Games » Cleveland IndiansApr14
The Kansas City Star
Let’s start at the beginning of this game: Jonathan Sanchez was all over the place. In less than three innings Sanchez threw 75 pitches and 37 of them weren’t strikes, he walked four, threw four balls in the dirt and also hit a batter — which is when Shin-Soo Choo screwed over his own pitching staff. Sanchez had hit Choo before, breaking his thumb. Choo did not like getting hit again by the same guy. But it was pretty clear Sanchez had little control Saturday night. The odds that Sanchez hit Choo on purpose were almost zero. Heck, the way Sanchez was throwing, if he tried to hit Choo he probably would’ve killed an usher.
Interesting thing about getting hit really hard by a pitch — as I discovered last year — you get a crazy surge of adrenaline. Your body has been attacked and it wants to help you fight back. I dropped about seven F-bombs in about 14 seconds after getting drilled, so Choo probably wasn’t thinking straight either.
Choo’s reaction brought both benches on to the field, order was then restored, but Cleveland pitcher Jeanmar Gomez decided he needed to retaliate. So in the bottom half of the inning he drilled Mike Moustakas. Warnings had been issued, so Gomez was gone. If Jeanmar had been thinking straight, he’d have waited until he qualified for the win — he was up 5-0 — before retaliating. Gomez needed to behave like a professional — and drill someone in the sixth.
Because Choo didn’t just take his base, Gomez felt the need to retaliate and Cleveland had to use seven relievers to get through the next eight innings. Jonathan Sanchez did not make it out of the third inning and the Royals had to use six relievers to get through seven and a third innings. So instead of the Indians having a distinct advantage today, both bullpens got chewed up Saturday night.
For those of you who have wondered publicly why Yuniesky Betancourt is still in a major league uniform, your answer may have come at around 9:10 last night. In the 8th inning, on the fifth pitch by Vinnie Pestano, Yuni hit a game-tying home run. Like all players, Betancourt has deficiencies, but he has enough positives to keep him employed. Power from a middle infielder is one of those positives.
It seems like when Betancourt plays, some fans want a more reliable defender on the field. When Chris Getz plays, the same fans want a second baseman with more pop. I’m assuming there’s shortage of terrific fielding, great hitting, reasonably priced second baseman or the Royals would have one standing out there.
Several people have wondered whether Betancourt’s problem going to his left was responsible for the ball that trickled through on that side in the first inning on opening day. Doug Sisson said no, it was more the effect of an ankle injury that hasn’t fully healed. (Possibly the same reason Betancourt didn’t score on a Mike Moustakas double last night — but there were conflicting reports about Yuni slowing down when he thought Choo had caught the ball. I was watching Choo and never saw a definitive replay. If anyone did, let me know.)
I once asked Clint Hurdle what you do when you have to come off the bench to support a teammate, but have no desire to fight anyone. Clint said you find your best friend on the other team, hold each other back and make dinner plans.
Old-time baseball guys would say the umpire’s warning was issued too soon. The Indians had a player hit, but suffered a warning before retaliating. Some people think the other team should get to drill a batter then issue the warning and say the feud is over.
There are plays you might say Jarrod Dyson should’ve made in the last two days, but catching Shin-Soo Choo’s game-winning double off the wall in the 10th inning isn’t one of them. Dyson ran a mile, jumped and came up about two inches short of making a fantastic catch. The only thing he did wrong on that play was not being taller.
Jarrod did make a mental mistake in the 4th inning when he double-clutched and then air mailed a throw home, trying to throw Asdrubal Cabrera out at the plate. Missing the cutoff man allowed the trail runner, Carlos Santana, to advance into scoring position, taking the double play out of order. Once Jarrod double-clutched, he had no chance at the lead runner.
Hochevar‘s bad inning
I got a chance to talk to the new pitching coach, Dave Eiland, about Luke Hochevar’s opening day start. I asked what the difference was between Luke Hochevar’s first inning — eight hits, seven runs — and Hochevar’s next three innings — one hit, no runs. Turns out, Luke got away from the game plan.
Hochevar was supposed to establish his fastball in off the plate early, which would open up the outer half. Luke failed to do this in the first inning, so when he left a pitch out over the plate it got ripped. Hochevar failed to be aggressive in the first inning, let the hitters get too comfortable and by the time he made the adjustment between innings, it was too late.
Timing is everything
If you wondered why Jarrod Dyson did not attempt to steal right away after leading off the 9th inning with a walk, Cleveland reliever Jairo Asencio was getting the ball home in under 1.2 seconds. I took my own advice and brought a stopwatch to the game and timed Asencio, but assumed I was doing something wrong because the times were too low. Then Ned Yost confirmed how quickly Asencio was getting the ball to the plate.
Over the last two years, pitcher Derek Lowe consistently delivered the ball to the plate in 1.5 seconds. Friday afternoon he was consistently delivering the ball to home plate in 1.2 seconds. As I’ve written before, now that they’ve gotten performance enhancing drugs out of the game, the stolen base is returning and pitching staffs are adjusting. (I only know all this because Doug Sisson told me.)
If pitchers are successful at stopping the steal, then the bunt and hit and run will be used more often. The Royals are perfecting the art of advancing on a pitch in the dirt to make up for the stolen base opportunities that are going to be lost with pitcher being quicker to the plate.
But don’t be surprised if you see a lot of those balls getting hammered. Guys quick to the plate often leave pitches up in the zone.
Dyson did not make a mistake
A couple readers asked if Jarrod Dyson made a mental mistake while running the bases in the home opener. Dyson was on first base with two outs in the 7th inning and tried to steal second. Jeff Francoeur put the ball in play to right field, Dyson slowed at second, found the ball, saw it drop and then continued on to third. Readers wanted to know if that was a mistake: why slow down if there were two outs?
Here’s Doug Sisson’s answer: because he was stealing second, Dyson had his head down until he heard the crack of the bat. Jarrod did the right thing by slowing down and locating the ball. As Doug pointed out, what if the ball was a grounder to short and Dyson rounded the base and ran into an out? What if the shortstop bobbled the ball and had no chance for a play at first, but Dyson bailed him out by running into the tag?
Because he didn’t know where the ball was, Dyson had to locate it before proceeding past second. This should only apply on a stolen base — any other play and Dyson should know where the ball is right away.
And Sisson agrees with my mental mistake scorekeeping — anytime a player does not know the number of outs, count or score, it’s a mental mistake, even if it doesn’t cost his team. It’s a mistake to even be on the field without knowing the information necessary to play the game.