Games » Chicago White SoxSep17
A vision of the future
The Kansas City Star
Saturday night’s game was, without a doubt, the best Royals game I have seen all year. I thought the previous two games were great candidates, but on Saturday night, everything came together. It was very easy to see why many people think this Royals team will be one of the best in baseball before long.
Everett Teaford went out, filling in Danny Duffy’s spot in the rotation, and pitched absolutely great. He was locating his four-seamer well and getting strikeouts and pop-outs in key places to pitch himself out of innings with runners on base. The only problem Teef really had all night was leaving a pitch right over the plate to Alex Rios, who went yard and gave the White Sox an early 1-0 lead. Even that, though, turned into a heartening sign: Teaford went right back out and struck out the next batter on four pitches.
Other than the home run, Teaford was absolutely excellent, keeping control of his pitch count and giving the Royals a quality start. Nate Adcock took over in the seventh inning, and, though he hit a rough patch early that gave the Sox a few (ultimately) meaningless runs, he was able to regain control in the eighth, and in the ninth, throw strikes and come through with his first career save.
Tonight, the Royals looked so far removed from those guys in June, who couldn’t score a run to save their lives that it was almost hard to believe they were the same team. Many fans and members of the news media consider anything short of a playoff berth to be worthless, and anything less than a championship to be disappointing. But tonight’s game reminded me why I love the Royals and why I love baseball at a fundamental level. Every game is a new chance to win and get better, and for nine innings, nothing else matters.
Royals fans have a unique opportunity here at the end of the 2011 season and in the next few years to come. They have the chance to watch a bad team turn into a good team and eventually a great team. Every single game, we get the chance to watch these young, extremely talented players learn how to play the game right and how to win at a major-league level, and before long, it is going to pay off. If you’re smart, you will start watching now so you can say, “I was there when it all started.”
New York and Boston can keep all the World Series rings that money can buy. Kansas City is gonna earn ’em.
Anatomy of a comeback
The bottom of the fourth was a very well-executed comeback for the Royals after going down 1-0 in the second. Mike Moustakas hit a single, followed by an excellent 10 pitch at-bat for Salvador Perez that resulted in another single. Chris Getz came in and laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt that died right out in front of the plate, moving both Moose and Perez into scoring position. Alcides Escobar came up in the next at-bat and absolutely ripped a triple into the left-center gap, clearing the bases and taking back the lead.
It was yet another moment in tonight’s game that hinted at what the future of this team can offer: aggressive, persistent run manufacturing from the bottom of the Royals lineup. Combine that with one of the best one-through-fives anywhere around the league, and the Royals offense suddenly looks very, very dangerous.
What season were you watching?
Every time I see a base-runner on the other team round third base on a ball hit to left field, I always hope they send him home because, a lot of the time, Alex Gordon guns him down at the plate. In fact, Alex has become so good at getting outfield assists that I actually am surprised whenever anyone actually does attempt to run on him.
I had assumed at this point, after a league-leading 20 assists, that Alex had become sort of the Nnamdi Asomugha of AL outfielders: so good that he doesn’t even get tested (for those that don’t know, Nnamdi, the NFL’s best cornerback, gets targeted only a handful of times per year). The White Sox players and coaches knew this in the top of the fourth Saturday night and decided to hold Dayan Viciedo at third after Adam Dunn’s single.
However, the reporters from Chicago who were sitting in front of me were apparently unaware of Alex’s arm in left and were quite unhappy with the decision to hold Viciedo at third, saying, “What are we doing? Now we can’t get guys in off second?” It looked as though Viciedo did have some room to run, but Alex has been so good out in left that the Sox didn’t want to risk it with a one-run lead and only one man out. I can’t blame the Chicago reporters for wanting to be aggressive on the base paths because the Sox have been so bad lately, but I also feel like I know that Juan Pierre’s arm in left isn’t great. Shouldn’t they know about the best arm in the American League?
So, apparently not everyone in baseball knows about Alex’s arm yet, and I think we all would like to keep it that way. It’s a lot more entertaining for everybody.
A few other notes
• Despite his obvious lack of speed, Billy Butler was able to break up a double play in the bottom of the eigth. He slid toward Alexei Ramirez, who was covering second base on Eric Hosmer’s grounder, and took Ramirez away from the bag, which knocked Ramirez’s throw off-line, allowing Hosmer to reach safely at first. That set the stage for Jeff Francoeur’s three-run homer that put the nails in Chicago’s coffin. It’s good to see Billy make the effort on plays like this because he’s had issues with hustle plays in the past. Well done, Billy.
• In a weird way, Chicago’s Paul Konerko proved how good Eric Hosmer is at first. Melky Cabrera hit a grounder to the deep third-base side to lead off the eigth inning. White Sox third baseman Brent Morel had to fire all the way across the infield, and gave Konerko a short hop to deal with. Konerko attempted to make a very Eric Hosmer-esque play, stretching off the first base and swiping the ball to get Melky in time, but he wasn’t able to bend his legs far enough and he was pulled off the bag. Hosmer can almost do the splits on the same play, and even when he does come off the bag, he’s so athletic that he can make it by just a few inches, which usually works to get the runner out. I don’t think it’s a stretch (no pun intended) at all to say that Hosmer has the footwork and moves around first of a veteran like Konerko, combined with the athleticism of a rookie. Those two factors are going to make him one of the best first basemen in the entire league.
• Before his homer in the bottom of the eighth, Frenchy went 0-for-4. He hit a 4-3, a 4-3, an F9 and an F3 — all to the right side of the field. Then, when he hit his homer, he pulled it deep into the left field stands. I wanted to see if they were trying to get him out away and, if so, what adjustments he made to pull his homerun, but I wasn’t able to tonight. I’ll ask him tomorrow and post what he says in tomorrow’s game notes.
From Friday night
I asked first-base coach Doug Sisson about Moustakas’ failure to tag up and get to third Friday night on the fly ball from Salvador Perez, and Sisson confirmed that it was a mistake on Moose’s behalf. He said that Moose was in his secondary lead, which is about 25 feet out from the bag, and was waiting to see if the ball would drop. Moose simply froze in his secondary lead and didn’t allow himself time to get back and tag, because he was sure that Sox right-fielder Alejandro De Aza wouldn’t be able to catch the ball.
However, Doug also agreed that Moose knew he had made a mistake and was eager to fix it, which is a great thing to see from a young talented player.
And the night before
I also asked Francouer about a play on Thursday night, when he threw to third base as Paul Konerko tagged up and scored on Tyler Flowers’ long pop fly to right. At the time, the Royals were up 3-1 with the bases loaded and one out. I had wondered why Frenchy didn’t throw home, considering Konerko’s lack of speed and Frenchy’s throwing strength. Frenchy said he could see he didn’t have a play at home on Konerko because of the distance of the throw and the way Flowers’ pop fly was coming down.
He actually threw to third, not to try and get Rios out, but to keep A.J. Pierzynski on first. Konerko’s run made it 3-2 with two outs, and Frenchy wanted to keep Pierzynski out of scoring position to make sure that one hit would not let the Sox take the lead. So Frenchy, in the space of a few seconds, made about three or four decisions that helped keep the inning in order and the Royals’ lead intact. In retrospect, it’s pretty impressive that Frenchy almost got Rios at third base because that wasn’t even his intention — an added bonus of having a cannon out in right field.