Games » Boston Red SoxMay9
The Kansas City Star
When the Royals were going through their losing streak I would get asked if the team was really that bad and I’d say no. I’d then get asked why I thought they weren’t that bad and I’d say, “Defense.” There was no doubt in my mind that this team had improved on the defensive side of the ball. And Wednesday night they showed it.
Alex Gordon made two spectacular catches — one against the wall and another on a sinking liner in the ninth inning. He also tried another diving catch, couldn’t get there but kept the ball in front of him to prevent extra bases. Jarrod Dyson made a catch on a sinking line drive that looked like trouble. Jeff Francoeur kept a ball from going to the wall and might’ve had a shot at throwing out Adrian Gonzalez — but everyone was so sure it would be a double, the defense was set up to concede second base.
Mike Moustakas has been spectacular at third all season and his replacement tonight, Irving Falu, kept it up with a catch of a ball that was already by him, a complete spin and throw to first. Brayan Pena blocked a pitch in the dirt with a runner on third. Even Bruce Chen got in the act by coming off the mound to field a dribbler and get the runner at first. Several times the infield positioning paid off: David Ortiz hit a line drive up the middle and Alcides Escobar was standing right there. Cody Ross hit a hard grounder headed for centerfield, but for the positioning of Chris Getz.
Offense gets most of the attention, but if you can keep the score low enough, you don’t need as much offense to win a game. Clearly, all the pieces are not in place with this team, but one big piece of the puzzle is on display almost every night.
After the game Ned Yost said he thought Bruce pitched really well, even better than his line in the box score might indicate. Bruce gave up seven hits and Ned though five of them were jam shots or hit off the end of the barrel.
Johnny Giavotella is back with the team because they need a right-handed bat. Not sure what will happen once Yuniesky Betancourt is healthy again. Gio hit the ball hard three times, but had nothing to show for it.
The score was tied 3-3 in the fourth and Yost said he just had the feeling—based on how well he thought Chen was pitching—that one more run might hold up. So after Falu doubled to lead off the 4th, Yost played for one run. He had Chris Getz sacrifice—and the more I see it, the more I agree with Getz that putting the ball down on the right side of the infield is the smart thing to do—and that moved Falu to third.
The Red Sox must have agreed with Ned about how important one run would be, because they brought the infield in to prevent Falu from scoring. The next batter, Alcides Escobar, then hit a soft line drive right where the second baseman would be standing — except for the Getz bunt which forced the infield in.
Both teams were right: there was not another run scored the rest of the game. Playing for one run and playing to prevent one run, was the right thing to do.
I haven’t talked to any baseball people who believe that you should play for one run all the time. I also haven’t talked to any baseball people who believe you should never play for one run. Knowing when it makes sense is the trick.
If you wondered why the Royals didn’t do the same thing in the ninth inning — bring in their infield to cut off a run at the plate — it was because the tying run was on third, but the winning run was on second. Bring in the infield to prevent the tying run and the winning run might score on what might normally be an out.
I didn’t get a chance to talk to some of the players and coaches after Tuesday’s game — I was meeting with Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar. Wednesday afternoon I caught up with some of the people involved in key moments from Tuesday’s game and here’s what I learned:
Humberto Quindero is apparently faster than we think. Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard timed out at a 1.6 (so I guess I did a better job timing him than I thought) and the Royals reasoned that after two balks in the same inning, Bard was not throwing over to first base. (By the way, nobody could figure out why Bard was so concerned about Mike Moustakas stealing a base.)
Anyway, the plan was for Quintero take advantage of the situation: extend his lead against a pitcher that wouldn’t attempt a pickoff, steal second without a throw and then have a chance to score on a Jarrod Dyson single. Humberto did not take a big enough lead and was thrown out — barely.
The Jeff Francoeur play at the plate also has an interesting background: one down, Frenchy on third, Moose on second, the contact play was on. The contact play usually means the runner on third breaks for home on contact—as long as the ball has “down” angle. The team is gambling that the ball won’t be hit back at the pitcher—any place else and the run scores as long as the infield is back.
Alcides Escobar saw the Red Sox infield was back and decided to bunt for a hit. So, essentially, Francoeur did what he was supposed to do: break for home on “down angle.” The bunt caught everyone—including the Royals — by surprise. Francoeur tried to make it work. His only mistake—according to Doug Sisson — was sliding head first at home plate. That’s an easy way to get injured and Francoeur got spiked by the catcher.
I asked Chris Getz if he got clipped by the runner on the double play ball he threw away and Getz said yes, but only after he made the throw. Chris said it was his fault, he just screwed up. And Eric Hosmer said he did not have to leave the bag to reach the ball that Getz threw. Hosmer went for the do-or-die scoop while maintaining contact with the bag and missed. He’s made that play a lot, so thinking he could make it again doesn’t seem unreasonable.
One more inside story
Boston infielder Will Middlebrooks had a throwing error in the series caused by Alex Gordon’s pine tar. Gordon got jammed, the ball hit the part of the bat with the pine tar on it and when Middlebrooks picked it up and tried to throw it, the ball stuck to his finger. Seems like every statistic has an interesting story behind it.