Games » Chicago White SoxMay12
The Kansas City Star
Seven innings, no runs, one walk and five strikeouts. How many people want to release Luke Hochevar now?
Like I said after Hochevar’s last start — which was awful — the Royals know Luke can do this. They don’t have a lot of good options when it comes to starting pitching, so they want to figure out whether they can get this kind of performance out of Hochevar more often. If they never saw this kind of pitching, they probably would give up on him — but they know it’s in there and need to find a way to get it out every five days.
After the game, manager Ned Yost said that Hochevar had used his four-seamer more often and stayed on the attack. Luke pitched like a 6-foot-5-inch power pitcher, with a mid-90s fastball and a terrific slider. The Royals need more Incredible Hulk out of Luke and less Bruce Banner. Maybe I can do something to tick him off right before his next start.
• In the fourth inning, another shift worked. Chicago’s Adam Dunn lined out to Irving Falu. I haven’t been counting, but it seems as though the shifts have worked for the Royals more often than they have failed. Someone is doing his homework on spray charts.
• Once again, Hochevar used a “quick” pitch — I’m not really sure that’s the right thing to call it — because an illegal quick pitch is when the ball is delivered before the batter is set in the box. That’s not what Luke is doing. The hitter was set. Luke just cut down his windup and delivered the ball to home plate faster. Hochevar tends to do it when the hitter has two strikes. If the different delivery can freeze the hitter, Luke can get a cheap strikeout.
• Luke told me he uses the quick pitch as one more device to upset a hitter’s timing.
• Catcher Humberto Quintero took a foul tip directly off his mask. I’ve had the same thing happen when I was catching (it’s one of the reasons I no longer catch), and it’s a weird experience. It’s just like getting punched hard in the head (I’ve experienced that, too) with no surface impact. Your head just snaps back, and you’re on your backside wondering how you got there.
• Clint Hurdle says a foul tip off the mask will “rearrange the furniture.”
• In the eighth inning, Jarrod Dyson showed what he can do when he keeps the ball out of the air. White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez took a relaxed approach on a routine ground ball, and Dyson motored it into an infield single.
• I was there the day that reliever Greg Holland pitched an afternoon workout against live hitters before coming back on the Royals’ roster. Mike Moustakas had a couple of at-bats against Holland, then went to the dugout for a moment before going back to the batting cage. I asked Moose how Holland’s stuff was, and Mike said, “Ridiculous, as usual.” I’m pretty sure there are three White Sox hitters who would agree.
Back to Boston
When Boston bench coach Tim Bogar was in Kansas City, he and I talked about making out a lineup. The Red Sox had to decide whether to “stack” their left-handed hitters or “sandwich” them (put a right-handed hitter in-between). The Red Sox sandwiched them, and here’s why. During the Boston series the Royals had three lefties in the bullpen, Tim Collins, Jose Mijares and Tommy Hottovey. If the Red Sox stacked David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez, the Royals could have countered with a left-handed reliever three times in the latter stages of each game.
By sticking Cody Ross in between Ortiz and Gonzalez, Ned Yost might have to use up a left-handed pitcher, a right-handed pitcher and another lefty to get through Boston’s No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters. Use that combination once and Yost would have only one left-hander remaining in the pen. If Yost tried to slide by those three hitters using only one pitcher, the Red Sox would have had a matchup they liked in there somewhere.
So let’s go to the eighth inning of game one in that series. The score was 7-5. Kelvin Herrera struck out Mike Aviles to lead off the eighth inning. Herrera then walked Dustin Pedroia. Yost brought in Tim Collins to face David Ortiz. Collins was slow to the plate, so Pedroia stole second. That opened up first base, and the Royals intentionally walked Ortiz.
While Ortiz was at the plate, Pedroia turned to Chris Getz and said, “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that” because the steal took the bat out of Ortiz’s hands. But Yost left Collins in the game to face Cody Ross (Tim actually has done a little better against right-handers), but that was still a match-up that Boston liked, and Ross made the Royals pay with a two-run double.
So the moral of the story is this: Pay attention to how many lefties are in the opponent’s bullpen, how and when those pitchers are used and how your opponent reacts once all its lefties are used up.
One more thing from that series
Yost got Hochevar out of this game against the White Sox at the right time. Luke had a terrific outing. He threw seven shutout innings, got the Royals to the back end of the bullpen and left on a high note.
Boston manager Bobby Valentine failed to do the same in the second game of the series in Kansas City. Valentine got seven innings from starter Daniel Bard, and the Sox were leading 4-3 heading into the eighth inning. The Royals had left-handed Jarrod Dyson and Alex Gordon leading off that inning. Bard came back out and walked Dyson. Jeff Francoeur told me he was surprised Bard was still in the game, but he figured that once Bard walked Dyson, Boston would bring in a lefty to face Gordon. Bard stayed in the game and walked Gordon, too. Right-hander Matt Albers then came in the game and gave up a home run to Billy Butler.
So in the space of two batters Bard went from having a very good outing to losing a game. When you get mad at Ned Yost, just remember other managers aren’t perfect, either.