Games » Seattle MarinersSep11
Blake Wood kinda wins the ball game
Kansas City Star
OK. Maybe I exaggerated a little bit, but middle relievers, just like third-base coaches, get no attention unless something goes wrong. Let’s back up to manager Ned Yost’s pregame radio show: Ned said he was going to let Sunday’s starter, Everett Teaford, run his pitch count up to about 60.
So how were the Royals going to get through the fifth, sixth and seventh innings?
Yost said his bullpen was well-rested, but if you have to use four or five guys out of the pen, what are the odds none of them will have a bad day? (Actually, I don’t know what the odds are, but it seems as though it’s far from a sure thing.) So, any one of four to five guys goes in the tank and there goes your ball game.
Well, Everett took care of the fifth inning himself, and you could kind of see it coming. He was throwing very well and got through the third inning in nine pitches and the fourth inning with 11, which put him at 56 pitches (if I counted right) after four innings. If the starter is ahead, his manager often will try to get him through five innings to qualify for the win.
Teaford had pitched well, hadn’t labored through jams, and I thought Ned might send him back out for the fifth. Yost did, and Everett struck out the side (mixing in his only walk of the day). Teaford threw 73 pitches and qualified for the win, but how were the Royals going to get through the sixth and seventh? (Remember, these “bridge innings” between the starter and the set-up man are where a lot of games are decided.)
The answer to the Royals’ dilemma was Blake Wood. He threw two scoreless innings, gave up no hits or walks and struck out four batters. So be happy for Everett Teaford getting the win, Greg Holland getting another hold and Joakim Soria tacking on another save, but don’t forget the middle reliever. Because Blake Wood kinda won the ball game.
And a good attitude doesn’t hurt
The Royals are 62-86. They have been home for only three of the last 19 games, and they have had one day off in the last 40. It’s easy to develop a less-than-stellar attitude and just go through the motions, simply trying to finish off a long season.
People who are around the team (and I’m one) will tell you that the Royals have kept a good attitude and appear ready to play every day, no matter what happened the night before. That good attitude just helped them win a game.
In the third inning with two outs and Alcides Escobar on first base, Alex Gordon hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball to left field that would have ended the inning — except the ball got into the sun. (I believe I’ve mentioned that sun balls are a lot harder to field than major-league players make it look.) On this occasion, Mariners left fielder Mike Carp made fielding a sun ball look every bit as hard as it is. He missed it.
Esky scored from first, and Alex wound up with a double. I just wanted to point out that if Esky wasn’t hustling, he probably would not have scored. If Gordo wasn’t running hard, he probably would have wound up on first. You run these balls out because once in a blue moon, they get dropped. Alcides and Alex did their jobs, and the Royals probably won a game because they weren’t just going through the motions.
• When Esky scored, Melky Cabrera also was doing his job. The on-deck hitter acts as the third-base coach, letting the runner (who has the play behind him) know whether he should come in to home plate standing or sliding and which side of the plate he should aim for. Melky was waving for Esky to get down even though the throw was off-line. Better safe than sorry … or maybe Melky just wanted to see Esky get his uniform dirty.
• Seattle’s Dustin Ackley must be pretty sick of Jeff Francoeur. Frenchy robbed Ackley twice Friday on spectacular catches and doubled him off in Sunday’s game. Jeff caught a sinking line drive that Ackley thought would fall. Frenchy came up throwing to first for another assist.
• And don’t forget Eric Hosmer’s play on the other end. He handled an “in-between” hop. A short hop is one that hits inches in front of the mitt (the catch smothers it). A long hop is several feet out in front (the player receiving the ball has time to adjust). An in-between hop is … ummm … in-between: too far away to smother and too close to adjust. Hos was concentrating so hard on handling the ball that he fell over after the catch.
• Chris Getz helped Esky get a hit in the fifth inning. Chris got hit by a pitch, barely (in my experience, the best kind of hit-by-pitch), and had Mariners pitcher Anthony Vasquez very concerned about a stolen base. Vasquez threw over to first base four times, and eventually Esky got a pitch to handle. Esky had to hit the pitch, but Chris distracting the pitcher didn’t hurt his chances of getting a good one.
• Think about this: A hitter standing in the on-deck circle needs to know whether he can steal against the guy on the mound. If it’s a lock (for example, Getz against a pitcher who is slow to the plate), you don’t want to get thrown out stretching a single into a double. Just take your knock, and steal it on the next pitch. And if you want get even more complicated, you might think about whether you’re in the part of the game when the bullpen comes into play and what your chances are against the likely reliever.
• One more thought on the stolen base: Getz has 21. That doesn’t help him drive in a run, but the steal can take the place of a double in terms of getting into scoring position. Chris may not have the same slugging percentage as other players, but he might find himself in the same position after he steals a base.
• The K giveth ,and the K taketh away: Everybody who is paying attention should know that Kauffman Stadium takes away home runs, but it also gives doubles. Alex Gordon leads the league with 45. Jeff Francoeur is tied for second with 44. Melky Cabrera has 39. Line-drive hitters who can run have success in the K. (And line-drive hitters who can’t run do OK, too: Billy Butler has 38.)
Why they do it
It often drives people crazy when a pitcher continually goes over to first base when the runner at first is not a base stealer. It may not be as crazy as it seems. Even slow guys need to fight for leads. Think about it: Runners are rarely out by more than a step. If a runner, even a slow one, can fight for that step, he might be safe when taking the extra base or be able to get down and break up a double play.
So if a slow runner needs to fight for a lead because it gives him an advantage, it makes sense that a pitcher needs to shorten that lead. The trick for the pitcher is to mentally separate the two tasks. He’s either throwing to first base or home plate, and whichever one he’s headed for, 100 percent of his mind needs to be on that target.
(Of course, if you talk to Bruce Chen, part-time comedian and full-time pitcher, he will tell you he has no idea where he’s throwing the ball when he picks up his foot. Bruce might be able to handle that, most pitchers can’t.)