Games » Cleveland IndiansMay29
Will Smith with a lead
The Kansas City Star
So this is what Will Smith looks like when he has a lead. Easy for me to say (and write), but it seems as though pitchers ought to throw this way all the time. In close games, pitchers often try to be too fine, hit microbes on the corners and fall behind in the count. As the late Paul Splittorff would say, “How’s that working out for you?”
It looked like two different pitchers: With a two-run lead in the bottom of the first, Smith nibbled, walked the first two batters (both scored), followed that by giving up two hits and had Vin Mazzaro and the next Greyhound bus to Omaha warming up.
The Royals scored five runs in the top of the second, and the other Will Smith appeared. This Will Smith worked quickly, threw strikes and put up five consecutive shutout innings for a quality start and his first win in the big leagues. After his first start on May 23 against the New York Yankees, a lot of Royals fans wondered why Smith was brought up to the major leagues.
They now have an answer.
• The umpires have scuffled in this series and blew another call in the first inning Tuesday night. Alex Gordon was on first base and Johnny Giavotella hit a ball to Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis. Kipnis flipped the ball to the shortstop, Juan Diaz. Diaz, possibly worried about base-runner Alex Gordon tearing out his spleen, never caught the ball. The umpire, Jerry Layne, ruled that Diaz caught the ball and dropped it while pulling the ball out of his glove. Replays did not confirm this alternate version of reality.
• Gordon was hitting lead off in an effort to get him going offensively. Maybe it shouldn’t make a difference, but Ned Yost thinks Gordon hit well there last year and wants to see what effect this move has on Alex.
• Mike Moustakas pulled a low-and-away pitch for a two-run home run in the first. The ball’s location tells you Moustakas has to be one strong dude to pull it that far. If I tried to pull a ball in that location, I probably wouldn’t hit it out of the infield, much less the park. (This could be why I’m watching baseball for a living.)
• Mike just missed another home run, had to wait for the umpires to look at the replay and then had a two-RBI single. Moose showed excellent concentration during a long and difficult at-bat.
• Another good sign: Billy Butler and Jeff Francoeur went 1-for-8 with a combined five strikeouts (and, no, that’s not the good sign). What’s encouraging about this situation is that the other hitters picked up the team when two of the hottest hitters had an off night. This is what good teams do.
• Shortstop Alcides Escobar did not dive for a groundball to his right when it appeared he should have at least made the attempt to keep the ball on the infield. It didn’t cost the Royals a run in this game, but it might in the future.
• In his first at-bat, Eric Hosmer worked the count to 3-0, but with nobody on base, he did not appear to get the green light. A common hitting strategy is to look for the same pitch 3-1 and turn on the fan if you get it. Hosmer did, but fouled it back.
• Eric then picked up a single by going the other way. Hitting the ball to the opposite field cures a lot problems. The hitter has to wait (better pitch selection) and keep his front side closed (better mechanics). George Brett once told me that whenever he scuffled he would try to hit the ball the other way to get back on track.
• Johnny Giavotella picked up a couple of singles (hitting coach Kevin Seitzer says Gio’s short arms help him get around on inside pitches), but booted a potential double-play ball. By my count, he has kicked three balls on this road trip (not all resulted in errors). You can see Johnny’s offensive potential, but you also can see why the Royals are concerned about his defense.
• Catcher Humberto Quintero cost Will Smith a wild pitch when he tried to glove strike three instead of blocking the pitch in the dirt.
• Humberto must have heard about Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis peeking back to pick up the catcher’s location, because the Royals catcher was staring up at Kipnis while giving the signs.
• If the Royals wanted to drill Kipnis, they had plenty of opportunities. (An extra runner wouldn’t have threatened Kansas City’s big lead.) I’m sure there’s more to the story, but the Royals may not have wanted to start something with a team they were beating soundly. Why wake them up? If the Royals had been behind late in a game and thought they had nothing to lose, things might have gone differently.
• On the other hand, if it’s a one-time deal and they don’t think Kipnis steals signs on a regular basis, the Royals may feel that letting him know they know he did it is enough.
• I just took a lot of words to say I don’t know what’s going on with Jason Kipnis.
• Cleveland pitcher Justin Masterson gave fits to the right-handed batters (4-20) and got beat by the left-handed batters (6-16). Billy Butler appeared to be looking for a pitch away, and Masterson would give him one. But it was too far away, and that had Billy chasing sliders out of the zone.
• Hosmer turned a potential two-base error on Moustakas into a one-base error with a leaping catch that kept the ball from going down the right-field line. That is one of the reasons the other infielders love having Hosmer at first base.
• Hosmer also had an error when Kelvin Herrera picked up a ball and threw it about a billion miles an hour at Eric. Hosmer’s mitt gave with the throw (it pretty much has to when the ball is thrown that hard: keep it still and it can hit and bounce off) and the ball came out of the end of the mitt.
• Jarrod Dyson stole second base on Masterson in the sixth inning. (If Masterson is going to take 1.55 seconds to deliver the ball to home plate with Jarrod Dyson on first, he’s pretty much asking for it.) Jarrod made the stolen base pay off when he also set sail for third, pulled third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall over to cover the bag and Humberto Quintero hit the ball through the spot Chisenhall vacated.
• Manager Ned Yost said it was all a happy accident, and he didn’t like Dyson stealing late in the count (according to my scorebook Quintero had a 1-2 count at the time). Ned’s point: The hitter can’t afford to take a pitch and the runner can be a distraction.
• Yost didn’t say this, but another reason to steal early in the count is a runner’s ability to score from third without a hit with less than two outs. The runner generally needs to get to third before the ball is put in play.
• Yost and first-base coach Doug Sisson were asked about the Royals struggling in the first game of a series. They both asked a logical question: Who were we facing? As we talked about yesterday, correlation does not imply causation. Always question what other factors might be involved before accepting a theory at face value. I’ll try to do the same.