Games » Detroit TigersSep20
Zack Greinke’s got a dilemma (actually, he’s probably got several dilemmas…I’m dealing with about 73 myself), but let’s concentrate on Zack’s pitching dilemma: If he strikes a lot of people out, his pitch count will go up and he’ll be out of the game before he can hand a lead to Joakim Soria…and if he pitches to contact, letting the hitters put the ball in play, his defense might let him down.
In the third inning of this game, Zack got a routine grounder hit to third baseman Wilson Betemit. Wilson reacted as if the ball were a wet bar of soap shot out of a bazooka. He tried to grab it about six times, but never found the handle. One run was already in that inning, but Betemit booting a possible double play ball led to two more…and the Royals lost by, you guessed it, two.
If Zack doesn’t want the ball hit to third (Betemit) or first (Kila Ka’aihue’s considered about average and Billy Butler’s not), that leaves him with Mike Aviles at second (a work in progress) or Yuniesky Betancourt.
The other plan available to a pitcher who wants to keep his pitch count low is getting fly balls hit to the outfield. But with smaller parks, harder balls, maple bats and hitters on the Jack LaLanne workout program (you might have to look that reference up), that’s like a fire eater wearing a gasoline-soaked tuxedo: You might get away with it, but you better be careful. Will Rhymes, the Tigers’ leadoff hitter, (who stands about five foot-nuthin’, weighs 155 pounds and about 25 of that is hair) took Zack deep for the game-winner, just to prove my point.
Greinke has several ways he can pitch, but all of them present problems.
Speaking of ways to pitch…
There are a couple of different strategies for attacking a hitter: give him the opposite of what he wants (pitch a pull hitter away) or too much of what he wants (give a hitter looking for a pitch away a pitch that moves too far away)…and that brings us to Mike Aviles.
Mike’s been smoking the ball inside. Since his backside leaves for the third base dugout early in his swing, the pitch inside is the one he can hit with some authority. It appeared the Tigers decided to pitch Mike away in hopes of limiting the damage.
If Mike pulls the ball away, his mechanics won’t allow him to hit the ball hard. He showed that in the first inning with a weak 6-3. In the fourth inning he hit an even weaker ball on an outside pitch, but it had ‘eyes’ (a seeing-eye grounder) and dribbled through the left side for a single.
By his third at-bat, Aviles had adjusted to the Tigers approach, didn’t try to pull a tough pitch down and away, and drove it into right field for a single.
*There’s no way I can be sure, and if someone tells me I’m wrong I’ll take it back, but it appeared that Gregor Blanco was waving hello to someone in the stands while taking a lead at third. C’mon, dude, really?
*Brayan Pena is working to improve his blocking technique and had several nice ones in this game, including a run-saver with a man on third.
*It’s technical and doesn’t look like much, but Mitch Maier saved extra bases with a great route in the sixth, holding Alex Avila to a single.
*Another play that doesn’t show in the box score: Yuniesky Betancourt (now tied for the team lead in home runs) tried to start a double play in the second inning by catching the ball backhand and flipping it straight from his glove to Mike Aviles. The flip was slow and high and was pulling Mike away from the bag. Replays show the ump might’ve missed the call (the runner at second was ruled safe), but Mike still got an out at first. I don’t know for sure, but you’ve gotta wonder if a more traditional approach would’ve gotten the lead runner. Failure to turn that double play cost the Royals a run.
*Give everyone credit: these games are essentially meaningless unless you care about playing the game right all the time. The Tigers catcher Alex Avila must. He went over the Royals dugout railing headfirst to catch a pop fly and was saved from a long drop and serious injury when Ned Yost caught him…can I give an outstanding defensive play to a manager?
A routine play…
In Sunday’s game Brayan Pena caught a foul pop fly near the backstop for an F2 that ended the inning. Routine play, right?
Well, here’s what goes into that routine play: when the ball goes up, Brayan isn’t real sure where it is, since it’s behind him. So he steps forward, removes his mask and looks at the pitcher. The pitcher points at the ball. Now Pena knows which way to turn, right or left. He continues to hold onto the mask, if he throws it away too soon, he can find himself stepping on it later. Now Brayan looks into the sky over the appropriate shoulder and locates the ball. Because of the extreme amount of spin on a pop fly (they’ve been just barely clipped) they act like curve balls and tend to come back towards the infield. Because of this ‘infield drift’ Brayan needs to stay between the ball and the pitching mound, knowing the ball will come back towards him.
On this pop fly (let’s face it, that last paragraph had gone on long enough) Brayan had only the sky for background. That made his depth perception lousy and he told me he needed the help of his teammates, who had the upper deck for a background.
As they directed him by telling him he ‘had room’ or to move ‘back’, Brayan circled to his left, trying to get the ball out of the sun. (Once Brayan was sure of the ball’s location he could chuck the mask.) After a lot of adjustments, he made the catch.
After the game he said he wasn’t going to lie and tell me it was a Web Gem, but he also said it wasn’t easy. Next time you see this ‘routine play’ consider giving a round of applause…because Brayan’s right, it ain’t easy.