Games » Texas RangersMay29
The good, the bad and the ugly
Well, let’s start with Danny Duffy. He has made three starts and has shown improvement each time. He kept his pitch count down and threw six innings. He didn’t walk anyone until the seventh inning. He seemed to work quicker. After his teammates put a five-spot up for him in the top half of the inning, he came out and threw a shutdown inning in the bottom of the fourth. Duffy has shown the ability to adjust quickly and take his game to another level. Everyone should be happy about that.
Everyone should also be happy about the Royals’ defense. Each position player made at least one outstanding play in this game, and Alex Gordon had two. Wilson Betemit charged a slow roller and made a nice throw across his body to get a runner out, and Chris Getz did the same. Eric Hosmer made another nice 1-3 put-out and helped out his buddies with good stretches at first base. Brayan Pena handled a tough block and kept a runner out of scoring position. Alcides Escobar made another one of those running-backward-to-the-grass-and-spinning-to-throw-a-strike-to-first plays that he seems to turn in once a game. Melky Cabrera made a sprinting, leaping catch, Alex Gordon dove for one to his left, and Mitch Maier ran a great route and turned a double into a single by the way he approached the ball.
The second Gordon catch deserves a bit more explanation: Alex was going back and hit the track and then did exactly what he’s supposed to do. He reached out with his bare hand, found the fence so he knew where he was and made a leaping catch. (We’ve got a couple Mitch Maier videos in the can where he explains running a good route and playing the wall, so watch for those.)
Brayan Pena crushed an upper-tank home run, Escobar came through in one of those late-inning clutch situations with a big sacrifice fly in the ninth inning and Mitch Maier had two hits and a walk. (Guys like Mitch are clubhouse favorites because they accept their roles and don’t whine. Everyone’s happy to see a guy like that come through when he gets his chance.)
Billy Butler made the same base-running mistake that he made not too long ago. Billy was on first base and Betemit hit a rocket to left. Josh Hamilton was going back for the catch, and if he had made it, he would have been on the warning track. When the outfielder is moving away from second base, a base-runner on first can go all the way to the bag or even around it. If there’s a catch, the throw will be late and weak and the runner has plenty of time to get back to first. Billy only went halfway, and when Hamilton reached up for the ball, Billy started to go back to first. Hamilton missed the catch, the ball went all the way to the wall, and Billy only made it to second base, robbing the Royals of a runner on third with one down and robbing Betemit of a double.
Mistakes will be made, but it’s a good idea to try to find new ones.
In the seventh inning, Ned Yost brought Everett Teaford in to face a left-handed batter. Everett walked the only batter whom he was going to face on four pitches. Aaron Crow bailed out Everett, but you don’t want your situational lefty to be effective only when the situation calls for an intentional walk. When you’re only facing one guy, there’s no time to get a feel for the game. Bang strikes and take your chances.
(Side note: There was a meeting on the mound that included Brayan Pena, Chris Getz and the pitcher du jour … I think it was Aaron Crow … and they all covered their mouths with their gloves. This is to prevent any lip-reading by the batter. Or maybe the umpire. Mike Estabrook seems to have a pretty short fuse.)
What else, the ninth inning. Whatever it is, Joakim Soria is not the sure-thing closer he has been in the past. I don’t know what’s up (as I hope I’ve made clear), but it seems as though something is. Frank White (who knows more than me and always will) talked about lack of fastball command.
Joakim almost beaned Nelson Cruz on his first pitch. I don’t think he meant to do it, but once you come up and in on a batter and put him on the seat of his pants, the classic move is to then go low and away. Hitters aren’t too crazy about leaning out over the plate after a close shave. Just to prove Frank’s point, Joakim missed that spot, too. Joakim has seemed to pitch behind in the count more often, and that means hitters can sit on a fat pitch. Cruz did and crushed a no-doubter on 3-1 pitch.
(Y’know, some people have complained about Ron Polk’s system offering 6+ points for a save. If Joakim hadn’t blown four saves, the Royals would be 27-25 now. There’s nothing like the pressure cooker of the ninth inning. If it seems like just another inning, try thinking of it this way: Everyone can walk a foot-wide plank when it’s laying on the ground. Put it 100 feet in the air, and the challenge looks a bit different. In his book on pitching psychology, Harvey Dorfman says the three most challenging innings for a pitcher are the first (trying to get comfortable), fifth (qualify for the win) and the ninth (actually winning the game). Six-plus points seems pretty cheap for a save these days.)
So Joakim blew another save, but the worst was yet to come. Somehow Mike Napoli scored on a play that scorer Elvis Andrus ruled a single. (Weird fact: On a walk-off hit, you only get credited for the bases you run out, no matter where the ball ends up.) Napoli was running on the pitch, but he still was going to be out by 10 feet.
Brayan had the ball in plenty of time, but he neglected to get out in front of the plate while making the tag. Because Brayan was behind the plate, Napoli could sneak a foot in on the high tag. So a day of outstanding plays ended on a bad one.
This was one of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever seen … for 8½ innings.
The warning track at Kauffman Stadium with Royals Mitch Maier and Lee Judge
Royals outfielder Mitch Maier and The Star's Lee Judge look at how outfielders use the warning track to determine their distance from the wall in Kauffman Stadium. May 26, 2011 (Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)