Games » Detroit TigersJul6
Signs of life
The Kansas City Star
You know those doctor shows where they put the jumper cables on the dead guy, spark him up and everybody waits for the doohickey on the heart monitor to ping? Jonathan Sanchez‘ heart monitor may have just pinged. It doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods or that he’s fixed, but, despite an ugly line in the box score, Sanchez showed better tempo, had a better ball-strike ratio, kept the Royals in the game and gave fans some reason to hope for something better than they’ve seen so far.
In short: Sanchez showed signs of life (and I showed an appalling lack of medical knowledge.)
Second inning: Billy Butler hits a ball in the left center gap and, even though he didn’t hit it well, the difference between Comerica Park and Rogers Centre is immediately evident: the ball slows in the thick grass and comes nowhere near splitting the outfielders.
Detroit starting pitcher Drew Smyly goes on to strike out the side and winds up with 10 strikeouts on the day. Most of the strikeouts come on curve balls, and after the game Ned Yost says it was tough to see the ball for the first four innings.
In the bottom of the inning Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer combine on a difficult 5-3. When fans think of infield defense, they often think of glove work. But part of what makes Hosmer special is quick footwork and his ability to move around the bag and extend his reach by shifting his feet.
Third inning: If the lighting bothered the Royals for the first four innings, the Tigers got over it an inning sooner with two singles and a triple in the third. The No. 2 hitter, Quintin Berry, is standing on third following his triple, and there is one out in the inning. The Royals bring the infield in with Miguel Cabrera at the plate. Cabrera hits a chopper to third and Mike Moustakas shows he’s paying attention: Moose tries to catch Berry off the base — unsuccessfully — and then throws the ball to first for the out.
What’s significant about this play is that Moustakas knew he had time to try for Berry with Cabrera running. Infielders need to know who is running and how much time they have — good infielders pay attention.
Fifth inning: With one down, Moustakas doubles. Mike lays off several breaking pitches out of the zone before doing so. It’s Mike’s second at-bat, and he appears to picking up the breaking ball a little earlier in its flight. Brayan Pena doubles, driving in Moustakas and Jason Borgeois singles, driving in Pena. Borgeois advances on the throw home. It’s worth noting because Bourgeois pulls off the move he attempted just before the Royals went on the road.
Back then the runner was Salvador Perez. Bourgeois thought Perez was headed home and took off for second, hoping to draw the throw away from home plate. But Eddie Rodriguez held up Perez and Jason was thrown out trying to advance. This time the move works, Pena scores, Bourgeois advances to second and the Royals get another at-bat with a runner in scoring position. Alex Gordon grounds out, Royals 2-Tigers 2.
Sixth inning: Billy Butler singles with two down. Next, Yuniesky Betancourt drives the ball deep to left, the ball goes in and out of Delmon Young’s glove, bounces off the fence and Young falls down on the warning track. Billy Butler gets to third base. This is one of the downsides to Butler’s game: he clogs the bases. On the other hand, he’s the Royals best hitter — nobody’s perfect.
With Billy on third, Mike Moustakas is at the plate and a ball in the dirt gets away from Tigers catcher Alex Avila. Butler, who appears to have a short lead despite Miguel Cabrera being well off the bag (the base runner can be as far from third base as the third baseman), also appears to take a half-hearted secondary lead and is not in position to take advantage of the ball skipping away. Moustakas grounds out, the Royal do not score. Game still tied, 2-2.
In the bottom of the inning the game gets untied: with Prince Fielder on first base, Delmon Young homers. The pitch is an 87-mph fastball at the top of the zone. It’s hard to pitch up in the zone at 87 mph, but not impossible. The next batter, Ryan Raburn, gets an almost identical pitch (88 mph) in the same location and pops up to Alex Gordon. A fraction of in inch difference and the Tigers go ahead to stay, 4-2.
Rex Hudler said he asked Alcides Escobar if the ball he supposedly fouled off his foot in Toronto actually hit him and Esky just winked.
If I’ve done the math right — two days on, one day off — Kelvin Herrera was not available for this game. Following the same formula, Jose Mijares would not be available on Saturday. Even though Mijares had a short outing Thursday, the warm-up is as significant as the number of pitches thrown.
Managers not only need to know who is not available in their pen, they also need to know who is not available in the opposition’s pen. It’s not unheard of for a manager to have a relief pitcher who isn’t actually available get up and move around in the pen as if he were getting ready to pitch. That sends a false signal to the other dugout.
Comerica Park review
Last stop before the All-Star break and, as Doug Sisson pointed out in his video review, the Royals are now back in a pitcher’s park. Detroit’s Comerica Park is 346 feet to the foul pole down the left field line, but that’s a little misleading since the wall drops off even deeper almost immediately. It’s 402 to the left center gap, 422 in dead center, 379 in right center and 330 in the right field corner.
That 422 in dead center field changes what a pitcher can throw. A pitcher can get aggressive in the middle of the plate, use the big part of the park and let his centerfielder run it down (and we saw several examples in this game). But the pitcher’s got to keep the ball in the big part of the park — let a hitter drive it down either line and the seats are much more reachable.
The same pitching tactic — using center field as a graveyard for fly balls — would be a mistake in Toronto’s Rogers Centre (was it eight home runs in the four-game series?) where the ball carries better and the centerfield wall is within reach.
Another difference we’ll probably notice over the weekend: Detroit’s surface is natural grass and thick natural grass at that. The ball will be less likely to split two outfielders (we saw that several times on Toronto’s fast synthetic turf) and outfielders will have to charge ground balls in front of them.