Games » Chicago White SoxJul20
How Gordo scored
It’s the 11th inning in an a 1-1 game. There are two down. Alex Gordon is on third, and Billy Butler is at the plate. Ex-Royal Mark Teahen is playing third base for the White Sox, and reliever Sergio Santos has been brought in to face Butler.
A runner at third takes his lead based on the position of the third baseman. If the third baseman is close to the bag, the runner will stay close to the bag. Nobody thinks Billy is going to bunt because Billy doesn’t bunt. Plus there are two outs, so a squeeze isn’t in order anyway. What all that means is Teahen is playing back.
That is a point in Alex Gordon’s favor. He now can take a bigger lead.
Alex tells Royals third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez that Santos has nasty stuff down and if a ball in the dirt gets away from Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski, he will try to score. The Royals’ offense has been struggling, and Gordon figures it’s time to push it on the base paths and not wait for a two-out hit.
Another point in Gordon’s favor: He’s ready for what happens next.
A runner at third takes his lead in foul territory. That way, if he’s hit by a batted ball, he won’t be called out. If the ball is not put in play, the runner returns to third on the baseline. That way the catcher won’t have a clear throw to third base for a pickoff. It’s a 2-1 count, and Alex has his lead. When the pitch is delivered, Gordon takes a secondary lead.
A secondary lead is a couple of shuffle steps toward the next base. Those steps get the body in motion and shorten the distance that the runner has to cover. When he’s on third, Alex likes to take a walking lead and ends up with his right foot in front of his left in a balanced position, ready to sprint toward home plate or return to third.
Then Gordo sees it: the down angle of a pitch headed into the dirt. He extends his lead, but if Pierzynski blocks the pitch, Alex would have to be ready to get back to third base. A.J. gets a piece of the pitch and the ball squirts sideways … and Alex bolts for home.
He’s committed now, but the ball shoots off at an angle in line with the basepath. That makes it extremely difficult to read. If the ball goes toward the backstop, Alex can see how much distance there is between the catcher and the ball. If the ball goes off to the catcher’s right, Gordon can’t tell whether the ball is far enough away for him to score.
At this point Alex thinks, “Oh, crap.” (We can use that word, right?) He isn’t sure he will be safe, but it’s too late to change his mind. The ball rolls just far enough away. Sergio Santos is just a bit slow in covering home plate, and for the second straight night, the Royals are winners.
And so is Alex Gordon.
How you beat good pitching
If you ask Royals manager Ned Yost how you beat good pitching, he won’t talk about hitters and the adjustments they have to make. Ned’s theory is you beat good pitching with good pitching.
When the opposing pitcher is bringing It … or nasty … or filthy (the latest term is “he’s shoving it” and I will leave it to your imagination to figure out just where the pitcher is shoving it), the hitters can’t do much about it. Like they say, good pitching beats good hitting.
What you need at that point is a nasty, filthy, “shoving it” pitcher of your own who keeps the score close until the bullpens get involved. I’m not sure any of that describes Royals pitcher Bruce Chen. He probably nudges it more than shoves it, but on Wednesday night he gave the Royals another quality start.
This is the type of game you will see when and if the Royals get good. Excellent pitching. Tight defense. And just enough offense to get a “W.”
P.S. This game featured more of the pitching inside philosophy. Bruce hit three White Sox batters, but I’m not sure he throws hard enough to warrant retaliation.
As a reader pointed out, Gordon also made a great catch, sliding feet first, which may have saved him from injury when he hit the left-field wall. The feet-first catch came into vogue as a way to go after sinking line drives without risking the ball getting past the diving fielder. You hope to catch the ball, but if you don’t, then hope the ball hits your sliding body and stays in front of you.
Mike Aviles is returning from Omaha after the Royals traded Wilson Betemit to the Detroit Tigers. Mike was trying to get here from Memphis (apparently not an overly popular airline route) and didn’t make it in time to pinch-run or pinch-hit in extra innings.
Getting ready for the Rays
I asked Royals first-base coach Doug Sisson what the base-running plan would be once the Tampa Bay Rays get in town for a weekend series starting Friday. He said that plan would be developed on Thursday.
While everyone else enjoys an off day, the base-running coach, hitting coach and pitching coach (and if I’ve missed anyone, forgive me) have to study video and scouting reports to get ready for Friday night’s game.
Speaking of Friday night
Watch Luke Hochevar, the Royals’ starting pitcher on Friday night, and the catcher’s glove. Hoch said everyone is talking about pitching inside and changing speeds and really believes that is part of the solution to his troubles, but he thinks the main thing is pitch execution.
No matter how good the idea is (go up and in and then low and away) it’s not going to work if he doesn’t get it up and in and low and away. Luke said that when he simply thinks about hitting the catcher’s glove, everything is clear. When he lets other thoughts creep in, everything is cluttered.
Pay attention Friday to the catcher’s mitt. That’s what Hoch will be trying to do.