Games » Baltimore OriolesAug4
Why Hosmer's good
Yes, the Royals won 9-4. Yes, the Orioles had a nightmare inning in the 6th when a series of bloops, bleeders and misplays buried them. And, yes, the Royals are on a bit of a hot streak. But you don’t need me to tell you that, everyone else will. I want to point out a series of at-bats in what looks like an unremarkable evening for Eric Hosmer, that show you why he’s good.
Look at the box score and Hos appeared to have a so-so game: 1-5, no RBIs, no runs, two strikeouts. So what’s the big deal? In his first at-bat against left-handed pitcher Zach Britton, Eric struck out, looking approximately like me.
Rear end going one way, bat going the other, failing and missing at a slider down and away. It looked like Hos was totally fooled and might be in for a bad night. In the second at-bat Eric decided to wait a bit longer and take the ball to the left side. He got another slider from Britton, but this time didn’t swing, then got a fastball and grounded out to short. Just a bit better.
In his third at-bat against Britton, he was still trying to go the other way, but got a hittable slider and smoked it into right for a single.
Going one for five with a couple of strikeouts is not a stellar night, but the fact that Hosmer could figure out what Britton was doing to him, make an adjustment and have success two at-bats later is a big deal. Guys who can do that are special. And guys who can do that after only a short time in the big leagues are rarer still.
Oh, and Alex Gordon had a pretty good night, too.
Getz gets it
The Royals called up Johnny Giavotella, and Chris Getz says he understands why. It’s that time of year, and the Royals need to figure out what Giavotella can do at this level. It hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that the same people who were screaming for Kila Ka’aihue to be called up (and seem to have quickly forgotten him) have been screaming that Giavotella should be called up. As always, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple months and nobody will be more interested than Chris Getz.
Wednesday night Brayan Pena walked by and said, “Early work tomorrow. Me, you and Gibby, 2:30. I want to show you the blind spot.” I wanted to know what the ‘blind spot’ was, so at 2:30 yesterday Brayan and I were standing at home plate. Brayan wanted me to understand what happened on the two tags at home plate where the runners got under his glove.
Pena was very clear that he was taking responsibility for what happened, “I’m not making excuses. I screwed up. I’m a big league guy, I gotta make that play.” Brayan then had me stand in the correct position for a play at the plate when the throw’s from left field. Left foot on the foul line right foot pointed to the left fielder. Brayan explained I now had the whole play in front of me: I could see the outfielder, the throw, the runner, the base coach and the cutoff man.
Next we pretended the throw was from centerfield. With my left foot on the line and my right foot towards centerfield I could see all the same things, but now out of the corner of my eye. But when I shifted my right foot for a throw from right, the only thing in my field of vision would be the outfielder and the throw. In this position the catcher totally loses sight of the runner coming home: The blind spot.
The play calls for total concentration on the ball, because without the ball, the tag doesn’t matter. The catcher knows the position of the plate as long as he can keep his left foot on the foul line, but when Brayan flipped a ball to my right and I shuffled a couple steps to catch it, I no longer knew precisely where the plate was.
This was the position Brayan found himself in during those two plays: the ball had drawn him to his right, he no longer has contact with the line and only knew the plate and runner were to his left. So far so good, but here’s where the plays broke down: when Brayan turned to his left he tagged high and the runners had a chance to slide in under the tag.
John Gibbons had joined us at this point and Brayan demonstrated the adjustment Gibby asked him to make: turn and sweep the glove low to the ground between the runner and the plate. If the play happens again, that’s what Brayan plans on doing.
And now you can watch for it.
Billy’s game plan
Billy Butler was sitting at his locker relaxing before the game, and I asked him who Baltimore had on the mound that night. (Yes, I could’ve checked the lineup card, but Billy was sitting right there.) Turns out it was Zach Britton (as you know by now). I asked what he had and Billy said he was a sinkerballer.
“So do you set your sights low?”
“No, you make him get it up.” So wait for a mistake and don’t miss it when you get it. Billy apparently got a couple of them.
More notes from Wednesday’s game
I found a few notes I made and missed the other day, so here they are:
You might already know this, but most triples are to right and the best time to go for third is with one down (there are exceptions). It’s hard to triple to left because of the shorter throw and a runner doesn’t want to make the first or third out at third. All this crossed my mind when Alcides Escobar put a ball down in the right field corner Wednesday night in the 2nd inning. Most fans may know all this, but some don’t. Now they do.
Luke Hochevar did that quick pitch thing he does where he shortens his windup and the hitter, Mark Reynolds fouled the pitch back. So it didn’t work, right? Well, the quick pitch was a 92-mph sinker and the next pitch was an 87-mph slider. Reynolds was well out in front on the slider and struck out, so maybe the quick pitch worked — one pitch later. Hoch told me speeding up or delaying the windup is just one more way to mess with the hitters’ timing.
Alex Gordon made a diving catch Wednesday night. If you watched his reaction it was pretty cool, which got me to thinking: if Alex does something well there’s not much reaction from him. When things go wrong, there’s still not much reaction from him. He’s got a very even demeanor no matter the outcome of a play. What changes is fan reaction: if a guy fails and stays cool, he must not care. If he succeeds and stays cool, he’s a steady player. Sometimes what we think about players comes from us, not them.
With runners on first and second, Manny Pina hit a sinking line drive to right field. There were fewer than two outs so the runners had to hang. This can be a very tough judgment call for a runner: too short a lead and the runner can be forced at second if the ball drops. Too long a lead and the runner can be doubled off if the ball’s caught. The right choice is shorter rather than longer. Being forced at the next base is one out, being doubled off is two.
One last thing
While Brayan and I stood at home plate, John Gibbons told some pretty funny stories. We got on the subject of retaliation when a hitter gets drilled and Gibby said there are times a player can figure out he’s the one the other side is going to hit to get even.
Usually it’s by position, batting order or importance: you hit our first baseman, we’ll hit yours/ you hit our No. 3 hitter, we’ll hit yours/ you hit our star player, we’ll hit yours.
The funny part is once a player figures out he’s likely to get drilled, he might start pleading his case with someone on the other side. “Boy, I’m not sure that when our pitcher hit your guy it was intentional.” Sounds like lobbying the other side rarely works and guys are walking to the plate knowing they’re going to have to “wear one.”
I know just how they feel.
Royals Hosmer shows Lee Judge footwork around first base
Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer demonstrates the footwork around first base when playing the position. July 22, 2011 (Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)