Games » Minnesota TwinsJun5
A play that may have saved the game
The Kansas City Star
When you look at the box score from this game, you will see that Bruce Chen had a win. You will see that Jonathan Broxton had a save. You will see that Greg Holland had a hold. You will see that Eric Hosmer stole a base and scored a run. You will see that Brayan Pena had a hit and an RBI.
But what you won’t see is the play that may have saved the game.
With the Royals leading 1-0 in the top of the ninth, Broxton came into the game to get three outs. Broxton got the first out when Minnesota’s Ben Revere hit the ball to shortstop Alcides Escobar. The Twins’ Josh Willingham then hit a 2-1 slider for a double, putting the tying run in scoring position. No room for error.
With first base open, the Royals didn’t care whether they walked the next batter, Justin Morneau, (and they eventually did) even though he represented the winning run. After the game, Brayan told me they weren’t going to let the left-handed Morneau beat them, so in a crucial situation, Broxton threw a slider — and bounced it.
Brayan made a tough block on the pitch in the dirt, and that prevented Willingham from advancing to third. And that meant there was no runner on third to tag up and score when Minnesota’s Ryan Doumit hit a fly ball to left fielder Alex Gordon for the second out.
There’s no guarantee that Broxton would have thrown the same pitch to Doumit if there had been a runner on third base, but there definitely would have been a runner on third with less than two outs. Pena’s effort to keep a tough pitch in front of him prevented that.
And it won’t show up in the box score.
• In the second inning, with Jeff Francoeur on first base, Eric Hosmer tapped a weak grounder to Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano. To his credit, Hosmer hustled and beat out a double play — and that changed the game.
Hosmer then stole second base on Liriano, a left-hander (after first-base coach Doug Sisson leaned in and said this would be a good time to go — I’ll try to find out tomorrow how Doug knew that). Hosmer went on “first movement.”
When a left-handed pitcher is hard to read, runners sometimes will go on his first move and hope they guessed right. When they guess right — like with Hosmer — it can be an easy stolen base. When they guess wrong — like with Alex Gordon — it can be an easy out for the defense.
Hosmer’s stolen base paid off when Brayan Pena drove him in for the only run of the game.
• Apparently, there were complaints — I listen to sports talk radio on the way home — about Ned not sending Bruce Chen back out for the eighth inning so he could face the bottom of the Twins’ order. Chen was at 88 pitches, so it might have been possible to get one more out of him, but of the four hits Chen gave up, three came from the bottom of the order.
After the game, Ned said he considered sending Bruce back out, but it was only a one-run lead. A bad pitch could have tied the game. With no room for error and Brian Dozier (who already had two hits) leading off the inning for the Twins, Yost decided to make the switch.
• Greg Holland came in and would have gone 1-2-3 except for an Alcides Escobar error. Even so, Holland struck out the side and handed the game off to Broxton.
• Apparently there also were complaints about Jonathan Broxton — 14 save, 1.59 ERA Jonathan Broxton. Apparently people on sports talk radio have a lot of complaints. Bob Dutton, The Star’s Royals reporter, and I were talking before the game about how spoiled we have become watching Joakim Soria close games for the Royals. For a while, Soria was pretty much automatic. Plenty of closers aren’t.
• Jarrod Dyson, who has been criticized for his outfield play at times, saved the game when he ran from center field to somewhere in the vicinity of northbound I-435 to catch the final out of the game.
• After the game, Mike Moustakas was in a good mood. He was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts — but his team won. He wasn’t in such a good mood Monday night and he was 3 for 4 with a home run and two doubles — but his team lost. That tells you something very good about Mike Moustakas.
I came around a corner Monday afternoon and there was Ned Yost, sitting in the dugout, watching the players work out. We talked for a while, and here are a few of the things he told me.
• Ned doesn’t buy the idea that it is going to be any easier for the Royals to make up ground in the standings June. No matter their record, every team the Royals face is a major-league team. Every game is tough. You can’t take anyone for granted.
• When he gives a player a day off, it’s as much mental as physical. A player should be focused during every pitch, every inning and every game. A player needs to be aware of the count, the number of outs, the runner’s speed, the hitter’s tendencies, pitching patterns — the list goes on. Ned tells a player taking the day off to sleep in. Don’t come to the park early. Ned may even ask him to stay out the batting cage.
• When a game is over, it’s over. There may be four of five things from the game that require some type of later adjustment, but Ned said that if he didn’t have to talk to the media afterward, he would let the game go almost immediately.
• Ned tries not to clutter his mind with a lot of meaningless stuff — I’m pretty sure what’s being said about him in the media is on the list — because if it doesn’t help him win ballgames, why waste time on it?
• Ned agreed that gut instinct is actually your subconscious talking to you (most of the time). It picks up on things your conscious mind hasn’t registered. Your first instinct is often the right one. Second-guessing yourself can lead to mistakes you would not have made if you trusted your original instinct.
The easy way out
While we debate the managerial strategies of Ned Yost, it’s always good to remember the easiest thing a manager can do — nothing.
A few years back, Clint Hurdle and I had this discussion. To win in the playoffs, sooner or later you would have to play one-run ball. You would run into an ace who was dealing and you couldn’t say, “We’ll get ’em tomorrow.” Lose and there would be no tomorrow.
So if sooner or later you will have to play that way, you can’t wait until you have to play that way to start. It needs to be something you’re familiar with and know how to execute.
If those two things are true (and Clint said they were), why don’t more managers do it? Here’s what Clint said: “The press conference afterward.”
Clint explained that if he sat on his hands he would rarely get criticized. Even though not bunting or stealing or conducting a hit and run is also a decision, many people don’t recognize it as such. A manager who does nothing can blame his players. “Hey, what can I do? The guys didn’t hit tonight.” A manager who makes active, obvious decisions opens himself to criticism.
You can agree or disagree with the moves a manager makes, but recognize that a manager who puts himself on the line has the courage to take responsibility if things don’t work out. And things don’t work out a lot. It’s baseball.