Games » Boston Red SoxJul25
The professional's nightmare
Sorry about the late posting, but last night was the professional’s nightmare: rain delay and extra innings. I don’t know if the players feel the same way (I suspect some do), but when a game gets to the ninth inning, the writers are thinking, “win it or lose it, but don’t tie it.” (Not sure I’m supposed to admit that, but like most things you’re not supposed to admit, it’s true.)
On the other hand, once the game goes long enough (and I’d have to say 2 hours and 21 minutes of rain delay and 4 hours and 28 minutes of baseball is long enough) the thinking changes. Now you’re thinking, “If you’re going to play this long, you might as well win.”
The Royals did.
Kyle Davies showed why the Royals haven’t given up in him. One run in six innings in Fenway? On the pregame show (and there was a lot of pregame show) Robert Ford said that if Kyle threw six and gave up four runs in Fenway, that was a decent outing. Kyle went way beyond that, throwing six strikeouts into the mix.
The bullpen was great: eight innings of shutout ball against the Boston Red Sox in their own park ain’t easy. The defense, with the exception of Coleman’s error, played well and the offense did just enough. A quality start, good work from the pen, solid defense and a scrambling offense: That’s the winning formula for the future.
But all the writers would appreciate it if the formula didn’t take 6 hours and 49 minutes to mix.
A pitch at a time, but too many pitches
When games get long, and this one got looooong, you begin to get lapses in player concentration. It’s no surprise that there were missed signs all over the place in the 14th inning. You’re supposed to play the game a pitch at a time. With every pitch, the situation changes and the smart players are changing their strategy with the count (“the hitter’s ahead in the count, he’s more likely to pull the ball” kind of stuff).
But thinking like that is really tiring (try doing it as a fan for an inning, I mean really concentrate, think through all the possibilities before every pitch and you’ll see what I mean).
So when there are a zillion pitches thrown, even the players who are really good at this might take a pitch off once in a while. (Players who are really bad at this take innings off.) When you see multiple players screw up on one play, and we that’s what we saw with the Hosmer-Francoeur-Aviles game-winning fiasco, you know those guys were mentally exhausted.
Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer combined on another highlight-reel play. Esky’s spinning throw and Hosmer’s scoop in the sixth got the runner (I think it was Kevin Youkilis, but the game became something of a blur).
When you see a great infield play, you immediately credit the defense, but ballplayers will tell you the runner should get some credit: Slow runners make for great infield plays. A lot of the time it’s the only reason the fielder has time to dive, roll over, get up and flip the ball to the man covering the bag.(I know this because I created a lot of great infield plays myself, including once hitting a one-hop shot off a first baseman’s shoulder, caught on the fly by the second baseman who threw to the pitcher covering first. Try beating that for slow.)
Spread the wealth
Communism and baseball have something in common, and it’s not that we could have changed history by signing Fidel Castro to a contract when he wanted to be a pitcher. The Royals had 12 hits, which sounds great, but 12 hits by five guys is not as good as 12 hits by nine guys.
Twelve hits by nine guys keeps rallies going; doing the same with five guys means a lot of rallies get cut short. Russ Morman once said something brilliant to me: When a team puts up big numbers, look at the bottom of the order. If they don’t hit, rallies will be cut short. If they get the job done offensively, rallies are extended back to the top.
A walk that didn’t score, kind of
Kyle Davies walked David Ortiz in the second inning. Carl Crawford, a much more dangerous base runner, was then safe at first on a fielder’s choice when Hosmer went to second to force Ortiz. Crawford then stole second and scored Boston’s only run. So even though the walk didn’t score, the walk resulted in Crawford scoring.
When you find yourself in a bad place, it’s always good to remember how you got there. When runs score, remember how they got on in the first place and you’ll have a good idea of what to do about it in the future.
A lasting memory, as long as we remind him
When fans think of Fenway Park they probably think of the Green Monster, Pesky’s Pole and all the tradition that goes along with a place built in Bronze Age. Ask a player about any park and he’ll talk about the clubhouse, playing surface and maybe the dugout. That’s what they have to deal with, so that’s what they care about. Players don’t think about ballparks the way the rest of us do. Last Sunday I asked Mitch Maier about playing in Fenway, and he immediately mentioned the small clubhouse. To his credit, the great atmosphere was next on his list. Which outfield position did he prefer playing there?
“I’ve played right and center, I don’t remember if I’ve ever played left.”
“Dude, ever turn around and see something really big behind you?”
That didn’t jog his memory. Neither did Mike Moustakas.
“How do you not remember if you’ve played left in Fenway?” Well, Mitch doesn’t. If someone looks it up and finds out, let me know and I’ll tell him. He’d probably be thrilled to find out he played left in Fenway…or not. Anyway, Mitch said he always prefers center field wherever he is.
“Easier to read the ball off the bat.” When balls are hit to center you get a truer read and there is less slice or hook in the ball’s flight (line drives tend to hook foul no matter which line they hug, pop flies tend to drift fair…throw in some wind and now you’ve got real fun on your hands).
Another thing about center is fewer obstacles on your course. It’s the biggest part of any park and there’s less chance of hitting a wall while on the dead run. Fenway’s right field has Pesky’s Pole and then drops off dramatically and fans are definitely in play. The Green Monster has the scoreboard and various seams in the wall. Depending on whether it hits the middle of a section or the support in-between two sections, the ball might shoot off or just drop.
We talked about the reasons for outfield configurations in old ball parks, where they might not have had a choice, and new ball parks, where they build in gimmicks for fun. Mitch was not a big fan of the latter. Why put all that stuff out there if you don’t have to? Houston’s incline in centerfield was discussed.
(I heard when some of the Astros outfielders saw it for the first time, they said they weren’t going to risk injury climbing that in full stride. Don’t know how that came out, but why not put a trench they have to jump over, a water hazard or a trampoline next to the wall for robbing home runs?…Wait a minute, that last idea sounds pretty good.)
Anyway, keep your eye on Mitch for the next few days and if he plays left field, we can remind him he’s had an experience he’ll never forget.