Games » Cleveland IndiansApr24
They deserved to lose
The Kansas City Star
As I’ve been saying the last few days, I no longer am going to try to correlate winning and losing to intangibles. I don’t care if the Royals hold meetings or go on benders. I don’t care if Ned Yost throws a chair or stays calm. I don’t care if they eat crow or chicken dinners in the clubhouse. Hell, I don’t care if they sacrifice live chickens in the clubhouse — maybe it would help.
From now on, I am going to correlate winning and losing to playing the game well. (Novel concept, but let’s try it for a while and see how it goes.) So if playing a game well is how you win, the Royals deserved to lose this one.
When a team’s pitching staff walks nine batters, hits another and every run it gives up was one of those walked or hit batters who scored, that team deserves to lose. For a while I thought the Royals were playing well but losing. Now I think they’re playing poorly and losing. That can change tomorrow night, but a team with little margin for error can’t give the other guys 10 free base-runners, let four of them score and blame it all on bad luck.
The Royals’ defense continues to play well, and that’s a starting point. This is a much better fielding team than the 2010 version. The defense was one of the reasons people were high on this team before the season began.
As has often been the case, the team continues to battle back. Even in this losing streak, the Royals have often scored late. They haven’t given up.
Yost said the players need to find the right emotional level and stay there. I can’t get in their heads, but from the outside, I see a team that is sometimes aggressive when it should be cautious and sometimes cautious when it should be aggressive. On Tuesday night, I thought that happened to third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez.
In the eighth inning with two outs, Eric Hosmer on second base and Mike Moustakas on first, Mitch Maier (who played a helluva game) doubled down the right-field line. Moose is neither the fastest guy on the team nor the slowest, but I figured he would score, considering the situation. That would have made the score 4-3.
The Indians’ right fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, did not exactly bust it going after the ball, and I figured it was a done deal, but Eddie held up Moose at third base. To make matters worse, you can be more aggressive sending the runner when the throw comes from right field. The catcher loses sight of home plate when he turns to receive the throw from right field. Then he has to turn back, find the runner and apply the tag. (We have a video on the site called “The catcher’s blind spot” that demonstrates this play.)
Now add the fact that Choo and Cleveland first baseman Casey Kotchman are both left-handed, and the decision looks even worse. Throws from lefties tail toward the first-base side, and the Indians’ catcher, Carlos Santana, would have been pulled even farther from home plate when receiving the ball. You might wonder whether a third-base coach should know all this in an instant, but when I was watching a game with Jason Kendall last season, he knew all this before the fielder picked up the ball — and Kendall was holding a beer in one hand at the time.
So when Chris Getz doubled to lead off the ninth inning on Tuesday night, he should have been the tying run but wasn’t. After Alex Gordon moved Getz to third, it’s possible Chris could have scored the tying run on Billy Butler’s groundout to the shortstop. But, to be fair to Eddie, that wasn’t likely. If that had been the case, the Indians would have moved their infield in. Maybe there is reason Eddie did what he did, but right now I don’t get it.
After Eddie held up Moose, Alcides Escobar had the tying run in scoring position, worked the count to 2-0 and then took a 90 mph four-seamer down the middle, another decision I don’t get. The table was set. I thought Esky would be looking for a fastball in a fastball count, and he got one in the middle of the strike zone. Esky hit the ball hard 3-2, but it was a one-hopper back to the pitcher.
That white gunk on the back of Mike Moustakas’ cap is rosin — probably. Mike likes to grab the rosin bag as he goes past the pitcher’s mound to make sure his throwing hand is dry. The rosin then leaves a mark when Mike reaches back to adjust his cap.
When I was talking with Ned Yost before Monday’s ball game, the topic shifted to the wind and how smart pitchers use it. Ned said Greg Maddux was a master at it. Maddux learned the skill in Wrigley Field. If the wind is blowing in, be aggressive. If the wind is blowing out, pitch your ass off.
I asked about the ball that Jeff Francoeur crushed into the wind Sunday, which turned into an easy fly ball. Ned pointed out that the Blue Jays’ J.P. Arencibia had done the same thing. Yost told Royals pitcher Danny Duffy that if he had used the wind to his advantage, that was very smart pitching. If the wind is blowing in, throw it down the middle of the plate and use your outfielders.
But it’s not just the wind that affects fly balls in Kauffman Stadium. Keep an eye on the thermometer. When it’s cool, the ball doesn’t carry as well, and pitchers can be more aggressive. When it’s hot, the pitchers have to keep the ball down because it will carry better.
One more weather-related topic: In Sunday’s game, the Royals were trying to prevent Toronto’s Adam Lind, a left-handed hitter, from hitting the ball down the left-field line. It was the one part of the park where the wind was blowing out. So when you’re trying to figure out why that pitcher threw that pitch to that location, factor in wind and temperature.