Games » St. Louis CardinalsJun22
The Kansas City Star
Someone must have read the schedule wrong — I thought the fireworks were going off after the game. Instead, they began right after the national anthem. The Cardinals started the game with a leadoff walk, a hit batter, a single, a double, a single, a walk, a double steal and four runs scored. The second inning didn’t get any better: a single, a single, a double, a pitching change, a single, a double, a single and a double produced another six runs.
Starting pitcher, Vin Mazzaro, was gone after an inning and a third and, once again, the Royals were into the bullpen way too early.
Bottom of the first: Yuniesky Betancourt singles. Billy Butler follows with another single off the pitcher’s body. Joe Kelly is OK, but the ball caroms into short right field. Yuni sees there’s no one in the vicinity and goes first to third. That makes scoring the Royals first run easier, when Eric Hosmer hits a shot into left field.
With a run in and two on, Jeff Francoeur hits a ball for home run distance, but pulls it foul. When a hitter is getting the bat head out in front that quickly, throwing something off-speed away is often a good bet. Kelly does, and eventually Francoeur grounds out.
Top of the second: Carlos Beltran hits his second double in as many innings. Beltran’s squaring a lot of balls up and bears watching the rest of the series.
Bottom of the fourth: Salvador Perez gets a fastball in a fastball count and hits it 394 feet into the left field bullpen. When major league hitters get a fastball when they expect a fastball, they tend to hit them very hard. The pitch is a 94-mph two-seamer on the inside corner. The same pitch in a different count might be a great pitch. Thrown 3-1, it’s a souvenir.
Top of the fifth: Perez blocks a pitch in the dirt with Beltran at the plate and Matt Holliday on first. On the next pitch, the Royals turn a double play. No blocked pitch, no double play.
Bottom of the sixth; Mike Moustakas singles and then breaks up a double play by taking out second baseman Tyler Greene. There’s nothing dirty about the play, just hard-nosed baseball that buys the Royals another out.
After the game Ned Yost said that Mazzaro just didn’t have it and praised Roman Colon for hanging in there for four and a third innings. A starter that leaves in the second inning can torch a pen unless someone steps up and takes the hit. Colon did.
When you’re down by that much, that early, the Royals manager said matchups go out the window. It’s more a case of survival — just trying to get through the game without burning anyone but your long reliever too badly.
Whenever the Royals return from a road trip, I usually have a list of questions about plays that occurred in other cities. So I asked around and here’s what I learned about some of the events that took place in Houston:
Both pickoff throws from Jonathan Sanchez were well off-line, Billy Butler wasn’t responsible for either of them getting away.
Alex Gordon made the right throw on that ball that got away Mike Moustakas at third base. Carlos Lee advanced to second, but wasn’t going anywhere until the ball got away from Moose.
The wheel play (a bunt defense with a runner on second in which short sprints to cover third and third crashes the plate) is — as I suspected — a National League play because you rarely run it with position players at the plate. Once the hitter sees the shortstop break for third, he can pull the bat back and put the ball in play anywhere and get a hit. Short is covering third while the second baseman is covering first.
The double steal
(The Cardinals ran a double steal in the first inning, so I’m posting this piece I’d written a while ago.)
Chino Cadahia was talking about double steals with runners on first and second. I asked whether the Royals had gone for the trail runner on a recent play because the runner on first gets a bad jump. The trail runner has to make sure the runner on second is really going and that delays his start.
Chino said that could be part of it, but if fans pay attention to the infielders, they might provide a clue as to what the defense is thinking. Say there’s a right-handed pull hitter at the plate and the runners take off. The defense may not want the third baseman leaving to cover the bag and opening a hole for the pull hitter. Or the infielders may not cover at all because they don’t care about the runners and want to concentrate on the hitter.
Cadahia said he doesn’t mind a true base stealer beating them — the odds are with the runner — but you have to make it close enough to discourage everybody else. You don’t want the other team’s non-base stealers getting ideas.
One of the reasons pitchers struggle in second or third at-bats is pretty simple: hitters talk. Someone comes back to the bench and says, “When he’s behind, he’s subtracting.” (When the hitter expects a fastball, the pitcher is taking a few miles an hour off its velocity in an effort to upset timing.)
The hitters are sharing information. The more information they have, the faster they adjust. Smart catchers and pitchers are also adjusting — changing their pitching patterns as the game progresses. They better, because hitters talk.