Games » Cleveland IndiansAug27
The key moment before the key moment
I assume everyone is going to focus on Asdrubal Cabrera’s three-run home run as the key moment in this ball game, but to me, the key moment was one batter earlier. Walking Kusoke Fukudome to bring what turned out to be the game-winning run to the plate was the moment that made everything that followed possible.
Royals reliever Louis Coleman had two outs when pinch hitter Lonnie Chisenhall came to the plate. Coleman got two strikes on Chisenhall, then went inside on him and Lonnie pulled the pitch foul, but with home-run distance.
One hundred and twenty years of baseball history and common sense said the next pitch should have been away. It was, but Coleman left it up, and Chisenhall banged it into left field for a hit. So far, not so bad: Two outs. Runner on first. Tying run at the plate.
Fukudome had a total of four home runs on his resume this season. The on-deck hitter and the winning run, Asdrubal Cabrera, had 20. One hundred and twenty years of baseball history and common sense said challenge Fukudome. Instead, Coleman walked him, and the Royals paid the price.
Two walks scored in this game (that stat again), and the Royals lost by one run.
More game stuff
• This game was a second-guesser’s dream: Should Todd Holland have been brought in to face Asdrubal Cabrera? Should Mitch Maier have pinch run for Salvador Perez in the ninth? Should Alcides Escobar have tried to bunt Perez over?
I have great sympathy for the people who have to make these decisions in the heat of battle and not much patience for the people who have the luxury of second-guessing from the comfort of their couches, but (from the comfort of my couch): Ned Yost said he didn’t want to use Holland if he didn’t have to, because of all the pitches Greg threw Friday night.
The Royals don’t have that many chances to win games, I would have said use Holland if he’s available. I also would have pinch-run Mitch Maier. A guy with the speed to play center field isn’t an upgrade over a catcher? Once again, what are you saving him for? If someone gets hurt, cross that bridge when you come to it.
And finally, yeah, I thought Esky should have bunted. He just needed to do a better job. Alcides hasn’t had a hit in a while, and making sure Perez ended up on third seemed to be the right thing to do. Chris Getz already was in the game, and you needed Esky to play defense in the bottom of the ninth, so the bunt seemed to be a good choice. Ned didn’t protect Esky and said Alcides was doing it on his own. Once again (this has come up before), if you want him to swing away, tell him that.
• OK, that went on longer than I planned. What else do I have? Oh, right. Danny Duffy was very impressed with Detroit ace Jason Verlander when they matched up and saw how Verlander kept something in the tank for later in the game. Danny wants to do the same thing and was working around 93 mph and would gas up to 95 or 96 mph when he thought he needed it.
• Alex Gordon did a good job of breaking up a double play in the first inning. Cleveland second baseman Jason Donald took note, and when Billy Butler followed up with another double-play ball in the same inning, Donald dropped down (threw from a low arm angle) and made Melky Cabrera slide early, which prevented Melky from breaking up another double play.
• Speaking of Alex, he was out on a play at home in the fifth inning. Alex slid head-first, but he would have been within his constitutional baseball rights if he blew up Cleveland’s catcher, Lou Marson. Marson straddled the line and made Alex go wide. If Alex had run over him, it would have been considered fair because of the position Marson took in front of the plate.
• On the same play, Jeff Francoeur did not clear the bat from the baseline. The on-deck hitter has responsibilities on a play at the plate. He’s the final base coach. The on-deck hitter signals to the runner coming home whether to come in standing or sliding and which side of the plate the runner should slide toward.
The on-deck hitter also needs to clear the base path of discarded equipment. The runner shouldn’t have to deal with a bat (although sometimes the umpire will move it), and in the old days when catchers took off their masks for plays at the plate, they would throw that in the base line. Ya gotta throw it somewhere, so why not in the runner’s way?
How stealing bases helps you hit home runs
Because we had a prolonged debate yesterday about the worth of stealing bases, let me point out that Alex Gordon’s seventh-inning home run came on a hung slider when the pitcher was distracted by the base runner.
Cleveland reliever Tony Sipp threw over to first base two times right before he hung a slider to Alex. If Sipp was trying to get his foot down in a hurry, that would also have contributed to the pitch being up in the zone.
If you don’t ever run or bunt, defenses and pitchers play comfortable. They stand where they want and throw what they want. Push them, and you get more fastballs, defenses out of position and distracted pitchers delivering hung sliders.
His left foot
I have pointed out that Royals catcher Salvador Perez has a tendency to roll his left shoulder down and toward third base in an effort to protect himself in a collision at home plate. That can put his body between the runner and the mitt and might mean Salvador never actually makes the tag.
But now I would like to point out something Salvador does really well on those plays at the plate: He leaves his left foot in position even if he has to stretch like a contortionist to do so. On a play at the plate, a catcher plants his left foot on the third base foul line, toes pointed toward third. That way, if the catcher gets hit, his foot goes straight back and is protected by the shin guard, not rolled sideways. The foot also anchors the catcher in place. He knows where the plate is as long as that foot doesn’t move.
On each of the two plays where Brayan Pena failed to get a tag down on a runner after the throw arrived first, Brayan had to move his left foot. The throw was coming from right field, which pulled Brayan to his right and he lost contact with the plate. Not knowing where the plate was allowed the runner to slide in under the tag.
So far, Perez has been terrific at leaving his foot in place, blocking the plate and anchoring himself in position. Little stuff like this is how close ballgames are won.