Games » Minnesota TwinsJul1
The difference in the ball game
The Kansas City Star
When you score eight runs, you probably should win a ball game. Postgame analysis will rightly focus on the Twins’ four home runs and Royals manager Ned Yost’s decision to stick with starter Bruce Chen in the sixth inning — but don’t ignore the three walks that scored in this 10-8 loss, particularly when the walks were issued to Jamey Carroll (hitting .248), Brian Dozier (hitting .231) and Darin Mastroianni (hitting .220).
First inning: Alcides Escobar is hitting in the two-hole and strikes out. Esky will walk twice but go hitless on the day. Esky’s struggles when hitting higher in the order have been well-documented, but it may not all be on the shoulders of the Royals’ shortstop. Pitchers sometimes lose focus on hitters who are low in the order but lock in when the top of the order comes around.
Second inning: Yuniesky Betancourt, playing third base, makes a nice stop but sails the throw to first baseman Eric Hosmer. The ball is high and up the line on the home-plate side of first. Hosmer leaps, makes the catch, spins and tags the runner. Any evaluation of Hosmer’s defense that doesn’t include his ability to handle bad throws misses the point.
The Royals’ infielders like Hosmer at first base because of his size, agility and footwork around the bag. (The counterclockwise spin Hosmer used on this play is necessary to prevent injuring his wrist. The spin allows the mitt, wrist and arm to give with the runner’s momentum. No spin and the wrist and arm can be bent back.)
Fourth inning: With one out, Billy Butler cannot score on an Eric Hosmer single to left field, even though Billy saw the ball was down and took off right away. Brayan Pena picks Billy up by hitting a sacrifice fly to center field.
Fifth inning: Bruce Chen strikes out Justin Morneau looking. A strikeout looking can mean several things: The hitter had a poor two-strike approach, the pitcher has a lot of movement that fooled the hitter, or the umpire is giving the pitcher a generous zone. Chen is better with a generous zone and appears to be getting some borderline calls from home-plate umpire Paul Emmel.
Sixth inning: The Royals score four runs and appear to be in command of the ball game. They lead 5-1, and Chen is pitching well with a low pitch count, 64 after five innings.
Unfortunately, the rules of baseball require you let the other team hit every inning, and the game gets away from the Royals in the bottom of the sixth.
The Twins’ half of the inning starts poorly for Kansas City when Jason Bourgeois plays an out into a triple. Brian Dozier hits a deep fly ball to center field and — according to Royals broadcaster Rex Hudler — Bourgeois takes his first step in. Outfielders are supposed to take a drop step (one step back) and wait on fly balls that are difficult to read. If Hudler is right, the Royals center fielder took a step in and then had to retreat, putting him two steps behind where he should be. The ball goes off the tip of Jason’s glove, and Dozier winds up on third.
Denard Span then bunts the ball, and Dozier scores. One out. The Royals still lead 5-2. Jamey Carroll then works an 11-pitch walk. Chen is now up to 82 pitches and facing the heart of the Twins’ order for the third time. Bruce gives up a single to Joe Mauer, and the tying run is suddenly at the plate, represented by power-hitting Josh Willingham. Hudler, who has received his fair share of criticism as an announcer, wonders why Yost is not bringing in a right-handed pitcher.
On a 2-2 count, Bruce leaves a change-up up, and Willingham homers. The game is tied. Chen then strikes out the left-handed Justin Morneau and is kept in the game to face the right-handed Trevor Plouffe. The Twins third baseman homers, and the Royals will never regain the lead or tie the game. Chen leaves after throwing 31 pitches in the inning.
Afterward, Yost said he thought Chen had plenty left and didn’t consider taking him out before Plouffe’s at-bat. After Plouffe’s at-bat, Ned brought in Kelvin Herrera to get the third out.
(I always think it’s unfair to second-guess a manager or base coach, but in this case, Hudler was questioning the move before either home run was hit, and that puts the criticism in a different category. Give Hudler credit. I know Yost has said he wants his starters to go deeper in games, but I thought he would make his move when the tying run came to the plate.)
Seventh inning: Jeff Francoeur singles and tries to steal second base but is thrown out (kind of — replays show he might have been safe). In the bottom half of the inning, Brian Dozier walks and tries to steal second but is safe.
If Frenchy’s attempt to move an important run into scoring position is a bonehead move, then so is Dozier’s. Each runner has to take off without knowing whether he will be safe. Francoeur’s steal — attempted on a slider, so he probably picked the right pitch — did not work out. Dozier’s did, and he later scored on a Denard Span single.
(Dozier probably shouldn’t have scored, but Bourgeois makes a bad throw to relay man Alcides Escobar, hitting the lip of the infield, which allows Dozier to score easily and Span to move to second.)
Span then steals third. Royals pitchers appear to be giving Royals catchers little chance of throwing out runners, allowing base-stealers to get good jumps and then taking too long to get the ball to home plate.
Eighth inning: Alex Gordon hits his 25th double of the season, which ties him for the league lead. In the bottom half of the inning, reliever Aaron Crow gives up a double and a walk and then serves up what seems to be a meaningless home run to Minnesota’s Drew Butera.
Ninth inning: The Royals hitters prove nothing is meaningless by scoring three runs in the top of the inning and bringing the tying run to the plate before the game is over. But the Royals pitchers defeat the Royals hitters, 10-8.
Rogers Centre preview
On Monday, the Royals start a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Here’s a preview of what we’ll see in the Blue Jays’ stadium, Rogers Centre.
The Royals have left a pitcher’s park — Target Field — and will now play in a hitter’s park. The dimensions are 328 feet in the corners, 375 in the gaps and 400 feet to dead center field. One of the more interesting — and dumb — features in Rogers is the warning track.
Most warning tracks are dirt — or in the case of Kauffman Stadium, crushed lava — and the different texture underfoot alerts the outfielders that they are getting near the wall. In Rogers, the warning track is the same artificial turf as the field. It’s just a different color. So outfielders will not get the same warning as they would in other parks. That might cause them to pull up short before it is necessary or hit the wall when they aren’t ready.
Everyone I’ve talked to agrees warning tracks should be uniform in texture and width. Players shouldn’t have to memorize what city they are in to know how many steps they can take before risking injury.
According to Doug Sisson, the Royals’ outfield coach, Toronto’s artificial turf is not bouncy. Fielders will not have to worry so much about balls bounding over their head, but the turf is fast. Grounders and line drives will scoot through more quickly and may require deeper positioning and routes than in other ballparks.
I talked with several Royals about this year’s All-Star selection, and they thought it would be either closer Jonathan Broxton — managers can always use an extra inning out of the pen — or Billy Butler, who has shown what he can do as a pinch hitter.
The pick was Billy.
It makes sense to me. Billy has been with the team longer and has been an incredibly consistent hitter. Billy will be swamped by local media when he gets back to town, but I’ll see if I can get the Royals DH to talk about playing in the All-Star Game and what it means to him.