Games » St. Louis CardinalsJun16
What happened to Chen
The Kansas City Star
The first 17 pitches Bruce Chen threw in this game were 82, 81, 83, 80, 80, 75, 81, 83, 82, 76, 83, 76, 82, 85, 83, 82 and 81 mph. On the 18th pitch, Bruce finally threw a pitch in the upper 80s, and the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina hit it out of the park.
After the game, Royals manager Ned Yost said Chen is effective when he speeds the bats up with his best fastball (88 or 89 mph) and then begins to play with the accelerator — faster, then slower, faster, then slower — in order to upset the hitter’s timing.
Yost said he thought Chen didn’t establish his best fastball early on Saturday and paid the price for throwing too many similar pitches.
• Ned said he thought the Royals’ offense did a great job of battling back after being down 6-1, but Chen’s start and the lack of command by the pitchers from the seventh inning on were too much to overcome.
• Yost suggested we not miss the three scoreless innings that Roman Colon put up in middle relief.
• The argument about the triple play that was reversed in the first inning was not about whether the ball had been caught. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny acknowledged that the ball hit the ground, but he was upset that the umpires reversed the call — that and he thought the original call made his pitcher do the wrong thing.
• Long reliever Nate Adcock replaced Chen, but Billy Butler pinch-hit for Nate in the fourth. The Royals were down 6-2 but had two runners in scoring position. Ned had been saving Billy for an RBI situation, and if Butler could have come through with a single, the Royals would have been down by only two runs with five innings to play. Billy had a good at-bat but lined out to right field.
• In the seventh inning, Eric Hosmer had a nine-pitch at-bat and walked. Jeff Francoeur singled, Mike Moustakas singled, then Brayan Pena and Alcides Escobar singled. Unfortunately, Escobar tried to stretch his single into a double and was thrown out.
• After the game, Ned defended Esky’s decision, but with nobody out and a rally going, that didn’t seem like a good move.
• A whole lot of other stuff, good and bad, happened: Chris Getz got picked off, then made an acrobatic catch and tag on a stolen base, Tim Collins walked the leadoff batter then dove for a bunt attempt, missed and set up the Cardinals’ comeback kind of stuff, but I’m hitting a deadline and it’s time to move on.
A few of the things I heard before the game started
• There were a couple of situations Friday night in which the Royals’ Jarrod Dyson was on first base with two outs and Kansas City’s pitcher at the plate. Jarrod still has the green light in those situations, but as Ned said Saturday morning, if he takes off, he can’t be thrown out. That would leave the pitcher’s spot leading off the next inning.
• Dyson said Kyle Lohse’s delivery to the plate was a bit too quick for him to run on Friday night, but a pitcher will get tricky. He may deliver the first pitch slowly, bait the runner in to going and then slide step and speed up their delivery on the next pitch.
• Dyson pointed out that a pitcher who is slow to the plate can make a catcher look bad. Either the catcher has no chance to throw the runner out, or he rushes the throw to make up the time the pitcher wasted and sends the ball into the outfield.
• From opening day to May 7, the Royals pitching staff had an overall ERA of 4.96. That ranked them 12th in the American League, and 27th in baseball. Pitching coach Dave Eiland had a lay-down-the-law meeting with the pitchers, and since then the staff has had an overall ERA of 3.24, second in the AL and fourth in baseball.
Dave warned that seasons are long, and the Royals’ pitchers are in a good stretch, but there will be another dip in performance. That is why you have to keep an even keel. Don’t get too down when things are going poorly. Don’t get too up when things are going well.
• Dave says that Luke Hochevar’s recent improvement is partly due to focusing on his “core” pitches: fastball, curveball and change. With those three pitches, Luke achieves “separation,” a dramatic difference in pitch speed. If Luke throws sinkers, cutters and sliders, all those pitches are around the same speed — no separation.
• If Luke has tendency to go to the same pitches whenever he‘s in trouble — and apparently he has — the other teams also have scouts and hitters will be ready for them.
• That wild play that ended Friday’s game was still being talked about Saturday morning. Chris Getz walked up behind a group of Royals who were watching the replay and innocently asked, “What were you guys freaking out about?” Oh, yeah. I’m sure you and Moose work on that all the time.
• On Saturday morning, Ned told the media that Jose Mijares was the one reliever who was not available to pitch in that day’s game. If I had thought to ask, Ned could have told us who was unavailable in the Cardinal bullpen, too. When you’re watching games and wondering why certain guys are used and other aren’t, keep this formula in mind: If a relief pitcher works two consecutive days (some can handle three), he takes the next day off.
So you think you can manage?
With the Royals leading 7-6 with a runner on third and two outs in the top of the seventh inning, Yost had Yuniesky Betancourt hit in the pitcher’s spot. Yuni fouled out to end the inning, so Ned needed to bring in a new pitcher for the bottom of the seventh.
St. Louis left-hander Daniel Descalso had come into the game in the top half of the inning and was due to lead off the bottom of the seventh hitting in the 9-hole for the Cardinals. Switch-hitters Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran were hitting behind Descalso, which meant the inning lined up well for a left-handed reliever (although Furcal has hit better from the right side). Mijares was unavailable, so Ned brought in Tim Collins.
Now that the Royals had a one-run lead to protect, Yost also wanted to get Humberto Quintero behind the plate. So why not have Collins hit in the 9-hole and put Quintero in Pena’s spot, the 6-hole? With two innings still to play, it was possible that the No. 9 hitter would not come to the plate again. Bury the pitcher at the bottom of the order, and quit worrying about it.
But the Cardinals had used their only two left-handed relievers, Sam Freeman and Marc Rzepczynski, to get through the inning. Ned still had Mitch Maier on the bench, so he knew if he pinch-hit Maier when the 6-hole came around, the Cardinals would have no left-hander to pitch to Maier.
So in the bottom of the seventh, Quintero went into the 9-hole, and Tim Collins went into the sixth spot because Ned knew he would use Mitch when that spot came around again.
(By the way, Mitch struck out while facing a right-handed pitcher. The best-laid plans of mice and men, etc. etc., etc., but the point is still valid. A lot goes into these decisions and this is only one of the many made during the game.)