Games » Chicago White SoxApr6
Well, the Royals keep it exciting, even when they don’t win. You probably already heard that Joakim Soria blew a save and the Royals lost in extra innings. After the top of the ninth, the Royals’ best chance to win came in 11th. Score tied, runners at first and third, one out and Jeff Francoeur at the plate. A fly ball wins the game.
Francoeur struck out.
As always, there’s more to it than that. A buddy down at work asked why the Royals couldn’t hit a simple fly ball when they needed. I pointed out that there IS a professional pitcher on the mound trying to stop them … and with the game on the line, probably a very good professional pitcher. (The hitter wants a pitch up, the pitcher is trying to stay down…unless he decides to go up-up, letter high and work for a pop-up.)
In an earlier game, I watched Mike Aviles in that same situation, had MLB’s Gameday up on my laptop (it shows pitch type, location and velocity) and saw two pitches at the knees on the outside corner. Mike took them both for strikes, absolutely nothing he could do with those pitches. Then, once he had two strikes, he HAD to swing at what the pitcher got in the zone. (It didn’t come out well.)
OK, so back to Francoeur. … No, wait … let’s go even further back … to about 10 a.m. Tuesday, when I was sitting in the dugout with Royals outfield instructor Rusty Kuntz. We were talking about Wilson Betemit coming to the plate against the Angels after watching three walks and then hacking at the first pitch.
Rusty confirmed they did not want Betemit working a walk in that situation. A bases-loaded walk would’ve scored one run, but the tying run would still be on third and THAT would leave it up to Alcides Escobar, a far less accomplished hitter at this stage of his career. They wanted Wilson to selective, but rip it if he got what he was looking for. He did and he did.
Rusty said it drives him crazy to have a veteran hitter get overly picky when there’s a runner on third and first is open. Walking sets up the double play and might leave driving the run in from third to a lesser hitter. There IS such a thing as a bad walk. As Rusty put it, “It’s good for the player’s numbers, but bad for the team.”
OK, NOW we can get back to Francoeur. There already was a runner on first, so the double play was in order, but second was open so the pitcher had a base to work with. Jeff said, “That was a messed up at-bat.” I asked if the shadows came into play (they did), but Frenchy also didn’t know how aggressive the pitcher, Chris Sale, was planning to be. Sale could afford to work the corners: if he missed and walked Fancoeur (hitting .318 coming into the game) the bases would be loaded, forces everywhere, Alcides Escobar on deck (hitting .182 coming into the game).
All this meant that Chris Sale could work the corners and Jeff Francoeur had to expand his zone. Frenchy did the team thing and struck out (apparently I was a hell of a team player.) There’s almost always more to a situation than meets the eye.
Rusty also said Chris Getz needs to try bunting for a hit on occasion (watch for it). Even if it doesn’t work, it draws the infielders closer and makes it easier for a groundball to get through the next time. Getz must’ve heard the same talk because in the 2nd he tried bunting for a hit and in the 4th slapped a single into left.
Kuntz said a player needs to know his role and if you’re at the bottom of the order your job is to either get on or make sure the guys who are on move 90 feet. Rusty said problems start when table setters start trying to go yard (something you often see in extra innings: every guy trying to end the game with one swing). As long as runners are moving up, Rusty thinks good things can happen.
Yesterday I said that Ned Yost would use Joakim in the 9th inning of tie games because he was likely to get the Royals two shots at winning: the bottom of the 9th and no matter what the other team did, the bottom of the 10th. It goes without saying that Yost would do that in home games, not road games…but I’m saying it anyway, just to be clear.
Obviously, Soria didn’t get it done in this game. Yost said Joakim had worked a lot this opening week, but Soria said he felt fine, he wasn’t tired, those guys are major leaguers, too and sometimes this happens. “It’s all part of the show.” (Probably, part of why Soria is Soria: no freak out.)
I asked if the most disappointing thing was the walk to Beckham. It was the one thing he controlled and it brought the tying run to the plate. He smiled and said, “No, the most disappointing thing was giving up four runs. It was all bad.”
Runs saved by pitches blocked…
Two more for Pena today and that makes five for Royals catchers in the first six games.
I’m playing out the innings as if the pitch wasn’t blocked and the runner had advanced. The problem with this method is the pitcher might’ve done something different with say a runner on third instead of second…so it’s a guesstimate, but one that gives a rough idea of what a catcher’s defense is accomplishing.
And speaking of defense, Jeff Francis saved himself a run by backing up home plate on a throw that got away from Brayan. But isn’t he supposed to do that? Yes, and I’m supposed to eat more vegetables and I don’t see that happening either. Any time a guy is where he’s supposed to be it’s worth noting. A lot of pitchers get caught watching the game and don’t head for their defensive spots. Francis did.
By the way, Pena’s Spanish word of the day was ‘tobacco’. Really? Dude, you’re just not trying…unless he knows I’m trying to learn enough words to heckle him and he’s got a brilliant plan to give me random ones that I can’t form into a sentence. Let’s see…’win’…’tobacco’…nuthin’ yet. Unless we were on a Cuban game show.
Ask a Royal…
Reader John Nypaver wanted to know If Alcides Escobar modeled himself on Alex Rodriguez. Alcides said his two favorite players were Rodriguez and Omar Visquel.
Reader Jonathan Tucker wanted to know if the rookie relievers had any other initiation mandates besides faux-hawk hairstyles and carrying the bullpen supplies in a Justin Bieber backpack. Kanekoa Texeira told me they’re currently looking for other embarrassing backpacks and the rookies are expected to haul the veterans’ luggage on road trips…and there’s probably a few things they can’t tell us about.