Games » Cleveland IndiansApr15
The bright side
The Kansas City Star
Look on the bright side. Nobody is this bad. So just how bad are we talking? Pitching meltdowns in four consecutive games. Big innings in the last three games. Allowing the opposition to bat around four times since they played the national anthem on Friday. I said that the first trip through the pitching rotation could not have gone much better for the Royals. The second trip could not have gone much worse.
Let’s break the big inning down: there were two errors in the bottom half of the third inning — first baseman Eric Hosmer’s dropped pop-up and first-base umpire Lance Barrett’s missed call. Chris Getz had just made a spectacular play to get Michael Brantley for the third out when Barrett called Brantley safe. Royals starter Luis Mendoza let his frustration show, and, whether the call hurt Mendoza’s concentration or not, the inning ended six runs later. You can’t blame Barrett for all six runs. He may have opened the door for the Indians, but Mendoza let them through.
After the missed call, Mendoza gave up a single, a double, an intentional walk, a home run, a walk, a walk and a single. Over the course of the three hour, 20-minute game, the Royals’ pitchers walked seven batters and four of them scored.
Pitching like this raises an important question: How come Mitch Maier is not in the rotation?
Getz advanced on a wild pitch in the first inning. I watched the Royals work on this in spring training. The coaches want the runners to read the angle of the ball and break before it hits the dirt. The Royals have already pulled off this trick three times in this home stand. First-base coach Doug Sisson says that being able to do this becomes more important as pitchers speed their delivery times to prevent stolen bases.
Getz banged a ball off the base of the wall in right-center field for a triple, showing some of the power that hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and manager Ned Yost said they were seeing on the back fields of training camp in Surprise, Ariz.
Catcher Brayan Pena made an outstanding play to keep an Alex Gordon throw from getting loose at home plate. Stuff like this doesn’t show up in the box score, but Brayan’s play kept a runner out of scoring position, at least temporarily.
Twice after giving up home runs Mendoza walked the next batter. Not a good sign. On the other hand, after giving up a home run to Casey Kotchman, reliever Louis Coleman went right after Jason Kipnis — and gave up another home run. At least give Louis credit for continuing to throw strikes.
Speaking of Louis, he replaced Jarrod Dyson on the Royals’ roster. The starting pitching has forced Yost to get into the bullpen early for three straight games so the Royals needed a fresh arm.
Which brings up Danny Duffy. He needs to get deep in the game on Monday night. One of the starters has to give the bullpen a breather. If it’s going poorly, Yost may have no choice but to leave Duffy out there a while.
When the Royals get down by a lot early, it takes them out of their game. They can’t steal, bunt or take the extra base. Being down by a lot means they have to play a conservative brand of baseball, which is not their style.
The bright side to the bad start at home has been the offense. They have battled back. Hold the opposition down to a reasonable number of runs and they ought to have a chance.
By the way, the Royals’ “Our Time” theme is probably going to take a beating for a while. Just remember, Yost and the players didn’t come up with that slogan. They were given copy to read for the cameras, and they read it.
Practice makes perfect
2:30 Saturday afternoon. The catchers are on the field doing early work. Bench coach Chino Cadahia has Brayan Pena and Humberto Quintero going through the process of throwing a baseball. They go over the footwork, taking the ball out of the glove and delivering the ball from the correct arm slot. Everything is broken down into its smallest parts and examined.
I don’t understand much Spanish, but I can see Chino demonstrating the correct arm motion. If Humberto and Brayan get their fingers on top of the ball and throw straight down through it, the ball flies true. If they get lazy and have their fingers even slightly on the side of the ball, it tails to the right.
Former Royal Jason Kendall, who is also helping with the catchers, steps in as a right-handed batter while Brayan and Humberto practice throws to third base. Pena and Quintero come up and throw from behind Kendall, the ball whizzing just a few inches from Jason’s right ear. Kendall stands there unconcerned, looking like a man waiting for a bus.
The group then worked on blocking pitches, and I moved on to another part of the field. But it’s good to remember the effort these guys put in. The only reason they can make some of these plays look so easy is by working so hard.
Easy for you to say
Indian pitcher Chris Perez sent out a tweet saying that if you hit us, we’ll hit you. Because of the American League’s designated-hitter rule, Perez does not have to go to the plate. Apparently there have been American League pitchers who were well known for pitching inside who quit doing it once they moved to the National League.
I’ve mentioned Alex Gordon’s outstanding play on opening day, holding Carlos Santana to a single when it looked off the bat to be a sure double. Alex ran a great route and got his momentum going to second base before he even picked up the ball. He followed that with a great throw. Alex said the cool part about the play was that the Royals turning a double play immediately afterward. I hadn’t made that connection.
It’s a good thing to keep in mind: when you see a play like that, or a catcher blocks a pitch in the dirt, pay attention to what happens afterward. It will give you an idea of just how important those little things can be.
Word gets around
Santana seemed reluctant to challenge Gordon’s arm, and I mentioned that the Royals outfielders’ reputation for throwing well must finally be getting around. Alex pointed out that the only guy who has challenged an outfielder’s arm so far this season has been the Angels’ Albert Pujols — and Pujols ran through a coach’s stop sign to do it. Sometimes the best outfield arms record no assists — nobody runs on them. Pay attention to runners who don’t advance because of an outfielder’s reputation and you will get a deeper understanding of the game.