Games » New York YankeesMay22
The fifth inning
The Kansas City Star
Let’s look at the fifth inning of this game because it’s where the Royals lost the lead, but might’ve found a new Luke Hochevar. Royals up 2-1, Mark Teixieria led off the inning with a single, Jeff Francoeur reached down with a bare hand, missed the ball and Teixeira motored into second base. Teixeira represented the tying run, so the next batter, Russell Martin, needed to hit the ball to the right side. If Martin got a hit, so much the better, but Russell needed to make sure Teixeira at least wound up on third base.
This is one of the most interesting situations a fan can watch: a hitter wanting to hit the ball to the right side, a pitcher trying to force the hitter to put the ball in play on the left side. (If the ball is hit on the ground behind the runner, he can leave right away. If the ball is hit in front of the runner he has to hold at second until the ball gets through.)
So Hochevar was pitching the right-handed Martin inside, hoping to force him to pull the ball. On a 3-2 pitch, the home plate umpire said the pitch hit Martin, but replays revealed no evidence of that. Next, the number nine hitter, Dewayne Wise, laid down a bunt, attempting to move both runners over. The bunt was just about perfect and went for a hit.
Bases loaded, nobody out. An error, followed by an unlikely hit-by-pitch, followed by a sacrifice bunt so perfect it went for a hit.
This was a perfect scenario for a pitching meltdown. Instead, Luke Hochevar went right at Derek Jeter, gave up a weak single for one run, then followed that by going right at Curtis Granderson, giving up a ground ball for another run. Then Hochevar struck out Alex Rodriguez and Raul Ibanez to get out of the inning only down 3-2. He pitched another strong inning in the 6th and got two outs in the 7th before leaving the game.
The Royals lost this one, but if Luke Hochevar took another step toward being a consistent pitcher who knows how to limit the damage, it might’ve been a decent trade-off.
We’ve been talking about lineups with a right-handed hitter sandwiched between two lefties. In the 8th inning the Royals were sending Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas to the plate. The Yankees only had a one-run lead, so any of the three could tie up the game.
Manager Joe Girardi thought it was worth using three pitchers to get through the inning, using left-handed Boone Logan, right-handed Cody Eppley and left-handed Clay Rapada. When Ned Yost was faced with the same lefty/righty/lefty situation in the bottom of the inning (Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Raul Ibanez), Ned stuck with Jose Mijares all the way (which worked, by the way).
But it did make me wonder if a manager is more likely to expend pitchers when ahead than behind. If you’re losing, why chew up your pen for the next day? If you’re winning, it might be worth it. I’ll have to ask that question when the Royals get back in town.
Jarrod Dyson has been showing more patience at the plate, but might be showing too much patience with two strikes. This isn’t a slam-dunk decision, but many ballplayers think you need to expand your strike zone with two strikes and get the ball in play. For what’s it worth—and that’s not much—I agree. Especially for a left-hander that can run.
Dyson leads the team in strikeouts looking, even though he has about half the plate appearances as Alex Gordon.
Slippery when wet
It rained throughout Monday’s game. Be aware that runners will be more likely to challenge outfielders on any ball that bounces several times on the wet grass—the ball will be dripping. Because of the drying compound used on the infield dirt, the running surface may still be OK.
Chris Getz reinjured his ribs on a slide Monday night and is now on the DL. That brings up an interesting subject: why his teammates think more highly of Getz than some outsiders. Jason Kendall, who thinks almost everybody is kind of a pantywaist (although that’s not the term Jason would use), thinks Getz is “old school.”
Brayan Pena told me Chris would stand in and take a hit at second base to turn a double play. (Not all second baseman will.) He also said Getz had saved him from making errors with a willingness to dive over a sliding runner to keep an errant throw on the infield. (Another play some infielders refuse to attempt.) If the starting pitcher has had too easy an inning because the first two batters only saw a few pitches, Getz is willing to take until he has two strikes to make the pitcher work.
Teammates know who is selfish and who isn’t. As one Royals player put it to me, “How come everybody wants to play with Derek Jeter and nobody wanted to play with Barry Bonds?” Jeter is known as a great teammate who makes everyone around him better. Barry Bonds wasn’t.
A second baseman who eats the ball and gets out of the way of a sliding runner doesn’t get much respect. A second baseman who steps into the runner with his left foot, planning on jumping over that runner with his right—a move called a pirouette step—gets a lot of respect. He’s risked his ankle and knee in order to get more on the throw to first base.
When Chris Getz walks by after a game, ice bag taped to his shin or a deep gash in his ankle from getting spiked—and I’ve seen both—teammates notice.
The stolen base
We’ve talked a lot about delivery times and someone asked about the Royals pitchers: Have they cut down their times to the plate? Well, I know they were working on it in spring training.
Here are a few salient numbers: if I’ve done the math correctly, Brayan Pena has thrown out 36% of attempted base stealers and Humberto Quintero has thrown out 37%. The last time I heard, 33% was an acceptable average.
Always keep the pitcher in mind. Nate Adcock took a long time to deliver the ball to the plate in his last start and no throw was possible. It still goes against the Brayan Pena’s record.