Games » New York YankeesMay12
A shutdown inning
When you look for key moments in a ball game, a six-run inning, especially against the Yankees and especially in New York tends to stick out. But something else of great importance happened immediately after the Royals scored six runs in the top of the second: nothing.
It’s called a “shutdown inning,” and you hope they happen right after your team scores a few runs. If you score and your pitcher goes back out and gives some of those runs right back, it tells both teams the game’s not over. It’s depressing to the team with the lead and encouraging to the team trying to come back.
Sean O’Sullivan, future Irish bar owner (Sean, if you invest in that bar, I’ll be there every night) came back out after being given a six-run lead and went through the middle of the Yankees order in 14 pitches. A-Rod grounded out to second, Cano flew out to center and Swisher grounded out to first.
That didn’t mean the game was over, but it did send the message to the Yankees that coming back wasn’t going to be easy. It also sent a message to the Royals that Sean was going to do his part by throwing strikes.
There’s a phrase you hear in baseball: “Step on their necks.” It means when you’ve got the opposition down, do not let them up off the ground, step on their necks. Sean not only stepped on their necks, but he put some weight into it.
Whenever you see a big inning, pay attention to the half-inning that follows: It will tell you a lot about the eventual outcome.
Another big deal
The shutdown inning is a big deal in terms of psychological advantage. One of the things sports psychologists talk about is “creating the expectation of defeat.” Once the other team decides it will probably lose, it’s much more likely to happen. They begin to go through the motions and aren’t prepared to take advantage of any mistakes the opposition makes.
That’s why scoring first is a big deal. Scoring first and scoring a lot is an even bigger deal.
The expectation of winning can be almost as dangerous as the expectation of defeat. The same thing happens: the winning team decides the game is over and they, too, begin to go through the motions, missing opportunities.
That’s why the “tack-on run” is so big. It convinces the other team that they can’t come back and keeps your team’s energy up. Grabbing a lead and then “tacking on” is a time-honored strategy. The Royals did a nice job of this last night, tacking on two in the 4th, one in the 6th and two in the 8th.
When the Royals grab a big lead, watch for the tack-on runs and get a little nervous if you don’t see any.
Esky and two strikes
Kevin Seitzer told me he wanted Alcides Escobar to be a bit more aggressive with two strikes. Seitz thought that Esky was often satisfied to just get the ball in play at that point and was taking something off his swing. Once Alcides gets in a two-strike count, pay attention to the quality of his hacks and you’ll see if he’s making progress in this area.
The Melkman runneth
Melky Cabrera is killing it in the heads-up base running category. He’s taking the extra base on a regular basis. Part of that is being in better shape and it seems like a number of Royals have lost weight since last season (Francoeur, Pena, etc.). I don’t know how much this has to do with it, but professional athletes are the most competitive people on Earth.
If most of us got cut from our high school basketball team, we’d figure we weren’t cut out to be basketball players. Michael Jordan went home and practiced for a year.
Maybe all the talk about the kids in the minors lit a fire under these guys. I don’t think they plan on giving up these jobs without a fight. It’s fun to watch.
Dayton deserves some credit
I generally stay out of GM issues. I’m unqualified to comment. I don’t know anything about contracts or trades or who’s in the minors. All I’m trying to do is watch this particular group a players and understand how they approach the game.
Having said that: signing a couple guys who have shown they can do it, are still young and have something to prove, seems like it’s working out pretty well. Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera are giving fans a show and reviving their careers while they do it.
There’s still a long way to go, but so far so good.