Games » Texas RangersMay19
What Frenchy was thinking during the final at-bat
Bottom of the 10th inning, tie ball game, one down, runners at first and third, a base hit wins the game. Are you nervous? Not if you’re Jeff Francoeur. I asked Frenchy if there was any anxiety when he was at the plate in the 10th and he said no, he was totally relaxed.
Jeff said he’d been in that situation a lot and after a while it just seems normal: this is the business I’m in. The other reason he didn’t freak out was his ability to concentrate. He agreed that nervousness happens when you begin to think about yourself and imagine the possible result of the situation you’re in. If you’re totally focused on the moment, that absorbs your mind. There’s no time to imagine all the lousy ways things could wind up. OK, so what was Jeff thinking?
Once he got to two strikes, he moved up in the box and closer to the plate. He wanted to take away the slider and put himself in a position to hit that pitch. Frenchy said he was going to live with getting beat inside if that was what happened, but didn’t want to flail helplessly at a slider away.
In the 9th pitch of the at-bat, Cody Eppley gave Frenchy a two-seam fastball that got smoked into center field for the game –winner.
So Jeff Francoeur is always cool as a cucumber (why are cucumbers cool? - never heard the reason for that saying) with the game on the line? Only if he’s the one hitting. He said he gets nervous for his teammates when they’re the ones under pressure.
See? Something to concentrate on and no nerves. Time to think and you get the jitters.
P.S. Another reporter asked Francoeur if the recent losing streak had been “weighing” on the team. Frenchy got a big grin and said, “Weighing? No, it was p–– us off!” That’s the difference between going into a shell and fighting back.
I wouldn’t write these guys off yet.
This will probably be a “running” theme throughout the season (geez, the humor just keeps flowing), but I’m going to continue to say that fans can’t freak out when the Royals lose a runner on the bases. This is the cost of doing business. The running game has paid off in so many ways, losing heart and changing tactics because it doesn’t work 100 percent of the time would be a mistake.
The Royals have gone from the bottom of the league in runs scored last year to near the top in 2011. They lead the league in stolen bases. The running game is forcing errors from the opposition defense. Decide to throw in the towel because some guys got picked off (more on that shortly) and you lose all that.
By the way, in the 6th inning Melky Cabrera did not get picked off, he was going on “first movement.” With some left-handed pitchers it’s impossible to read their move, so you roll the dice and go on his first movement, hoping he already has decided to go home. The Royals rolled the dice and lost.
Same thing when Francoeur tried to stretch a single into a double later in the same inning. If he stays at first, the Royals need two hits to score. If he makes it to second, one does the trick. Frenchy made it close enough that it was worth the risk; it just didn’t pay off.
Looking for solutions
One of my favorite guys to talk to is Doug Sisson. Before the game I asked if he thought Feliz was balking when Dyson and Aviles got picked off Wednesday night. Doug thought it didn’t make much difference. Feliz has a hell of a move, he’s going to keep using it and apparently the umpires aren’t going to stop him.
Rather than whine and complain about the situation, Doug studied Feliz frame by frame to figure out a new body part to key on. The runners were getting fooled by the keys they had been using and had to shift to something else.
Sis said others can find fault, but it’s his job to find solutions. (I’ve been working on the opposite principle all my life.)
Aviles ties the game up
Mike Aviles tied the game up in the bottom of the 9th with an awesome 11-pitch at-bat. Every pitch Neftali Feliz threw was a four-seam fastball. They ranged from a low of 97 to a high of 100. So why not drop something off-speed in there?
Once Feliz got to three balls, he couldn’t. Before that, he could’ve wasted a pitch out of the zone, but once he had to throw strikes he couldn’t go off-speed because his outfield was shifted severely to the opposite field, assuming Mike couldn’t pull 100 mph. If Aviles had connected with something slower it could’ve plugged the gap.
Pay attention to the positioning of the outfield and you’ll have a good idea of how they intend to pitch the batter.
OK, I’m hoping this story is almost over, but Kevin Seitzer wanted to see the bruise again last night, and I had to tell him it was gone. He was disappointed until he heard that our dumb stunt was seen on television in Japan. That set off another round of hysterical laughter.
Wilson Betemit walked up and I finally apologized face-to-face for saying he should’ve gotten hit by a pitch and he laughed and offered to teach me how to get out of the way next time.
Then Bruce Chen said if I wanted to try it again, he’d hit me with any pitch I wanted (he made me an offer I could refuse). He said he could hit me so softly with a curveball it wouldn’t even leave a mark or he could light me up with his best fastball. I asked where that topped out and he said 91.
I expressed some skepticism and he started laughing and said, “You don’t know, you weren’t there!” “OK, Bruce, I dated Madonna. You don’t know, you weren’t there!”
Bruce said neither was Madonna.
I’m kinda getting my butt kicked in these clubhouse conversations lately. When you’re losing a battle of wits to someone whose first language isn’t English, you might need some new tactics.