Games » Baltimore OriolesMay4
It might have made you mad, but it was a smart play
Well, you can’t win ‘em all, especially when the distance between the bottom of the outfield padding in Kauffman Stadium and the ground is the exact width of a baseball. In the 8th inning, down by two, with Alcides Escobar on first, Mike Aviles absolutely smoked a ball into the left center gap. It looked like Esky was going to score easily and Mike would wind up with a triple, standing on third with one down.
Then the Orioles center fielder threw up his hands. The ball was wedged under the outfield padding… just barely, but wedged. An anemic child having a bad day could have easily pulled the ball out, much less a full-grown outfielder, but the smart play was to signal that the ball was stuck.
The umpire upheld the ruling; Aviles (who had circled the bases, temporarily scoring the tying run) was sent back to second and Escobar back to third. Melky Cabrera drove in Alcides with a 4-3 groundout, but if Mike’s hit had bounced free, Escobar would’ve been in already and Melky’s grounder would’ve scored Mike, game tied.
If you were complaining about what a cheesy trick it was to claim the ball was wedged, how would you have felt if the situation were reversed? Would you have complimented the Royals player who grabbed the ball and lost the ball game on his integrity? The bottom line is this: outfielder Adam Jones didn’t cheat. Those are the rules and he was smart enough to take advantage of them. It’s what every team tells their outfielders to do.
By the way, Ned Yost said he’d never seen that before, even in BP.
His nightly outstanding play
Alcides Escobar saved another run with his glove in the 8th inning. With runners on first and second and one down, he made a leaping stab and caught a line drive headed for the gap. The runner would’ve scored easily, but Esky’s grab turned into an inning-ending double play instead. Whenever you look at his offensive numbers, remember what he saves you on defense.
Sorry, Mitch, but it’s funny
The clubhouse is decorated with large action photos of the players. Mitch Maier’s photo is on a pillar directly across the room from Mike Aviles, Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur and Mitch Maier’s lockers. Directly underneath Mitch’s photo is the laundry hamper. So his teammates use his photo as a backboard when they want to toss a sweaty shirt or used jockstrap into the laundry. Mitch suggested I shouldn’t be laughing at that, but since he was laughing at that, I didn’t take his complaint too seriously.
A small thing done well
8th inning, runner on first, bunted ball slowly rolling toward third. Wilson Betemit charges, picks up the bunt, but decides there’s no play. Matt Treanor goes past Wilson at a sprint to cover third base. If Matt doesn’t do that, the runner on first can hit second and keep going since no one’s covering third and then Escobar’s leaping grab is not a double play and the Royals aren’t out of the inning.
Keep your eye on the ball
Turns out Jarrod Dyson had his head down and assumed the ball he hit before spraining his ankle the other day was in the gap. He made the turn at first and was too far gone to get back and so continued on to second. OK, so where should Jarrod have been looking?
Ron Polk once told me he could cut anyone’s time to first by teaching them not to watch the ball. Go hard right away and every step is worth about .2 seconds. So far so good, Dyson had his head down and was digging hard. The next focal point is the first baseman’s feet. If he’s coming to the bag, the ball’s on the infield. If he then comes off the bag stretching to his left, the throw’s up the line. That’s the one time you slide at first, going into foul territory to avoid the tag.
If the first baseman is not coming to the bag, you look up and find the ball. The first base coach can give you some help, but the play’s in front of you and runners should be able to make their own decisions.
Keep your on the ball, but not all the time
Fans tend to focus on the 60’ 6” separating pitcher and batter and then follow the flight of the ball. But there are lots of interesting things to see if you’ll look away once in a while. Since we did the outfield video, I’ve been watching Doug Sisson as each new hitter comes to the plate. He’s down at the far end of the dugout and you can see him communicate to the outfielders. Watch his video and you’ll know what he’s saying. At the other end of the dugout is Eddie Rodriguez positioning the infielders.
Then I saw an umpire tap his wrist between hitters and figured that must mean something also. It does. Fortunately, Steve Palermo was available and he pointed out the communication umpires do every time the situation changes.
The tap on the wrist meant: 2 outs, it’s now a ‘time’ play. If the batter gets thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double the umpires will have to know if a runner crossing home beat the throw. They also signaled responsibility (tapping the chest and indicating the area they were responsible for, right field, left field, infield. At one point I saw an umpire swirl his finger indicating the rotation the crew would have to do to cover the bags.
In between pitches with a runner on first you can see the middle infielders shield their mouths with their gloves and signal who’s covering the bag on a steal (Open mouth ‘you’ closed mouth ‘me’.) Coverage is dependent on the pitch and where it’s likely to go if it’s put in play. When people tell me baseball is boring, I tell them there are so many things happening on the field I don’t know where to look.
Getting a runner into scoring position with two outs is a big deal. The run is one hit away from scoring instead of two. In the 9th inning Jeff Francoeur saw that the ball was going to be caught deep in left and went back to tag first. It’s not the orthodox move, but as we’ve been talking about, the Royals are throwing a lot of the base running book out the window in favor of constantly being aggressive on the base paths. The payoff was a runner on second, one hit away from tying the game, but the hit never came.