Games » St. Louis CardinalsMay22
How they gave one away
The Royals pitched like Jack Kerouac on Sunday: They were all over the place. (Hey, how many top-notch literary references do you get to see in sports stories?)
The Royals hitters were scoring as fast as they could but were unable to keep up with the Royals pitchers, who were busy walking 13 batters and hitting one. Add in the error by Mike Aviles on a tough play, and the Royals gave the Cardinals 15 extra base-runners in a close game. You ain’t gonna win much if you do that.
Home-plate umpire Angel Campos didn’t help. He had a tight strike zone all day, and several Cardinals batters got the benefit of the doubt on close calls. On the other hand, I’m almost positive Campos was also behind the plate when the Royals were batting, and they only walked once.
Campos’ zone indirectly led to the ejection of Royals catcher Matt Treanor and manager Ned Yost. During most games, the catcher and umpire have a dialogue all day. They essentially are working as a team, and it’s not uncommon for the catcher to ask where the umpire had the pitch and where the pitcher needs to throw it to get the call. As in, “Where was that?” and “Bring it up a bit.”
These negotiations are fairly routine, and baseball etiquette calls for them to be conducted in private. The catcher always looks ahead (looking back at the umpire is considered showing him up) and the umpire never comes around and confronts the catcher face to face. Although once in a while, cleaning the plate serves the same purpose. The umpire sweeps the dish while telling the catcher he’s had about enough.
Anyway, the Treanor-Campos dispute apparently was not about the strike zone, but about whether Treanor could continue to talk to Campos about the zone. Treanor was professional and stared forward, Campos lost it and tossed him. That brought out Yost, who felt Campos hadn’t handled the situation correctly and then Ned got tossed.
Then Campos got into it with the Royals’ acting manager, John Gibbons, when Campos refused to ask for help on the hit-by-pitch call while Gerald Laird was bunting. To me, refusing to ask for help shows insecurity on the umpire’s part. (If he got it right, why not? And if he got it wrong, doesn’t he want to get it right? The correct answer is no. Some umpires would rather save face.)
Give credit to the Royals for battling back from a 7-1 deficit. They might have beaten the Cardinals, but beating the Cardinals and their own pitching staff was too much.
Sisson’s not happy
Like I said yesterday, the Royals are not going to abandon their base-running philosophy, but that doesn’t mean they’re OK with guys getting picked off. Doug Sisson made that point clear and called for some extra base-running practice early Sunday. He told me that the pickoffs meant he wasn’t doing a good enough job, and neither were the players. They see the problem and intend to get it fixed.
Base-runners take secondary leads once the pitcher goes home in the form of a couple of sideways shuffle steps. Catchers sometimes are taught to attempt a pickoff when the batter tries to bunt and misses or swings through the ball. (On Saturday, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina picked off Alex Gordon after Eric Hosmer swung and missed.) The reason? The base-runner will get more aggressive with that secondary lead if he thinks the ball will be put in play and you might catch him a step too far away from the base.
Pena’s wild pitches
Robinson Tejeda threw two wild pitches Saturday, and I wrote that it looked like Brayan Pena’s chest was too vertical when he blocked the pitches. Being vertical allows the ball to bounce away when it hits the chest protector. If the catcher can get his chest above the ball and closer to parallel, the ball will drop straight down.
Brayan thought I was right on the first wild pitch, but he said the second pitch bounced further out in front of the plate and he had to stay vertical to make sure the ball didn’t go over him. There always is something new to learn out here.
The corners have to hit
I was talking with Chris Getz about Eric Hosmer’s defense and noted that nobody keeps a first baseman for his glove. Chris agreed and said his value to a team could be shown in a variety of ways besides hitting: defense, base-running, getting down a bunt, etc. But a corner player (first base, third base, left field and right field) has to hit. If the one of the guys up the middle turns out to be an offensive force, it might take some pressure off one of the corner players, but it also can lead to that weird baseball logic: “The shortstop isn’t hitting, so you’re being sent down.”
One more detail
I was talking to Kelly Heath about metrics and statistics (they all use this stuff, some more than others), and he was talking about playing shortstop. He was going through all the details you have to think about, and one of them was the catcher’s mitt. Say you’re set up for a pitch away, and the catcher’s mitt starts to move inside to receive the ball. The infielders have to shift with it in order to be in the right place if the ball is put in play.
Gibby on defense
I talked about just making the routine play and how important that was in baseball. John Gibbons (who has had just a tad more experience than me in a slightly better league) pointed out that just making the routine play was enough if you had a good offense, but if you struggle to score runs, you better rob some hitters. Can you say Alcides Escobar?
The springboard game
Those of us in the media like the idea of a “springboard” game. Hell, we like any simple explanation. Ever notice how we explain the actions of millions of stockholders with one explanation? (Investors depressed by gas prices, drove stocks down … we know their motivation and we didn’t talk to any of them.) Anyway, the idea that an exciting win leads to a string of wins or a depressing loss sends you into a slump is irresistible, but it probably isn’t true.
You could be as upbeat as you liked and Nolan Ryan was still going to stick it where the sun don’t shine the next day. Baseball guys spend a lot of time keeping an even keel, and fans would be wise to do the same. Getting out in front, thinking about the future is a good way to screw up your now. The smart guys take it one game at a time. The really smart guys take it one pitch at a time and fans would do well to take it the same way.
I didn’t see Trevor Vance on Sunday morning, but intended to ask him about the grounds crew’s plan if the world had ended Saturday. Does the Rapture call for covering the infield?