Games » Boston Red SoxMay8
Small ball vs. the big inning
The Kansas City Star
If you want to make a case against small ball — and lots of people do — just look at the seventh and eighth innings of this game.
In the seventh inning, with the Royals down by a run, Jeff Francoeur and Mike Moustakas led off with singles. Chris Getz did his job and bunted what would have been the tying and go-ahead runs into scoring position.
Then things got funky. Alcides Escobar laid down what appeared to be a “safety squeeze” bunt. The safety squeeze requires a better bunt than a suicide squeeze because the runner waits to see whether the ball is down in the right area before breaking to the plate. A suicide squeeze will be successful if the bunt gets down anywhere.
Francoeur was blocked off the plate, and the run didn’t score. (Of course, you might argue that the Royals didn’t play small enough ball and go right to the suicide squeeze. It looked as though Francoeur would have scored easily if that had been the call.) After that, pinch hitter Brayan Pena struck out, and a promising inning went up in smoke.
In the eighth, two walks and a long ball courtesy of Billy Butler put the Royals on top to stay. Like I said yesterday, home runs are hard to come by, but when you get one, they do come in handy.
• There was a nice piece of bat handling in the second inning. Mike Moustakas was on third, Chris Getz was at the plate. The Red Sox had their infielders charge in as the pitch was delivered. Getz served the ball over the shortstop’s head for an RBI single. I have seen harder shots off a sand wedge, but it got the job done.
• In the same inning, Humberto Quintero was thrown out trying to steal second base. Once again, in case you didn’t believe me the first time, Humberto Quintero was thrown out trying to steal second base.
• I didn’t have a stopwatch on Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard — I didn’t think I needed to — so I have no idea whether Quintero’s attempt was justified. (I timed Bard later, and he was extraordinarily slow to the plate. But I don’t know how slow Bard would had to have been for Humberto make it — slower than he was, for sure.)
• When you think about what the Royals are doing on the bases, separate base-running (which has been pretty good) from base stealing (which has had some problems). They are not the same thing.
• In the top of the fourth inning, Alex Gordon broke in on a Mike Aviles fly ball, then had to reverse course. The ball dropped in, and Aviles scored on a Dustin Pedroia single. It happened at twilight, the same time Alex lost a ball in Monday’s game.
• Getz made a throwing error on a double-play ball in the fifth inning. That was bad enough, but what was worse, Eric Hosmer did not knock the ball down. A run scored when the ball went past first base as Hosmer stretched for it. If at all possible, a first baseman needs to come off the bag to knock down bad throws. The ball is more important than the bag.
Making an adjustment
Before the Royals’ last series in Detroit, manager Ned Yost talked to Jeff Francoeur about pitch selection. Like a lot of the Royals hitters, Jeff was trying to do too much. Pitchers could run balls in on his hands and Jeff would bite, trying to hit one out — trying to be the guy who turned things around for a struggling team.
Ned talked to Jeff about getting back to the approach he took last year, and here’s what Frenchy did in the next seven games: He went 8 for 24 with four walks and three doubles. That’s only six games, but it is an example of the kind of in-season adjustment that hitters — or at least smart hitters — make all the time.
If you like this website, Tim Bogar, the Boston bench coach, deserves a lot of credit. I met Bogie 20 years ago in Williamsport, Pa., when he was an infielder working his way through the New York Mets’ system. We stayed in touch, and when The Star decided to do this website, I called Bogie for his advice. If he ever leaves baseball, Tim should teach journalism. Here was what he told me:
1.) Watch the game. Play close attention to every pitch. Don’t get distracted. You can’t multitask, or you’ll miss something important. No texting. No tweeting.
2.) Think small. Everybody will cover the three-run home run. Instead, go talk to the guy who broke up the double play to keep the inning alive so the three run-home run could be hit. Most of the media have to cover the big stuff, but by the time they get done with that, the small stuff often gets left out. Not having an assigned story is an advantage. Think small.
3.) Make the first encounter positive. “If I’ve never met you and I make two errors and then you want to talk to me, it will not go well,” Bogar told me. Establish a relationship first. Make the player understand that you will cover the positive things that happen and he will be much more receptive to talking about the negative things. If a player don’t like or trust you, he will speak in cliches. Once he thinks you will be fair, he will be more open.
4.) Have conversations, not interviews. Pull out a notebook, and things change. You’re doing an interview. Start a conversation and let things flow. I’ve told my editors that they never need to think up a story assignment for me. The game, the players and the coaches will suggest better story ideas than I could ever conceive of on my own. A conversation about the weather will morph into throwing a ball after a rain delay. Put the notebook away. Just talk to people and see where you wind up.
Like I said, if you like this website, Tim Bogar deserves a lot of the credit. And if I don’t get this posted until Wednesday morning because I was out drinking beer and eating wings late last night, blame Bogie.