Games » St. Louis CardinalsJun17
‘I’ve never been through a game like that’
The Kansas City Star
How do you sum up a game that lasted five hours, went 15 innings, had 107 at-bats, 31 strikeouts, 14 walks and 458 pitches thrown? Manager Ned Yost’s quote — “I’ve never been through a game like that” — is as good a summation as any. The Royals were ahead of the Cardinals, then tied, then behind, then tied, then ahead, then tied and after Jarrod Dyson singled and the much-maligned Yuniesky Betancourt homered in the 15th inning, ahead to stay.
Afterward, the Royals clubhouse was filled with exhausted men, drooped in chairs. Jeff Francoeur, a man who will be the life of the party at his own funeral, looked up and said, “I got nuthin’ left.” No grins. No emotion. None of the exuberance common to a winning team. Just a group of very tired ballplayers packing up to fly to Houston.
Imagine what the Cardinals clubhouse must have been like.
There’s no way to deal with everything that happened in this game without writing a novel, so I’ll touch on the events that stand out in my exhausted mind:
First inning: Chris Getz hurt his lower leg on a freak play. The Royals were in a defensive shift with the Cardinals’ Carlos Beltran hitting from the left side. The ball was hit up the middle. Chris broke to his right but decided that Alcides Escobar had a better angle and peeled off to give Alcides a clear shot at the ball — just as Esky peeled to his left to turn the play over to Chris. The Royals probably will make a roster move to replace Getz.
After the game, Chris said it was a weird play because the shift changed the usual territories that each infielder covered — “You take the balls on your side of second, I’ll take the balls on mine.” Getz and Escobar each assumed the other man would make the play, and neither did.
Second inning: With no one out and a run in, Escobar was on third base and Humberto Quintero was on first. The contact play (the runner on third breaks for home on contact) usually is on in this situation. The idea is to force the infielders to choose between turning a double play while letting a run score or throwing the ball to home plate and having two runners on base with one out.
Jarrod Dyson hit the ball on the ground, Esky broke for home and the throw beat him. Alcides did the right thing, staying in the rundown until the other two base-runners advanced. Humberto was on third, and Jarrod was on second. But then Esky made a mistake: He gave himself up between home plate and third.
Had Alcides made it back to third, there would have been two runners on the base. The defender would have tagged both men, and Quintero would have been out. The lead runner has the right to the bag. The Royals would have had the speedy Escobar on third instead Humberto Quintero.
A pitch got away from the catcher, and Humberto was unable to score. It’s doubtful that Escobar would have had different results, but you would like to see him have the chance.
Ninth inning: Billy Butler made the most of one of his few at-bats in this series, hitting a home run with two outs and two strikes in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game. Jason Motte came in to close the game for the Cards and was throwing nothing but fastballs in the upper 90s. Motte had struck out Mike Moustakas, then Alcides Escobar.
Billy thought Motte would start him with something off-speed, figuring Butler had seen what had happened to the two previous hitters and would try to be quick on the fastball. Instead of something off-speed, Motte stuck with the fastball, so Billy took it. On the second pitch, Billy was behind the fastball, so he figured Motte would give him another. Butler decided to shorten his swing and just try to make contact — 438 feet worth of contact.
Eleventh inning: With the score tied at 2, the Royals had no one out, Jeff Francoeur on third, Mike Moustakas on first and Alcides Escobar at the plate. The infield was playing in, so a double play would have been unlikely. But the defensive positioning would have made it difficult for Frenchy to score on a ground ball hit at someone.
With no one out and a runner on third, it is common to let the hitter swing. The reasoning goes like this: The offense has three chances to get the run in. There’s no need to do anything desperate. But Ned Yost had no position players left on the bench. Pitcher Tim Collins was on deck, and Jarrod Dyson was in the hole.
Collins doesn’t hit or bunt well, and Dyson was batting .238 against lefties. The Cardinals had left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski warming up, so Yost decided he needed to get the run in while Esky was at the plate. After that, the odds of scoring would have dropped dramatically.
Ned went with the safety squeeze. (On a suicide squeeze, the runner breaks for home when the pitcher’s front foot come down. On a safety squeeze, the runner waits until he see the bunt down to break for home). Frenchy was out with room to spare.
Ned summed it up this way: “If I’d gone to a casino today, I’d be going home broke.”
But thanks to Yuniesky Betancourt, the Royals got real lucky in the 15th.