Games » Cleveland IndiansApr25
Ya gotta start somewhere
The Kansas City Star
Whether you’re overweight, have a gambling problem or haven’t won a baseball game in 12 attempts, this piece of advice applies: “You didn’t get in trouble in one day. You ain’t gettin’ out of trouble in one day, either.” This bit of wisdom was given to me by the Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager, Clint Hurdle.
Hurdle’s point was that you can’t rush the process — the longest journey begins with one step. The Royals took a step Wednesday night. They will have to take another Thursday afternoon. Thinking big, wanting things to happen right now often brings disaster. The game of baseball requires you to play it one pitch, one inning, one game at a time.
The Royals have a long way back to respectability, but ya gotta start somewhere.
Know you know
I’m sitting on my couch, feeling the pressure build as the game goes along. I’m hoping Royals starter Luke Hochevar holds it together. I’m nervous about the possibility of the Royals going into the bottom of the ninth inning with only a two-run lead and Jonathan Broxton coming out of the bullpen.
And we’re only sitting on our couches in the comfort of our living rooms. The players are the ones who have to perform in the clutch.
So how does a clutch performer get it done? I was lucky enough to take batting practice once a week with George Brett the winter before he retired from baseball. (He needed someone to hit with because the pitching machine kept clogging and George wanted me to stand at the other end of the batting tunnel and unclog it.) I asked George a thousand questions that winter, and one of them was, “How did you perform so well in the clutch?”
“Because some people can’t forget that the tying run is on second, it’s the bottom of the ninth and it’s the World Series,” he told me “When I’m going good, I can.”
Was there ever a moment in Wednesday night’s game that you weren’t aware that the Royals were trying to end a long losing streak? That’s why he’s George Brett, and you’re not. When your mind is on matters that don’t affect the situation at hand, bad things happen.
Billy Butler hits a home run with Chris Getz on first base. Indians pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez is in a “quick step”— a move designed to get the ball to home plate in a hurry. This prevents Getz from stealing, but the downside is the quickstep can cause a pitch to stay up in the strike zone. The pitch to Butler does. Jimenez delivers the ball to home plate in 1.3 seconds. Butler delivers the ball to the right-field stands just about as quickly.
Jimenez was also varying his set, holding the ball in the set position for varying amounts of time. These distractions that aid the hitter are part of the value of the stolen base.
When Jimenez has a runner on second — and he’s not worried about the steal — he delivers the ball to home plate at a more leisurely 1.7 seconds.
By my count, Hochevar threw first-pitch strikes to 15 batters, two of whom got hits.
In the fourth inning, Humberto Quintero tried to bunt for a hit. The Indians’ third baseman was not playing that deep, and the attempt failed. In the sixth inning, with Mike Moustakas on second, no outs and the score 4-0, Quintero did not bunt, which possibly cost the Royals a run. Mitch Maier followed Quintero’s infield pop-up with a deep fly to center field. Moustakas tagged up and advanced to third but was called out for leaving the base too soon. A split-screen replay revealed that the umpire made a bad call. Had Quintero advanced Moustakas, Maier’s fly ball would have scored him — assuming Mitch would have gotten the same pitch, which is a big assumption. Not scoring a fifth run was worrisome.
Two innings later, Moose almost made a horrible mistake on the base paths. He stole second, the Indians’ catcher dropped the ball on the transfer and Mike assumed that the ball was fouled off. He then began to walk back to first base in an attempt to give coach Doug Sisson an on-field coronary.
Mike got back to second base safely, but he violated a cardinal rule of base-running: Wait until an umpire tells you what the ruling is. Never assume.
Royals manager Ned Yost has been criticized for his decision-making. A manager can avoid this criticism by never making a move — or never making a move that isn’t by the book. The manager can then blame the players for not performing well. That isn’t good managing, but it’s great covering your ass.
In the top of the ninth with Alcides Escobar on third base and Chris Getz on first, the Royals’ broadcast team wondered whether Getz would steal. Cleveland reliever Jairo Asencio was getting the ball to the plate in less than 1.2 seconds, so unless the Royals were convinced that the throw was not coming to second base, or they could find a breaking pitch to run on — which increases the time it takes to deliver the ball — a steal seemed unlikely.
Once again, a pitcher who was distracted by a base stealer gave up a home run when Alex Gordon ended a great plate appearance by hitting the ball out of the park.
Jonathan Broxton did not come out for the ninth inning. Even though it wasn’t a save situation, I wondered whether Ned will use the closer anyway. Yost sent out Jose Mijares instead. Three left-handers were coming to the plate. Mijares showed that Ned made the right decision, totally dominating Jack Hannahan, Jason Kipnis and Casey Kotchman.
Mijares also showed what a six-run lead can do for a pitcher’s mind-set and confidence. Mijares worked quickly and threw strikes. This is the approach pitchers need all the time, even when the game is close.
The Royals played music in the clubhouse tonight. The media got good interviews. A few players probably had a cold one in celebration, but that’s it. A day game after a night game means the players will be out on the field early Thursday morning, and the whole process of trying to win a game pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning will be repeated.
This is baseball.