Games » Baltimore OriolesMay16
The sun didn't shine...
The Kansas City Star
Top of the ninth, Royals up 3-1, Jonathan Broxton in to close. Broxton gets the first out on a grounder to short, then gives up a home run to ex-Royal, Wilson Betemit. When Betemit hits the ball, Jeff Francoeur takes off, then breaks into a jog.
When an outfielder starts to jog it means one of two things: he’s already close to where the ball is coming down or there’s no point in continuing to run. Unfortunately, Francoeur is slowing down because there’s no point in continuing to run — Betemit’s ball is gone. The Royals still have a one-run lead.
Pinch runner, Ryan Flaherty replaces Davis. Next batter, Robert Andino, flies out. Now there’s two down. On a 1-0 pitch to Xavier Avery, home plate umpire, Angel Hernandez, does not give Broxton a pitch on the corner. Instead of being 1-1—which would allow another marginal pitch or something off-speed—Broxton is behind 2-0. Jonathan throws his third fastball in a row and Avery singles to right. Flaherty advances to second.
J.J. Hardy follows with a single to center field and now it’s time for the play of the game: When Flaherty rounds third he gets waved home by third base coach, DeMarlo Hale. Flaherty is supposed to pick up the on-deck hitter, Nick Markakis. The on-deck hitter acts as the final base coach, signaling the runner to come in standing or slide. The signal is slide and the throw is coming from Jarrod Dyson in center field, Flaherty needs to aim for the back of the plate.
Royals catcher Humberto Quintero prepares to receive the throw. He places his left foot on the foul line, toes pointed toward third base. If he points his toes toward the mound, Humberto exposes his ankle to the runner—keep his toes toward third and the shin guard protects his leg.
The left foot is the anchor that allows the catcher to keep track of his position. If the catcher keeps it on the line, he knows where he is in relation to the plate and he knows where the runner will be: somewhere to his left. The runner will aim for the back half of the plate, the catcher will receive the ball out in front of the plate, turn and try to make the tag in time.
(There is another method: if the catcher wants to invite a collision, he straddles the line. This leaves the runner nowhere to go, he’s forced to go through the catcher to get to home plate. Jason Kendall once said that early in the game he put his foot on the line — if the game was close and late, he straddled.)
Jarrod Dyson’s throw doesn’t give Quintero a choice, it’s slightly to Humberto’s right and it’s a stretch to keep his foot on the line at all, no chance to straddle. But Quintero does keep his foot in position, forcing Flaherty around it. Humberto catches the ball, turns and makes the tag, but Flaherty’s foot appears to cross home plate first.
But appears is the right word. Replays show that Flaherty foot was above home plate—not on it—when the tag was made. Angel Hernandez calls Flaherty safe, the game is tied and the Royals go on to lose 4-3 in 15 innings. Which reminds me of one my favorite baseball saying of all time, “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass every day.”
The sun wasn’t shining last night, maybe it’ll shine today.
- Right-handed Darren O’Day pitched the 9th for the Orioles, I was kind of surprised Brayan Pena didn’t pinch-hit for Humberto Quintero. I asked Ned about it and he just liked the way Humberto was swinging the bat and thought he could handle O’Day.
- On the other hand, he send Mitch Maier out to pinch run for Billy Butler in the 8th and looked like a genius when Mitch scored from first on Alex Gordon’s double.
- Chris Getz got banged up when he collided with Chris Davis at first and came out of the game. Getz also got spiked by Xavier Avery on what might’ve been a triple play without Avery’s speed. Runners at first and second, ball to Mike Moustakas, Moose tags third and feeds Getz. Chris said he was surprised Avery was already on him and couldn’t get the throw off.
(Whenever the team is on the road I save up questions to ask when they get home. Here are a few of the answers.)
The shift: Last weekend, the Royals put a shift on Adam Dunn and Dunn hit a single the other way. I asked Ned Yost if he thought the shift worked. If the shift causes a power hitter to settle for an opposite field single, did the Royals get what they wanted?
As always, it depends on context. If a single hurts you, the hitter beat the shift. If you’re in a spot where a single does no damage, the shift worked.
Tack-on runs: I asked Doug Sisson about tack-on runs: do the Royals run the bases more aggressively if they already have a lead? Doug said the run the bases aggressively all the time, unless they’re down by two. To be aggressive the run needs to represent the tying, winning or lead-increasing run.
(A word of warning: teams will sometimes play for one when down by more than one if it’s still early. If they believe their pitching can make an adjustment and stop the other team from scoring, they might play for one now and plan on getting the other runs they need later in the game.)
Hard-hit outs: Kevin Seitzer lets me see the “inside” hitting stats he keeps and they’re often extremely helpful in interpreting what I’ve seen. Kevin keeps a category called “hard hit outs” (he says they have to be “absolute rockets” to qualify) and I wondered where Eric Hosmer stood in that category. With the exception of three players, nobody has more than three hard hit outs so far this season. So who are the three? In third place: Alex Gordon with 7. Second place: Chris Getz with 9. First place (just as I suspected): Eric Hosmer with 13.
By the way: hitters empathize with each other even when they wear different uniforms. When Boston was here, David Ortiz suggested Hosmer move in the box to change the hitting lanes. I said the same thing a week ago, but it might mean more coming from Big Papi than a political cartoonist.
Pena’s stance: If you see Brayan Pena extend one leg while catching, it’s because he’s trying to set the target as low as he can. If a pitcher is high in the zone, Brayan might drop lower to help the pitcher get the ball down. He’ll do it on fastballs or breaking pitches, otherwise the opposition would figure out the pattern. But he can’t do it with a runner on base (unless he’s convinced the runner isn’t going anywhere). It’s also difficult to block pitches from that leg-extended position.
So next time you see Brayan extend a leg, pay attention to the pitch location—it should be down.