Games » Toronto Blue JaysJul5
The Kansas City Star
This was the 81st game of the season — the Royals are halfway home. They’re currently 37-44, not great, but not as bad as it could be, considering the losing streak they weathered at the beginning of the year. They’ve been playing winning baseball since that streak ended and won this game 9-6 to split the series with Toronto. Nine runs, 16 hits and it still wasn’t an easy win.
Third inning: When a team is not overly familiar with a pitcher, they may take pitches early on. They may be making outs but gaining information. Even though they’ve seen video and read reports, nothing replaces seeing a pitcher live.
So for the first two innings the Royals go 1-2-3, but they’re seeing what Henderson Alvarez looks like in the flesh. That may be why the game’s first rally started with the Royals 8- and 9-hole hitters. If they were watching — and major-leaguers generally are — they were getting a feel for what the Toronto starter was doing.
Salvador Perez singles, Jarrod Dyson doubles and now the top of the order gets a second whack at Alvarez. Alex Gordon walks, Alcides Escobar singles, Eric Hosmer singles, Billy Butler singles, Yuniesky Betancourt walks and Mike Moustakas hits a sacrifice fly, Royals 5, Blue Jays 0.
Henderson Alvarez throws 41 pitches to get through the inning. Fans sometimes wonder why a manager leaves a starter in the game when he’s getting knocked around early. The answer often lies in the not-too-distant future. If Alvarez is pulled after two and a third innings, the Jays will chew up their bullpen, supplying six and two-thirds innings to finish the game. That can spell trouble for the next game or even the next series. By going five and a third innings, Alvarez saves the Toronto pen some wear and tear.
In the bottom of the inning the Blue Jays answer with a leadoff double and a J.P. Arencibia home run. Here are the pitches Arencibia saw:
1.) 88 MPH, Cutter, Swinging Strike 2.) 78 MPH Curveball, Ball 3.) 93 MPH Sinker, Foul 4.) 95 MPH Fastball (Four-seam), Ball 5.) 85 MPH Slider, Ball 6.) 85 MPH Slider, Home Run.
Arencibia saw six pitches. The fastest pitch was a 95 MPH four-seam fastball, the slowest pitch, a 78 MPH curve. 17 miles an hour difference in speed. The other four pitches were between 88 and 93 miles an hour, 5 miles an hour difference in speed. This may be an example of what the Royals have been talking about: Hochevar gets in trouble if he throws too many pitches around the same velocity. If so, Hochevar makes an adjustment, finishing the inning and two more without another run scoring.
Fourth inning: Two outs, Alex Gordon on first and Alcides Escobar doubles down into the left field corner. Left fielder Rajai Davis is moving to his right and away from the infield. Davis gets rid of the ball quickly, but has no momentum behind the throw. Royals third base coach Eddie Rodriguez, holds up Gordon.
Eric Hosmer, the Royals’ number three hitter, is on deck but is only hitting .233. On the other hand, at this point in the game, he’s hitting .500 (1 for 2) against Henderson Alvarez. If Eddie Rodriguez believes Hosmer has a better chance of hitting Alvarez than Gordon does of beating the throw home, he should put up the stop sign. If Eddie thinks Gordon has a better chance of scoring than Hosmer does of hitting Alvarez, Gordon should be sent home.
Eddie stops Gordon and Hosmer grounds out.
Fifth inning: With two outs, Hochevar makes a mental mistake. A ground ball is hit to Eric Hosmer and Hochevar breaks for first base. Pitchers are supposed to break hard to cover the bag on any ball hit to their left. Luke starts for the bag, assumes Hosmer is going to handle the play himself and when Hosmer bobbles the ball, Hochevar has start running hard again. Luke is late, the runner is safe and Hochevar costs Hosmer an error and himself an ankle injury. Somewhere during the play, Hochevar has hurt himself and leaves after five innings.
Eighth inning: The Royals will score three times before the inning is over. In the bottom half of the inning the Blue Jays will respond with three runs of their own. With the bases loaded and two outs, Eric Hosmer steps to the plate to face Francisco Cordero. Hosmer hits the ball to the right side and Cordero makes the mistake of checking to see if he’s needed before breaking to first base.
Baseball punishes those who do not do the routine, routinely.
Hosmer beats Cordero to the bag, Salvador Perez scores from third and Jarrod Dyson scores from second — on a ball that never left the infield. With two down, Dyson hits third base and keeps going. Cordero didn’t run when he should’ve, Dyson was running until he saw the third out. Jarrod’s heads-up base running buys the Royals another run.
Ninth inning: Yuniesky Betancourt continues his RBI hot streak, homering in the top of the inning and Jonathan Broxton — aided by a Moustakas-Hosmer double play — gets the save. Royals win 9-6.
Home Run Derby selections
If you missed the story, the Angels’ Mark Trumbo was selected to participate in the Home Run Derby when Robinson Cano, the American League Home Run Derby captain (didn’t even know there was one) called Albert Pujols and asked him to participate. Pujols declined, because he’s not on the AL All-Star team, but suggested Cano pick Pujols’ teammate, Trumbo.
And Cano did it.
Nothing against Mark Trumbo, and I hope he gets a nice reception from the Kansas City fans, but this seems like a pretty haphazard way of selecting Derby participants. If I’m Billy Butler’s hitting coach, I’d be relieved I didn’t have to worry about Billy jacking up his swing during the Derby. (On the other hand, if I’m Billy Butler’s hitting coach I would’ve already jacked up his swing with bad advice.)
But I’m not Billy’s hitting coach, and it would’ve been pretty cool to see him come to the plate with most of a sellout crowd cheering for him. Where’s Bud Selig when you really need him?
A Mitch Maier story
(Every day the Royals are home I walk around the stadium talking to people. I rarely have a plan; most days I’ll get three story ideas walking from the clubhouse to the dugout and all three will be better than anything I could’ve come up with on my own. As a result, I don’t use everything, but save most of it in case it becomes useful later. Here’s a story that illustrates why people liked Mitch Maier.)
It’s the morning before a day game and Alex Gordon is watching video of that day’s starting pitcher. I often ask what the opposition pitcher does, and the answers are always interesting. Gordon says the guy he’ll face shortly throws a lot of “cutters” to left-handed batters. A cutter is a fastball held off-center which makes the pitch move sideways. A right-handed pitcher who throws a cutter to a left-handed batter will let the ball bore in on the hitter’s hands. So a fastball that starts down the middle might a great pitch to hit if it’s a four-seam straight fastball and a tough pitch to handle if it’s a cutter.
Spotting the difference seems pretty important. As Alex and I discuss this, Mitch Maier sits quietly nearby and listens. I ask Alex how you tell one pitch is a straight fastball and another is a cutter. Is it the release? Does the pitcher do something different with his hand? Is it possible to see the seams on the ball? Is the rotation any different? How about movement? Are the pitch trajectories different enough that you can tell them apart?
Mitch finally speaks up: “You know it’s a cutter when it comes inside and breaks your bat.”