Games » Detroit TigersAug29
How you score nine runs
Good news: the bottom third of the Royals order hit the daylights out of the ball last night (there’s a joke in there somewhere). That’s how you put up big numbers, get production from the bottom of the order. When you get seven hits, four for extra bases, a walk, four runs and six RBIs out of your 7-8-9 hitters, you’re probably going to have a good night.
If the bottom of the order hits, rallies aren’t cut short, runners are on base or in scoring position when your best hitters go to the plate and opposing pitchers do not have easy innings (Tigers starter Max Scherzer was gone after three ).
When Boston was in town we talked about the importance of the last three hitters and how the Royals could not match the Red Sox bottom third. Last night provided some hope that the situation might change and the Royals can do some damage in every offensive inning.
That’s how you score nine runs.
Maybe I’m making too much of it
But in the bottom of the third Luke Hochevar threw a nasty slider to Ramon Santiago. Santiago swung over the top of the pitch, but Salvador Perez did not go into full block mode and the ball went to the backstop. Luke walked Wilson Betemit to lead off the inning and Don Kelly flared in a single, so both advanced on the wild pitch. After that, Luke began to hang sliders and got banged around for three runs in the inning.
I don’t know that the wild pitch had an effect or that Hochevar wasn’t comfortable really snapping a breaking pitch after that, but I do know it works the other way: when pitches get blocked it gives the pitcher the confidence to throw his nastiest stuff.
Nobody mentioned rain, but water appeared to splash up on some of the hits that fell in. Any time you see this, look for the runners to be more aggressive about taking the extra base. Outfielders will be dealing with a wet ball and throws won’t be as strong or accurate.
The first pitch of Johnny Giavotella’s first at-bat provided a great example of the “get me over curve.” Pitchers can throw something less than their best curve if they’re convinced the hitter is not going to swing at an off-speed pitch early in the count. It’s easier to control the so-so curve, but the danger is some hitter will decide to look for it early in the count and tee off.
Couple of base running mistakes: Giavotella came up with a big hit with a two-out, bases-loaded double, but then tried to advance to third on the throw home and was thrown out. It can be a heads-up play if the runner is intentionally drawing the throw to make sure the run scores, but Eric Hosmer looked like he was in easily. Johnny’s attempted advance cost the Royals an at-bat with a runner in scoring position.
Salvador Perez was on second and failed to advance on Alcides Escobar’s groundout to short. The ball was hit slightly to Salvador’s left which meant Jhonny Peralta would be going away from third to field the grounder. Runners on second can’t advance on a ball hit to their right because the shortstop will be headed toward third and have an easy throw to cut down the runner trying to advance.
Miguel Cabrera did a great job of proving that pop-ups are harder than they look. They curve back toward the playing field and it’s sometimes difficult to judge how much movement they’ll have. Like most things concerning defense at first, Eric Hosmer makes them look easy. They’re not.
Miguel also made a mistake on a throw up the baseline. He tried to stay on the bag and let the ball get past and into the stands. First rule of playing first: the ball is more important than the bag.
As I’ve written before, the shutdown inning by a pitcher after his offense gives him some runs is a big deal. His team gave Luke Hochevar a 5-run lead and he walked the first batter he saw, Wilson Betemit. Luke gave up three in the third to put the Tigers right back in the game, but Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar then put on a reverse shutdown inning coming right back to score two with a couple of home runs to lead off the fourth. Nice when the offense can pick up the pitcher and get him back on track.
Aggressive base running
Alex Gordon’s E7 was caused by aggressive base running. OK, more accurately, by the threat of aggressive base-running. Alex was going slightly back and to his left to field a Victor Martinez single. Miguel Cabrera was lumbering around second and headed for third. Alex wanted to reach down, field the ball, plant, spin and throw to third, but in his hurry he never came up with the ball.
This is one of the ways aggressive base-running pays off: people get in a hurry and make mistakes. If you always play it safe and never push the defense, they won’t make mistakes. This is another one of those things that won’t make the box score, but can change a ball game.
And Melky Cabrera deserves some credit for being where he was supposed to be: backing Alex up.
Taking your eye off the ball
Next time there’s a throw home, take your eye off the ball and look for the cutoff man. He’ll be somewhere in the middle of the infield. The outfielder’s job is to make an accurate, low throw home that could be cut if necessary. The cutoff man will listen for the catcher’s call, which will tell him whether to cut the ball off and which base to throw to.
If the throw is allowed to go home, you might see the cutoff man reach up and fake a catch and throw to freeze the trailing runners. If the throw’s too high, no fake is possible, or at least believable, and the runners will advance.
On Sunday Joakim Soria came out and tried to hit the outside corner on the first batter he saw, switch-hitter Carlos Santana. Carlos was hitting left-handed and Joakim missed wide outside with two pitches. Brayan Pena then pointed at his own left shoulder. This is the universal sign catchers use to let the pitcher know he’s flying open.
The glove-side shoulder opens too soon, the arm never catches up with the body and the ball goes wide to the throwing side. This is probably not the whole explanation for Jack missing on the outside corner (his most likely pitch to start off an at-bat), but once Brayan pointed it out and Soria made the correction, he went 1-2-3.
The Catcher's Blind Spot
Royals catcher Brayan Pena recently told Lee Judge what he needed to focus on when there was a throw-out situation at the plate. In this video Lee describes what it's like to have the "Catcher's Blind Spot."