was blocked from that view and called him out.
So do you give outstanding play points for making most of a difficult play that results in an out? Or do you deny the points because Pena’s technique was incorrect? This is a moral dilemma that means almost nothing to anyone. Go to the game grid if you want to see what I decided to do.
Dusty gets a shout out…
Dusty Hughes complained nobody pays any attention to a middle reliever unless they blow the ball game. Dusty pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings in this one and gave the Royals a chance to win (they didn’t take him up on it). So there it is…Dusty did good.