Games » Tampa Bay RaysJun27
The Kansas City Star
Everett Teaford wanted to talk Wednesday morning, but that presented a problem: it’s an unwritten rule that you do not speak to a starting pitcher right before a start. Teaford had a plan — if he talked to me and had a bad outing, he could then blame me for whatever went wrong, “Lee was yukking it up at my locker and ruined my mental focus.”
Fortunately, for both of us, Teaford threw well. Five shutout innings before tiring in the heat and giving up a walk and a single in the sixth (both scored). He also struck out five, handed the game to the pen with a lead and had no use for a scapegoat.
But I’ll bet he’ll want to talk again before his next start — just in case.
Second inning: Ben Zobrist was on third base after doubling and being balked to third. Sean Rodriguez hit the ball back to pitcher Everett Teaford. Teaford caught the ball and did what he was supposed to do: look the runner back before throwing to first.
Teaford did a double-take when he saw how far Zobrist was down the line. Everett decided to go for the out at third. When a pitcher catches a runner between bases, he’s supposed to hold the ball up and run at the runner. He’s got to force the runner to make a decision and, if possible, the pitcher wants the runner to decide to go back to the base he came from.
Zobrist was feinting back and forth and Teaford was trying to feint with him. Finally, Everett thought the heck with this and decided to get the ball into a position player’s hands. He threw the ball to third baseman Mike Moustakas and Moose ran Zobrist toward home plate, making the toss to Salvador Perez who tagged Zobrist out at the plate.
Third inning: B. J. Upton grounded into a double play with one down and Jose Molina on first. The point of interest here is the pitch right before the double play: Salvador Perez blocked a ball in the dirt, keeping the double play in order.
After attempting to block pitches myself, I’m very impressed with Sal’s ability to block pitches so artfully that they don’t bounce away, but fall softly at his feet.
Sixth inning: With Salvador Perez on second and two outs, Jason Bourgeois hit a soft flare just beyond second base. Bourgeois felt certain that Perez would try to score on the play: there were two outs, which means the runner doesn’t have to wait to see if the ball is caught before taking off, and the ball was hit softly. That means it takes longer to get to the outfielder and buys the runner more time to advance.
Unfortunately, the Royals were not all on the same page: Third base coach, Eddie Rodriguez held Perez up at third. Bourgeois made the turn at first and broke for second. This is a common ploy used with two outs to make sure the ball is cut off and the runner is safe at home.
If the runner advancing to second can force a cut and get the defense to throw the ball to second, the man at the plate scores and the offense trades an out for a run. That’s what Bourgeois was trying to accomplish. His mistake — as he told me after the game — was not checking third after he hit first base. Bourgeois assumed, incorrectly, that Perez would be headed for home.
Still a mistake, but Jason Bourgeois did not suddenly lose his mind and take off for second base. There was a reason he tried to advance from first to second.
Seventh inning: After having it pointed out to me, Sal Perez’s physical width and ability to hold pitches in place becomes more evident with every game. The width makes pitches look more like strikes (they stay within the frame of his body) and the ability to receive a pitch with a minimum of glove movement gives umpires a good look.
After the game, Greg Holland said Perez is very comfortable to throw to: Sal has the knack of making borderline pitches look good.
Ninth inning: Three outs from a victory, Jonathan Broxton strikes out the first batter, walks the second and then ends the game by inducing the Royals fourth double play of the game.
The heat index was over 100 degrees when the game started. Some players needed to take IV fluids afterwards.
Ned Yost said Billy Butler’s timely home run saved a lot of tired players from having to play extra innings.
Ned also said the upcoming double header in Minnesota on Saturday, June 30th might be rough, but the toughest day is the one after playing two. Watch for that on Sunday. Players are going to be tired.
When asked about the team’s goals, Yost said it’s unrealistic to think you’re going to win every game, but trying to win a series is a more attainable goal. Don’t think about climbing the mountain, think about taking the next step. (That last part was me, not Ned.)
Correlation and causation
If you wonder why someone hitting well still hits in the bottom of a batting order, they might be hitting well because they’re in the bottom of the batting order. Here are Alcides Escobar’s batting averages (at least according to Baseball Reference) when hitting in different spots in the order:
But where Esky hits is just one factor. He only has 29 plate appearances hitting first or second. The pitchers he faced, the defense on the field, the park he played in, the people hitting in front of him, the people hitting behind him and what he had for breakfast, might have influenced the numbers. As we discussed yesterday, correlation does not imply causation.
But you also can’t ignore the psychological aspects of the game. One of the recurring themes on this site is how the mental side of the game affects players. As Crash Davis said, “If he thinks he’s winning because he’s not having sex, he’s winning because he’s not having sex.” So if a player just feels more comfortable hitting in a certain spot in the order, managers will often accommodate that when possible.