Games » Houston AstrosJun20
Another close one
The Kansas City Star
The Royals are now 31-36, which means they have been playing some pretty good baseball since the losing streak. If my memory is correct — and there’s every chance it isn’t—the Royals started the season 3-15. I would check this on the Internet, but during the game either my router or modem or the hamster that I’m convinced runs on a wheel inside my computer died, and I don’t currently have access to the Web.
The other thing I wanted to check — maybe you can do it for me — is whether Bruce Chen established his fastball first and then went to his off-speed stuff. Manager Ned Yost said Bruce got crushed in St. Louis because everything was in the low 80s and he waited too long to establish his upper-80s fastball. Ned said he thought Bruce needed to speed the bats up, then slow them down.
Whether it was that adjustment or just simply pitching to the Astros instead of the Cardinals, Chen got much better results in Houston and made sure the flight back to KC was a happy one.
Second inning: When a game is played by National League rules, pay attention to the man hitting eighth. If he can get on base, especially with two outs, and bring the pitcher to the plate, he’s done a good job. With two outs, Chen hit the No. 8 hitter, which allowed the Astros to clear the pitcher’s spot.
Fifth inning: Mike Moustakas doubled and then, in a key at-bat, Alcides Escobar moved Mike to third with a ground ball. Third-base coaches have a sign that tells hitters to move the runner over or try to drive them in. If the man at the plate is the best chance to score the run, his team may want him to drive the ball. If his team likes who they have on deck and in the hole, they may want the hitter to move the runner over.
Esky’s ground ball made sure Brayan Pena’s ground ball got a run in.
Sixth inning: Alex Gordon tripled with one out. Yuniesky Betancourt came to the plate with a key at-bat. The hitter cannot strike out in this situation. He needs to get the ball in play, somehow, someway. Yuni did, Alex scored, and the Royals were up 2-0.
Eighth inning: Brayan Pena hit a deep fly ball, and the Astros center fielder had to run up the incline just in front of the wall to make the catch. Fans may find these field gimmicks entertaining, but ballplayers would rather play on a “normal” field. If there were booby traps and land mines at your place of work, it might be highly entertaining for onlookers, but you probably would feel the way ballplayers do when they see an incline with a flag pole in play.
After Houston’s Carlos Lee got a hit, pitcher J.A. Happ came out as a pinch-runner. This is another advantage NL teams have. Their pitchers are used to running the bases, going to the plate and getting down bunts. AL managers are reluctant to send a pitcher out to run the bases if he hasn’t done so in a long time.
Ninth inning: Closer Jonathan Broxton came out and did what he generally does. He made it interesting, but he got the save. The fact that a closer who has 18 saves and an ERA of 1.57 still manages to make fans angry shows how spoiled we are after watching Joakim Soria.
Jack made a very hard thing look easy. Brox makes a very hard thing look just as hard as it really is.
How a homer hurts you
Billy Butler, who homered in Tuesday’s game, says that if you hit a home run, 95 percent of the time you will get the same pitch again. It may seem illogical, but the pitcher will throw it again precisely because you don’t think he will. In fact, according to Billy, a home run can mean a bad day. The hitter can start over-swinging, trying to pull and lift the ball.
When Clint Hurdle was the Colorado Rockies’ hitting coach, any player who hit a home run in batting practice got a small fine if he didn’t hit the next pitch to the opposite field. It was Clint’s way of reminding hitters not to get pull-happy.
So if a hitter pulls a fly ball out of the park, he may want to look for something on the outer half of the plate in his next at-bat … unless he thinks the pitcher is one step ahead of him and will come back inside and jam him with the same pitch that got crushed.
According to Billy, the winner of this mind game will be whoever realizes the other player’s pattern first. Last Sunday against the Cardinals, Yuniesky Betancourt won the battle when he figured he would not see another slider after doubling off the last one. Yuni then looked for a fastball and hit it out of the park for the game winner.
When baseball is played at this level, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.
Denny Matthews said before Wednesday’s game that Jeff Francoeur had hits in 21 of his last 26 games and batted .330 over that span. So how come Frenchy is hitting the ball better? According to Jeff, it has to do with getting his hands in a better starting position. Before this hot streak, Jeff was taking his hands back, and that was causing him to be late on the fastball. Now Francoeur is starting with his hands farther back and is now on time.
The worst place a hitter can be is in between: late on the fastball, early on the off-speed stuff. When a hitter is late on the hard stuff, he starts earlier in an effort to catch up. If the pitcher notices this, he will switch to off-speed pitches — now the hitter is early.
Jeff says that since the adjustment, he is now right on time on fastballs but still has his hands back when he gets a different pitch.