Games » Milwaukee BrewersJun14
What just happened?
The Kansas City Star
So what the heck happened in the bottom of the ninth? Even Ned Yost couldn’t figure it out. The Royals manager had been ejected in the 4th inning and as he put it, didn’t have the best view. Ned was watching the game on TV in the club house with Jeff Francoeur who had been ejected in the second inning. (I’ll bet Frenchy was glad to have some company after a couple innings of solitude.)
Anyway, when Mitch Maier scored the first run, Jeff celebrated by pushing Ned. Ned then did what any normal human being would do, he pushed Frenchy back. When they got done pushing each other, Jarrod Dyson had scored and the game was over and neither Ned nor Frenchy knew how.
Let’s see if we can piece it together: the Royals down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning and Mitch Maier leads off with a strikeout — but strike three gets away from the catcher and Maier hustles to first. Mike Moustakas follows that with a shot to the first baseman, Cody Ransom, who gets a little too quick on turning a double play, bobbles the ball and has to settle for an out at first base. Tying run on second, one down.
Alcides Escobar — Wednesday night’s hero — strikes out: tying run on second, two down. Jarrod Dyson then walks: tying run on second, winning run on first, two down. Brayan Pena then pinch hits for Humberto Quintero. Right handers average .217 against Milwaukee’s closer, John Axford, lefties .260, so temporary manager Chino Cadahia wants the switch-hitting Pena to face Axford from the left side.
Axford starts Brayan with a curve and misses. He then gets Brayan to chase a fastball up in the zone. Instead of climbing the ladder to see how high Brayan will chase, the next pitch is supposed to be low. Axford splits the difference and gives Brayan a hittable fastball out over the plate.
The ball is driven down the left field line. Brewers left fielder, Norichika Aoki moves laterally to field the ball (which means a weak throw) and Mitch Maier scores easily, Jarrod Dyson goes first to third. Then things get interesting:
(OK, a lot of this comes from Brayan because there were too many things happening to keep track of all of them.) Aoki is fielding the ball down the left field line and Brewers shortstop Edwin Maysonet is also headed for a spot on the line between Aoki and third to act as a relay man. The third baseman, Aramis Ramirez, covers third and the first baseman, Cody Ransom, is headed for the line between third and home to act as the cutoff man.
When Ransom vacates first base, that means Brayan can take a big turn and head for second. All the attention is on Dyson at third and Pena might be able to cruise in with a double. If the Brewers throw to second base Pena will then retreat to first since nobody’s covering the bag (unless the right fielder sneaks in). So Brayan takes his turn, the ball is thrown from Aoki to Maysonet, Maysonet sees Brayan between the bases and throw to Rickie Weeks covering second.
Pena’s run means nothing. Do the Brewers really want to conduct a rundown with a guy faster than bad news on third base? Jarrod Dyson takes off for home and beats the throw. Game over and two ejected Royals are standing in the clubhouse saying, what just happened?
Despite the fact that Jeff Francoeur greeted the media with outstretched arms, a smile and the announcement that he was a “sparkplug,” Ned Yost said he thought there was no advantage to having a manager thrown out of a game. It doesn’t really light a fire under major league players (that only happens in movies) and it means the manager isn’t around to make important decisions in a close game.
One of those important decisions came in the 8th inning. Luke Hochevar — who had given up two runs in seven innings — came out to face the eight and nine hitters in the top of the eighth. Two lefties were at the top of the order — Aoki and Nyjer Morgan — so Jose Mijares was warming up in the pen.
Carlos Gomez singled — kind of, replays show he was out — and Maysonet bunted him to second. Mijares replaced Hochevar and got Aoki to hit a weak ground ball back to the mound. The Brewers pinch hit right hander, Cody Ransom.
OK, let’s run through some numbers here: Ransom hits .273 against lefties and .135 versus righties. So why not bring a righty — Herrera was up in the pen — to face Ransom? If the Royals bring in Herrera, the Brewers can counter — maybe, I’m not sure what it would do to their defense — with the one lefthander they have left on the bench, Taylor Green. Green hits .224 against righties. But Mijares, faces Ransom. Righties hit .273 against Jose, lefties hit .216. So should Herrera been in to face Ransom or Green?
First of all, I’m leaving out some factors: specific matchup numbers and how people are actually performing at the moment, just for starters. After the game, Ned said they didn’t want to ask too much of Herrera — he’d pitched two innings the night before — and were satisfied with the Mijares/Ransom matchup.
The significant thing about this was Ned using the word “we.” He could’ve thrown Chino Cadahia under the bus for a matchup that didn’t work out, but didn’t. It’s a point worth noting.
A routine outing
“You always look so calm out there, are you?” Jonathan Broxton smiled and began telling me what it’s like to be a major-league closer. No matter how he feels, it’s important to at least appear calm. Brox is from the “never let them see you sweat” school of baseball. He believes that a player who shows emotion — anger or frustration — is at a disadvantage. Emotion may be the key to victory in the baseball movies, but it’s a hindrance in real baseball.
Keeping an even keel allows Broxton to put his full attention on execution. That slow pace is part of his plan. He doesn’t want part of his mind wondering if he should be throwing a fastball, he wants all of his mind thinking about throwing a good fastball.
Brox believes routine is important; it’s how he gets in the right frame of mind to close games. He goes to the bullpen and watches the first three outs with the other pitchers, then returns to the clubhouse. He returns the pen in the 5th inning, relaxes for a while and then begins the process that will have him ready to throw in the 9th inning. Same routine every night: go to the bathroom at the same time, begin to stretch at the same time and do it every night — even if a save situation does not seem likely. He never knows when a 9-run lead will disappear and he doesn’t want to be caught flat-footed.
Jonathan Broxton was dressing while we talked and I was thinking he probably does this the same way every night as well. He stood up, said it was time to go and walked out of the clubhouse: the first step in the routine that may end six hours later with a very large, very calm looking man on the mound.