Games » Detroit TigersAug7
One of the best throws you'll ever see
Seventh inning. One out. The Royals lead the Tigers 4-3. The tying run, Jhonny Peralta is standing on first. Detroit’s Alex Avila hits a ball into right field toward the line. It’s the perfect time for Peralta to go first to third. If Peralta can get to third with only one out, he can score without a hit.
Jeff Francoeur, the Royals’ right fielder, is moving to his left to field the ball, so the throw should not be strong. Gene Lamont, the Tigers’ third-base coach, waves Peralta around second and despite everything he has going against him, Frenchy throws a strike from somewhere around Blue Springs. He hits third basesman Mike Moustakas’ glove on the fly like a pitcher painting the outside corner. Peralta is out.
I heard some Tigers fans boo either Peralta, Lamont or both, but they were wrong. Lamont was right to wave Peralta on to third. After the game, I asked Frenchy what he thought: “Would you run on you?”
“He had to,” Frenchy said of Peralta. “I was moving sideways. But when it left my hand, I knew it was a good one. Sometimes they’re off-line or you didn’t get all of it and you know you’ve got no shot right away. This one was perfect.”
So throwing a baseball perfectly is like getting all of one as a hitter? Everything comes together at the right time?
Frenchy leads all active major-leaguers in career outfield assists. He has had 12 more this year, and he told me he thought this throw might have been his best ever. I hope you got to see it.
Third-base coaches and middle relievers
Neither gets interviewed much unless something goes wrong. Reporters talk to the starter and the closer. The guys in the middle often get ignored. Royals middle reliever Louis Coleman said that was just fine with him. Louis said he could stand a long-major league career of being ignored, but he still thanked me when I stopped by to say congratulations. (I’m trying to start a trend.)
Royals starter Bruce Chen was throwing well Sunday, but then a hurricane arrived. He gave up three straight hits in between the hotdog wrappers, small animals and compact cars flying by, and a rain delay stopped the game for a while. When play resumed, Coleman came out of the pen, he gave up a double, which forced Bruce’s last base runner in. Louis then got the game back under control and handed it off to Greg Holland in the eighth.
So appreciate the starters and the closers, but don’t forget those guys in the middle … or the third-base coach.
Speaking of Holland
Royals manager Ned Yost said the bullpen is pretty much mix-and-match until you get to closer Joakim Soria. Ned said he’s been going to Holland because he’s got the hot hand.
Mitch Maier got a start in center field and asked where he was hitting in the order. It turned out he was hitting sixth. I asked him before the game whether that would make a difference. Mitch said he didn’t think so. Unless the Tigers decided to work around him to get to a right-hander (but Brayan Pena was hitting behind him), Detroit would stick with its game plan.
“They know how they want to get me out,” Mitch said.
When I asked how the Tigers wanted to get him out, Mitch predicted that Max Scherzer, the Detroit starter, would start him away, maybe soft and then if he got ahead, come in hard to finish Mitch off.
“So if you know how Scherzer is going to pitch you, it’s not some big secret,” I said. “It’s all about execution. Can he hit his spots low and away and his spots inside? And if he misses those spots, can you execute and hit his mistakes?”
“Lee, this game is all about execution.”
So I paid attention and wrote down every pitch.
1.) Changeup, low and away for a strike. 2.) Changeup, down for a ball. 3.) Fastball, inside for a ball. 4.) Fastball, inside for a ball. (Scherzer is following the pattern, but missing his spots.) 5.) Fastball, in the zone, fouled back. (After the game, Mitch said this was the mistake pitch he had been waiting for, and he missed it.) 6.) Fastball up. Mitch swings through it. Strike three.
1.) Fastball away for a strike. 2.) Fastball away for a ball. 3.) Changeup for a ball. 4.) Hittable fastball, triple.
So everybody knew what everybody was trying to do. It was just a matter of who would be successful. Then the rain delay came. Scherzer was out of the game, and I never got to see a third at-bat … but I’ll pay attention next time.
The inside move
Saturday night Eric Hosmer got picked off second, so guess who was working on his leads at 11:30 the next morning? (It wasn’t me.) Hos and Royals first-base coach Doug Sisson were going over the situation. When they came off the field, I asked Sis what he and Hosmer had been fixing.
It turns out Eric has been drawing too much attention to himself at second base and Sisson wanted to clean that up. Justin Verlander, the Tigers’ starter on Saturday, has a 1.6-second delivery time to home, which is slow. There was one out and the thinking was steal third so Hos could score without the benefit of one of the very few hits Verlander was expected to give up. Eric broke too soon. Verlander picked his left foot up and spun back toward second. Hos was toast.
If the pitcher is right-handed, the key for the runner on second is the pitcher’s chin. The runner can break when it turns toward the plate, but the runner better know whether the pitcher ever looks back twice. And if he looks back more than once, what is the maximum number of looks the pitcher will use?
Sisson’s point was that Hosmer had drawn attention to himself with a lot of jumping around at second and caught Verlander’s attention. Doug said Eric would be better off putting the pitcher to sleep (“These are not the droids you’re looking for.”) and then using a walking lead before breaking for third.
So that’s why I couldn’t steal bases. It wasn’t being slow … I wasn’t sneaky enough.
Giavotella’s major-league debut could not be going any better unless he heals the sick or turns water into wine. He doubled and homered in this game, and so far he has made all the defensive plays except a short-hop throw by Brayan Pena on a stolen base.
Before Sunday’s game, Ned Yost projected Giavotella as a No. 2 hitter with the ability to hit the ball the other way (which helps if the leadoff man is standing on first base and keeping the hole open on the right side or standing on second base and needs to be moved to third.) Ned called Johnny’s speed “average” with the ability to steal a base “situationally.” That means if the pitcher is slow enough getting the ball home, Giavotella can run.
I’ve said you have to watch Chris Getz over time to appreciate his strengths. The reverse may be true for Giavotella. If there are holes in his game (and everybody has them), it will take time to see them … especially if he keeps playing like this.