Games » Baltimore OriolesMay27
Give Ned Yost credit
The Kansas City Star
In the fifth inning, with the go-ahead run on second, Ned Yost pulled Luke Hochevar. Luke had just hit a batter and was at 104 pitches. With that kind of pitch count, a pitcher is often near the limit of what he can do that day. Give Yost credit for making a series of decisions that worked.
Ned brought in left-handed reliever Tim Collins to face a switch-hitter, Wilson Betemit. Yost turned Betemit around and Collins got a soft line drive to Johnny Giavotella for the third out of the inning. In the sixth inning Ned let Collins face the left-handed Nick Johnson (strikeout) the right-handed Robert Andino (groundout) and the left-handed Xavier Avery (strikeout).
In the seventh, with three right-handers coming to the plate, Yost brought in right-handed pitcher Kelvin Herrera. Kelvin went 1-2-3: J.J. Hardy (ground out), Nick Markakis (fly out) and Adam Jones (ground out).
In the eighth, Yost let Herrera face switch-hitting Matt Weiters (ground out). Then brought in left-handed Jose Mijares to face lefty Chris Davis (double—oops), let Mijares turn around switch hitter Wilson Betemit (groundout) and then brought in right-handed Aaron Crow to face right-handed pinch hitter Steve Tolleson (strikeout).
Yost then brought in his closer, Jonathan Broxton, for the ninth inning. Broxton, who appears to have the same pulse rate as a pachyderm that just woke up from a particularly satisfying nap, pitched around a ninth-inning error for the save. Managers get hammered for decisions that don’t work out. Give credit when a manager pushes all the right buttons for a win.
Billy Butler hit his 11th home run in the first inning. Give Billy credit—he was asked to sacrifice average and on-base percentage to give the Royals some pop and Butler’s delivered.
According to Ned Yost, Luke Hochevar is attacking the strike zone and the results have been better. (A 3.78 ERA over the last four games—thanks for the stat, Joel Goldberg!) Apparently, Luke had been nibbling too much and the Royals wanted him to get more aggressive.
Hochevar gave up one earned run in this game and it came in the first inning after Mitch Maier left his feet for a sinking line drive, missed and couldn’t keep the ball in front of him. I’m not sure if Mitch could’ve played it for a single or he thought he could make the catch and realized too late he wouldn’t get there. I’ll ask when he gets back.
The usual game plan is to stay out of the big inning early (allowing a run if you have to—there’s time to make up for it) and play defense to prevent one run late (you may not have time to get the run back).
Mitch did get the run back in the next inning: he laid down a perfect safety squeeze, scoring Jeff Francoeur from third base.
You can tell the difference between a safety squeeze and a suicide squeeze by the runner: in a safety squeeze, the runner waits to see if the bunt is down before breaking for home. In a suicide squeeze, the runner breaks when the pitcher’s front foot hits the ground (too late to pitch out).
Francoeur got to third base with a combination of good and bad base running: he started the inning with a single, Adam Jones misplayed the ball and Jeff advanced to second base. But Frenchy was shutting it down as he approached first. Good base runners make a good hard turn, then shut it down if no advance is possible. (The turn depends on where the ball is hit: left field, big turn because of the long throw, right field, smaller turn because of the short throw.)
In any case, Francoeur made it to second, then advanced to third on another piece of aggressive base running. Alcides Escobar hit a line drive over the head of second baseman Robert Andino, but Andino was able to knock the ball down and keep it on the infield. Jeff scrambled to third on the play, which made Mitch Maier’s suicide squeeze possible.
With the score 2-1 Royals, Alex Gordon doubled to lead off the third inning. Johnny Giavotella’s job (at a minimum) was to get Gordon to third base by hitting the ball to the right side of the field. Pitcher Brian Matusz tried to prevent that by pounding Gio inside with fastballs and off-speed stuff. Matusz won the battle—Johnny hit a ground ball to third. You never know what a pitcher might have done in a different situation, but that ground-out might have cost the Royals a run when Mike Moustakas hit a possible sac fly to right field later in the inning.
Giavotella took an 0-fer, but it’s worth noting he lined out twice and hit a ball deep to right center in his last at-bat.
In the fourth inning Mitch Maier was at the plate and the umpire called an 0-1 slider, which appeared to be well out of the zone, a strike. When a pitcher sees this, he’ll take advantage: he’ll go even farther off the plate to see if he can get that call, too. The hitter, on the other hand, feels he has to protect against a pitch out of the zone. Matusz went off the plate and Maier chased, striking out. But the pitch that made it happen was the 0-1 slider.
In the bottom of the fourth with a runner on first and one down, Robert Andino hit a ground ball to Alcides Escobar. Esky wasn’t able to get the ball to Johnny Giavotella right away and the Royals failed to turn a double play. That cost them a run. Andino stole second (Hochevar was taking over 1.7 seconds to deliver the ball to home plate when he didn’t use a slide step) and Quintero chucked the ball into center field, probably trying to make up time by not waiting for his arm to get in the proper throwing slot. Andino took third on the error and scored on a single by Xavier Avery.
Avery’s ball was hit to right and Frenchy might have been able to prevent the run had Andino started from second base.
This was a case where a leadoff walk kind of scores: the Royals would have been able to throw out Andino on his ground ball if not for the fact that they had to go for the lead runner, Wilson Betemit.
In the fifth inning, Alex Gordon did a nice job of not getting doubled off on Johnny Giavotella’s line drive to third.
With two down, Alcides Escobar scored from first base on another Humberto Quintero double. Look for third-base coaches to be aggressive about sending runners home with two outs: hold them and you need another hit. Even if the on-deck hitter is terrific, the odds are about 70-30 that you won’t get the run home. Alex Gordon was on deck, he ended the day at .227, so if third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez thinks Esky scores more than two times out of ten on that play, sending the runner was the right thing to do.
After the game Ned Yost said he believed that if you make the defense make the play in that situation, most of the time you’ll be right. (Remember, it’s always easier for the base coach to hold the runner and blame the on-deck hitter if he doesn’t drive in the run.)
I went back (again) and checked the pitch to Quintero and saw the same thing I saw Saturday night: the Orioles were playing their left fielder off the line and the pitcher made a mistake with an off-speed pitch. The change-up that was supposed to be off the plate was over the plate and Humberto pulled it into the gap between the left fielder and the left field line.
The ninth inning error was given to Jeff Francoeur (Johnny Giavotella went back on a pop fly that should’ve ended the game, but ran into Frenchy) but the outfielder has priority over the infielder on this play. The outfielder is coming in, the infielder is going back. If Frenchy called the ball (he said he did, but Gio didn’t hear him), Johnny should have vacated the area.
As the Star’s Bob Dutton pointed out, eight other American League teams have used more lineups than the Royals. Basically, managers are trying to figure out who’s hot and bunch those hitters. Unless your team’s hitting bombs, you’re hoping for consecutive hits. Turns out, predicting the future is kind of hard. And as Ryan Lefebvre pointed out, if Ned Yost wasn’t juggling the lineup with a team that’s scuffling offensively, he’d also get criticized for that.