Games » Tampa Bay RaysJul23
How many heroes do you need?
Let’s start with Jeff Francis. He’s not overburdened with stuff to start with and Ned Yost didn’t think he was sharp last night, but Jeff battled for five innings. As Ned pointed out, Francis could’ve left the game down 7-2, but pitched well enough when his back was against the wall to leave the game down only 3-2. (Plus he started a 1-4-3 double play: he got hit in the shoulder with a batted ball, but he slowed it down enough to let Chris Getz get to the ball and turn two.)
Next, how about Greg Holland? He pitched three innings and struck out six. He did give up a walk in the 6th and that walk scored in front of a double. It was the walk that did the damage, not the double, but he gave three solid innings out of the pen and got the ball to Crow and Soria.
Aaron Crow threw a scoreless 9th and then looked like he gave the game away in the 10th when he walked the first two batters. (To be fair, home plate umpire Ted Barrett appeared to be giving a wide zone and squeezing pitches down.)
And of course, Joakim Soria, who came into the 10th with two on, gave up a hit and then got out of a bases-loaded, nobody out jam. He knocked down a shot hit up the middle (OK, actually he got hit with a shot up the middle) and had the presence of mind to get the ball to Matt Treanor for the force out at the plate. He then struck out Sam Fuld looking. After the game Jack told me he got Fuld looking at a backdoor cutter (a pitch that starts outside of the zone to a lefty and then moves back into the zone at the last second). Soria called the outing “fun.” (Wow, closers really do have a different attitude, don’t they?)
Let’s see, who else? Oh, yeah, in the first inning Brayan Pena saved a run by blocking a pitch in the dirt with a runner on third.
Mike Moustakas had two hits and drove in three runs.
Chris Getz walked in the 9th, got picked off (but the umpire missed the call) and then broke up a double play which kept the inning alive and got Alex Gordon to the plate with Alcides Escobar on first. Gordon then doubled and drove in the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the 9th. Alex told me that in the past he’d be thinking home run there. This year he’s just trying to get base hits and the let the home runs happen, and we’re all seeing the results.
In the bottom of the 10th Billy Butler gave the Royals what they needed with a leadoff single.
And then Eric Hosmer drove in pinch runner Mike Aviles with a double to the opposite field. Eric agreed that hitting a game winner in the major leagues might be the coolest feeling in the world. I get excited if my team wins a softball game with nobody in attendance. Imagine what it must feel like to have 27,000 thousand people go bats. Hos agreed it’s pretty awesome.
If the game plan comes together, this might be a glimpse of the future: solid starting pitching, a shutdown bullpen and just enough offense to scramble for a win.
Let’s hope so.
Before the game Mitch Maier and Billy Butler were hanging in the clubhouse and I asked if either of them would switch to a lighter bat as the season wore on. The grind of playing 162 games and the heat of mid-summer can take its toll and a bat that felt fine in April could seem heavy by August.
Billy said he generally uses the same model, but within a batch of bats, some could be 31 ounces, some 32. If it gets really hot, he might use the lighter bat. Mitch said he does it by pitcher. If a guy is really bringing it, that’s when he might use the lighter model.
Across the clubhouse, Eric Hosmer was fooling with the wrapping on a bat’s handle and said he was unlikely to change bats no matter the weather, as long as he was hitting well. Slump and it’s clearly time to make a change. You might change your bat, your batting gloves or even a pair of socks: anything that allows you to get fresh start mentally.
The routine play
I know some people get upset with the way I score what they consider a “routine” play. Here’s the problem: guys who are really good make plays appear routine. It’s not the first time the thought occurred to me, but watching the Rays Sam Fuld misplay an Eric Hosmer line drive and a Jeff Francoeur pop fly Friday night, made me think it all over again.
Alex Gordon makes those plays look easy. It’s been said that Joe DiMaggio never had a tough play (no doubt an exaggeration) because he got such great jumps and ran such great routes. Blocking a pitch in the dirt with a runner on third might seem routine, until you see a poor defensive catcher mess it up.
It’s not easy and I’m not perfect, but I’m trying to spot those plays that seem routine, but really aren’t.
Another way to measure the season
If my math is correct (and I’m bad at math when it’s not 12:30 and I haven’t had three beers) the Royals played their 100th ball game last night. There are several ways to measure how far we are through the season: the number of games played, the calendar and Alex Gordon’s hat.
Some players wear the same one all season.
Just imagine an article of clothing soaked with sweat, day after day and never washed. Gordo’s hat is disgusting. At this point it’s kind of limp and greasy and smells to high heaven. Alex offered me a sniff, but I turned him down. Jeff Francoeur warned me against smelling Gordo’s hat, “You’d be better off getting hit by another 92 mile-an-hour pitch.”
I’m usually up for any new adventure, but I didn’t have to smell it, I own several in the same condition.
Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and I went out on the field to see if I could get a poorly thrown ball (my specialty) past Hosmer at first. The bet was 10 balls in the dirt and Hos had to scoop them all to win. Moose was my adviser on how to make a bad throw. I won’t tell you how it went, but we’ll post the video soon.