Games » Seattle MarinersApr14
How rain speeds up a game
The forecast was for houses landing on witches, the chances of rain were about 115% and nobody was sure the ballgame would be started, much less played. Once it did start on time, the race was on. The plan was to grab a lead and then play as fast as possible, hoping to get five innings completed before Noah started building an ark in Lot M.
On the other hand, if the other team grabs the lead, you then want to play as slow as you can, hoping the weather wipes the game out.
The Royals grabbed the lead, so they were the ones playing fast. Bruce Chen was working quickly and that helped the defense. It kept them on their toes, knowing the ball was going to be put in play shortly. Brayan Pena (and when a pitcher throws well, always remember the catcher - the pitcher had a partner) talked about how good defense and good pitching reinforce one another. The pitcher works quick, throws strikes and the defense makes plays and convinces the pitcher he doesn’t have to be perfect to win.
Ned Yost said he managed the 3rd inning like the 7th, using Chris Getz to bunt once Alcides Escobar led off the inning with a single. Melky Cabrera hit a ball so hard to Ichiro Suzuki that Alcides could only advance to third and then Alex Gordon followed up with a double, scoring both of them. After that it was play fast and hope you made it through the 5th with a lead.
The Royals did.
Bruce Alrighty (Does this joke work even though Bruce is left-handed?)
Before the game, Ned Yost told us that if Bruce Chen kept the ball down, threw strikes, worked both sides of the plate and changed speeds, he’d be successful. Of course if Lady Gaga kept the ball down, threw strikes, worked both sides of the plate and changed speeds she’d be successful - and look fabulous doing it.
Bruce must’ve done all four in this game. Eight innings, one walk, one unearned run. I love watching Bruce work, it’s a pitching clinic. Last season I said he was all smoke and mirrors without the smoke. It’s like watching a guy enjoy a cigarette while sitting in a bathtub of gasoline. You can’t believe he’s going to get away with it, until he does.
By the way, when a new hitter comes to the plate, watch Bruce. He’ll peer over both shoulders, checking the position of his outfielders. He told me the outfielders are going to stand where the batter hits the ball and that tells Bruce how to pitch.
He used this example: a right-handed hitter comes to the plate and the left fielder is playing him to pull. That tells Bruce this guy is crowding the plate because he pitches almost everyone away and this guy is still pulling him. So that tells Bruce he can bust him in, even without a great fastball.
Of course Bruce might want to check the spray charts (every ball in play by a particular hitter is charted so the defense knows where to stand), but why mess with a system that seems to be working?
P.S. Bruce’s complete-game performance, rain shortened, but still a complete game means the bullpen is at full strength going into the weekend.
People can certainly disagree with Ron Polk’s system (sometimes I do myself), but it really makes you pay attention to certain aspects of the game. Base running is one of them. The Royals are well ahead of last year’s pace for breaking up double plays and I’m seeing more ‘heads-up’ base running.
In this game, Kila Ka ‘aihue, known for his speed like I’m known for my maturity, broke up a double play and went first to third on a shallow ball to left. Doug Sisson, the base-running coach, said the Royals are keying on the direction of the man fielding the ball: if he’s moving away from third, they’re going. (Something you can watch for in games.)
Kila’s good base running paid off almost immediately when Wilson Betemit was able to drive him in with a sac fly. If Ka’aihuestops at second, that fly ball is only an out.
Ask a Royal
I’ve been getting a lot of question from readers using our new ‘Ask a Royal’ feature. My plan is to take the best questions into the clubhouse and talk to the players and coaches involved, but you’re going to have to be patient, not every coach or every player is available every day.
Having said that: after watching Kanekoa Texeira’s video posted on this site, a reader wanted to know why Tex, and you pronounce the ‘x’ in Texeira (just remember “Sexy Texy” was Kanekoa’s advice. Hell, I’ll have nightmares).
OK, where was I?
Oh yeah, someone wanted to know why a pitcher would give back a ball with a scuff. Tex said a scuff makes his sinker sink too much. He already gets a lot of movement and doesn’t need more that he can’t control. Years ago Dan Quisenberry told me he experimented with a scuffed ball, but could never figure out where to hold the scuff to get the movement he wanted.
Kanekoa confirmed something else Quiz told me: when a pitcher is rubbing up a ball, watch his thumbs. Some pitchers - not Tex or Quiz or they probably wouldn’t have told me - use a thumbnail to surreptitiously raise the seams by scraping a thumbnail along them. (Wow, the most amazing thing about that sentence is me spelling surreptitiously right on the first go. Either that or my spellcheck is broken.) Anyway, if that happens, watch for a pitch with movement, probably a breaking ball, because the raised seams grab the air and help the ball move.
Don’t make me think, it can only hurt the team Part II
Chris Getz and I are not on speaking terms. Well, we are, but we’ve agreed to not overanalyze his hot start. If he starts thinking about it, who knows what can happen. Hot streaks are so fragile one of the ways to end one by an opponent is say something like, “Wow, you’re hitting great. Is the thing you’re doing with your elbow helping?”
“Elbow? What the hell am I doing with my elbow?”
Walk away, your work is done, the hitter will proceed to analyze himself into a slump. (Unfortunately, I used this technique on myself all too successfully.) So Getzie and I agreed to not get too technical for a while. So instead, I asked him why the opera gloves (he’s wearing a knitted tube on one or both arms) instead of sleeves. Chris said he started doing it spring training (I think he scraped an arm and the covering protected a strawberry) and started to hit.
And you don’t mess with a streak. To paraphrase “Bull Durham” if he thinks he’s hitting because he has tube socks on his arms, he’s hitting because he has tube socks on his arms.
(Actually, I think they’re called ‘compression sleeves, but I like giving him a hard time about wearing tube socks far too much to use the correct name.)