Games » Baltimore OriolesMay26
Why did Alcides Escobar hit in the 10th?
Well, now, that was frustrating, wasn’t it?
As if the 6-5 loss to the Orioles wasn’t irritating enough, I now have all kinds of questions that I can’t get answered. When the Royals are home, I can walk downstairs and ask the people involved what was happening and why they did what they did, but when the Royals are on the road, I have to speculate until someone tells me different.
So now that we’re all clear that I’m about to indulge in speculation: Why did Alcides Escobar hit in the 10th inning of a tie game with two outs and the bases loaded?
I think because at that point Ned Yost didn’t have a choice. Ned had three players available to come off the bench in this game: Escobar, Maier and Treanor. Mike Aviles was starting at shortstop to give Alcides a day off, Getz was at second and Betemit was at third. Escobar ran for Betemit in the 9th (more on that decision in a moment), so the only two bats left on the bench (unless I’ve got amnesia and have forgotten somebody…always a possibility) were Mitch Maier and Matt Treanor. You’re probably not sending Matt to the plate unless you’ve got some really favorable matchup numbers (and managers are reluctant to use the second catcher just in case the first one gets hurt), so that leaves Mitch. I have no idea whom Baltimore has in their pen and whom Mitch might have faced had he come in to pinch-hit. The Royals know all that stuff and are well aware of what the odds would have been had Maier gone to the plate.
But even if you had a great matchup offensively, who would have played short in the bottom of the 10th? Even if Mitch comes through, you’ve still got to get three outs. Betemit was out of the game, Aviles could’ve gone back to short, but you’ve still got to get third covered. Maybe you could have brought Gordon back into the infield and sent Mitch to left, but screwing around with your defense in extra innings isn’t a great option.
Which brings us to an old story and why Ned is treating Escobar the way he is (probably…once again I’m speculating): Some old-time baseball guy whose name I’ve forgotten said he was being interviewed by Branch Rickey for a job. Rickey asked the guy if he thought he knew baseball. The guy said he thought he did. Then Branch Rickey proceeded to ask him five questions. The guy not only didn’t know the answer to the five questions but had never even thought of the questions before. And the first one was: Why has no team ever won a World Series with a left-handed-hitting shortstop? (I don’t know if that’s still true or was even true in Branch Rickey’s day, but the answer was interesting). Because you’d have to pinch hit for him too often. If you’re pinch-hitting for him, that means the game is close and in a close game you’re screwing up your defense right at the end. So maybe that’s why Ned Yost thinks Alcides Escobar has to learn to hit in those situations. He doesn’t want to have to screw up his defense in close games, and to keep his best defense on the field Alcides has to hit.
But that brings us to two more questions: Are the Royals playing for this year (they brought up Hosmer early) or the future (letting Escobar hit in pressure situations)? OK, I think I’ve climbed out on the speculation limb far enough, so I’ll end this by saying: I don’t know.
Oh, yeah…the other question: Why did Ned pinch-run Esky in the 9th? That move backed him into a corner in the 10th. Betemit led off the inning with a hit and ended up on second after an outfield error. As a manager, you only have so many bullets in the gun and you want to choose wisely when it comes to trigger-pulling. You could be conservative, but I’ve seen managers who save someone for a situation that never arises. Once you get into the last three innings (and with Ned it seems like more the last two), I think it’s time to pull the trigger.
He had the winning run in scoring position and sent out a faster runner. As Ned says, “You can’t be afraid to win ball games.”
Two mental mistakes
Wilson Betemit got thrown out trying to advance from second to third on a ball to the shortstop in the 2nd inning. That might be part of why Ned wanted a better base runner out there in the 10th. Chris Getz got doubled off third in the 7th inning on a one-out line drive to short. The radio guys said they thought the contact play was on, but even so, the runner is supposed to break on “down angle” (the direction the ball leaves the bat) and freeze on a line drive. If I remember, when he gets home, I’ll ask Chris if there was something else going on that I missed, but until then, it’s being scored a mental mistake.
The price of an open base
Back to the top of the 10th for a minute: When you’re on offense, it’s always good to remember that a successful steal or sacrifice bunt has a cost…the open base left behind. That means the defense can work around one hitter if they choose to do so.
Gordon led off the inning with a hit and Cabrera moved him over with a bunt. That meant the Orioles could work around one of the next two hitters. They went after Hosmer and he grounded out 4-3. Gordon advanced to third, but in a weird way, it screwed the Royals.
After Alex advanced, that meant there were two open bases for the Orioles to work with. They tried to get Frenchy to chase and when he didn’t, they intentionally walked Butler, which got them to Escobar. Remember that the next time you see a veteran hitter expand the zone: It might be because they recognize that the team is better off with them hitting a marginal pitch than someone on deck hitting at all.
It’s not just us
My wife is a psychologist, which is just a treat: Not only does she know when I’m being a jerk, but she knows exactly what type of jerk I’m being. Anyway, she once gave me an article about sports fans and how they see everything through their team. If their team won, it was because they played great. If their team lost, it was because they played lousy.
Theother team never registered.
A fan’s team never lost because the other team played great. I try to keep that in mind while watching games like this one. The Royals did not cash in on several scoring opportunities, and for 11 1/3 innings, neither did the Orioles. Sooner or later, someone was going to get the big hit, but if it had been the Royals, can you imagine what Orioles fans would have been saying about the bottom of the 11th when their team didn’t score with the bases loaded and nobody out?
It’s not just us.
A couple more things
The ball is more important than the bag. This principle was utilized By Eric Hosmer on a throw from Mike Aviles that pulled Hosmer off the bag. Not much point in keeping your foot on the bag and watching the ball sail into the dugout…a play we’ve seen more than once in the past. And in the 11th, Blake Wood issued an intentional walk to J.J. Hardy before leaving the game and being replaced by Everett Teaford. Maybe Ned Yost knows something (OK, several thousand things) I don’t, but I was taught to have the new pitcher issue the intentional walk. It satisfies the rule that he must face one batter and leaves you options if you don’t like the matchup that follows.