Games » Detroit TigersApr16
A beast and a half
The Kansas City Star
On his 131st pitch of the evening, Detroit starter Justin Verlander threw his fastball 100 mph — on the black. These days, a dominant baseball player is referred to as a “beast.” Verlander is a beast and a half. The Royals’ Eric Hosmer said that facing Verlander in a fastball count didn’t help all that much. A fastball count is also known as a hitter’s count — a count in which the pitcher pretty much has to throw a strike and a fastball is his best chance of doing so.
But when Verlander got in those counts — 2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 3-1 and 3-2, depending on the situation — his fastball would range from 91 to 99 mph. Hitters still couldn’t time a pitch. Hosmer said Verlander wouldn’t throw his best fastball unless he was in trouble. Then the hitters could see him muscle up a bit physically. But Eric said Verlander does the same thing whenever he throws his curve ball, so even that signal was misleading.
I’m sure someone out there is asking why the Royals didn’t take more pitches. In the fourth inning, Mike Moustakas did, and that led to a strikeout. In the fourth inning, Billy Butler grounded out on his third pitch, Jeff Francoeur flew out on one and Moose didn’t want Verlander to get out of the inning in five pitches, so he took a strike. Verlander knew Moose would take a strike and grooved one. Being up 0-1, Verlander could then move his pitches to the corners, and he finally locked Mike up on a 98 mph fastball on the black.
Here’s the game in a nutshell: Danny Duffy got two pitches up. Justin Verlander didn’t. Tigers win 3-2.
A terrific ballgame
This was a terrific ballgame that the Royals happened to lose. There is going to be a lot of whining about four straight losses at home, but this one was totally different from the preceding three. There were two pitchers, working quick, good defense, with strategy and drama at the end.
If you need a silver lining, try Danny Duffy’s performance. Like I said, he left two pitches up, and they left the park. But he looked like a kid with a lot of talent who is starting to figure it out. There was significant moment in this game that showed what Duffy has learned. Eric Hosmer chased a pop fly toward the stands, had to negotiate around a security guard and whiffed on the catch.
The same thing happened Sunday. Hosmer missed a pop-up, and the inning exploded, perhaps partly because a pitcher did not get an out he expected. On Monday night, after the ball dropped, Danny did an interesting thing. He took a couple of deep breaths, slowed himself down — and threw a 79 mph curve. He didn’t get mad and hump up. He got under control and backed off. The 79 mph curve resulted in a ground out, and the Royals had the third out of the inning.
Another one bites the dust
Jeff Francoeur threw out Tigers base-runner Jhonny Peralta when Peralta tried to go first to third. It may have been Jeff’s best throw since last year, when he threw out Tigers base-runner Jhonny Peralta when Peralta tried to go first to third. The throw Monday night probably saved a run. The next batter grounded out to end the inning. Interesting moment: Alcides Escobar acted as the cutoff man in the infield. Esky’s job is to cut the throw if there’s no chance to get the runner and fake cutting the throw if there is.
Esky’s acting job kept Alex Avila from advancing to second base on the throw.
Win some, lose some
Alcides did not do such a hot job when he was asked to bunt in the fifth inning. Humberto Quintero and Mitch Maier had singled earlier in the inning, and I figured Royals manager Ned Yost would ask Escobar to bunt the tying run into scoring position. The traditional way to bunt a runner to third is force the third baseman to field the ball — although Chris Getz got the job done in the first inning by taking the ball with him down the first base line.
If the third baseman fields the bunted ball, that opens the bag and even a slow runner can go in standing up. But Alcides did not get the ball past the mound. Verlander threw out Quintero, and the Royals had Mitch at second and Alcides at first. That’s still not a bad deal because Verlander took 1.7 seconds to deliver the ball home with a runner on second base. I figured the Royals would double steal, and they did.
If you know the delivery times, the speed of the runner and the situation, you often can predict stolen bases. You might not know which pitch the base runner will run on, but you will know when the situation is right. Here’s a hint you can use in the next two games: Tigers reliever Joaqin Benoit is very fast to the plate. Closer Jose Valverde is very slow. Make a bet with someone who doesn’t read this web site.
Harder than it looks
I was giving Hosmer a hard time about his coverage in The Star. “One day we call you the next George Brett, the next day we show you dropping a pop-up.” It turned out Eric was unaware of either story. Hosmer told me he avoids reading coverage of the Royals unless it is about his family. Eric doesn’t want to climb aboard an emotional roller-coaster, up one day and down the next.
So, how about that dropped pop-up in Sunday’s game?
When a player is trying to catch a fly ball near a fence, the rule is: Get to the wall first, then come away and make the catch. Royals coach Doug Sisson calls it, “Ball, wall, ball.” In English, Doug means you look at the ball, find the wall and then look back at the ball. If a player just drifts toward the wall, he won’t be sure of where he is. He will be unsure of himself and may stop short, fearing an imminent collision.
Hosmer was doing the right thing: running to the wall, orienting himself and then making the catch. But when he looked up, the wind had pushed the ball back and to his right. Hosmer said the catch still had to be made. I agree — but it’s worth knowing what goes into making what non-players might consider a “routine” catch. When the wind is howling, there is nothing routine about them.