Games » Detroit TigersJul7
Bruce Chen never got locked in
The Kansas City Star
Ned Yost said Bruce Chen never got locked in against the Detroit Tigers. Chen gets hitters out with movement, change of speed and location. If Chen is not hitting his spots, the hitters are often hitting him. Bruce was up in the zone against the Tigers and, generally speaking, Bruce does not have the stuff to pitch up in the zone and get away with it for long.
First inning: With one out Alcides Escobar sees Miguel Cabrera playing back at third base and bunts for a single. Since moving into the second spot in the batting order (at least by my scorebook) Escobar is 7 for 28 with three walks. Ned Yost has called this the lineup of the future (Gordon, Escobar, Hosmer and Butler at the top) and wants Alcides to get used to hitting second.
Bottom of the first: Austin Jackson singles, Quintin Berry sacrifice bunts (apparently Jim Leyland doesn’t know anything about baseball either) and Bruce Chen strikes out Miguel Cabrera looking. Chen throws Cabrera an 86 MPH fastball for strike one, an 86 MPH fastball for strike two and a 75 MPH curveball for strike three and catches Cabrera looking. This is an example of what Ned Yost was talking about when he said Chen needs to speed the bats up first and then slow them down. Cabrera gets locked up on a pitch 11 miles an hour slower than the first two.
Chen throws a decent pitch 3-2, but Prince Fielder does an even better job hitting: the pitch is on the inside corner—meant to jam a hitter—but Prince pulls his hands in close to his body and that gets the bat head to the ball anyway. Many hitters would settle for a flare on that pitch, but Fielder homers, score 2-2.
Second inning: Alex Gordon turns what looks like a sure Jhonny Peralta double into a single, playing the ball off the wall and making a strong throw to second base. Though Gordon took a base away from Peralta, he still scores. The Tigers follow Peralta’s single with a double, a double, a single and a single. Score after two innings, Tigers 5-Royals 2.
Sixth inning: Gerald Laird hits a ground ball that forces Alcides Escobar to retreat, fielding the ball on the outfield grass, Esky plants and throws, but has no forward momentum on the play. The throw does not make it all the way to Hosmer and Eric does not handle the short hop. The initial ruling on the play was an E6 (apparently later changed).
An inning later, Miguel Cabrera hits a chopping ground ball to Mike Moustakas. The ball appears to have over-spin (rotating from top to bottom from Mike’s point of view) and this type of ball will often take a normal bounce or two and then spring up on the next hop. This is what appears to happen to Moustakas and the official scorekeeper gives him an E5. Players sometimes privately complain about the score keeping and they often have a point: anyone who has played the game would not consider either of those balls plays that should be handled with “ordinary effort.”
Seventh inning: The Royals have one run in and the score is 6-4, Tigers. Billy Butler is on first base and Mike Moustakas is at the plate, representing the tying run. Moose homered in his last at-bat, so he’s a threat to tie the game with one swing. Tigers manager, Jim Leyland, considers Moustakas enough of a threat to bring in a lefty, Phil Coke, just to get this one out.
Coke throws Moose an 81 MPH curve and Mike swings through it. Coke then throws Moose and 82 MPH curve and Mike again swings through it. Moose has been fooled twice and out in front twice—hitters in this position are usually telling themselves to stay back and wait on the ball. Coke throws Moose another curve at 81 and this time the Royals third baseman does wait and takes the pitch for ball one.
Coke sees that Moustakas has adjusted to the curve and lights him up with a 94 MPH fastball for a called strike three. These cat and mouse games—recognizing patterns and guessing right—are at the heart of baseball.
In the bottom of the inning Yuniesky Betancourt turns in an outstanding play, making a diving stab of a Quintin Berry line drive. (If I’m going to point out when Yuni doesn’t dive, I’m going to give him credit when he does.)
Nate Adcock continues to pitch. He relieved Chen in the fourth inning and is still throwing in the seventh. Adcock’s saving the pen (although with the All-Star break two days away, that’s not as important as it might be otherwise) and pitching well. Adcock’s only given up one hit going into the seventh. Unfortunately, the second hit he gives up is a Delmon Young home run. Nate hangs a curve and Delmon bangs it.
Ninth inning: Despite being down 8-4, the Royals stage a comeback against Tigers closer, Jose Valverde. Valverde, walks Alex Gordon to start the inning, gives up a double to Escobar, then walks Eric Hosmer. The tying run is now at the plate, represented by Billy Butler.
Butler, possibly assuming the Valverde does not want to fall behind another hitter, swings at the first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball. Knowing when to be aggressive is part of being a good hitter. Jumping on a first-pitch fastball strike with runners in scoring position is generally considered good hitting; why let a pitcher get ahead and go to his secondary pitches?
Billy singles and drives in two. The score is now 8-6 and Yuniesky Betancourt hits a fly ball to centerfield. Hosmer, on second base, tags and advances. Jason Borgeois—pinch running for Butler and representing the tying run—goes halfway between first and second. This is the right move for two reasons: if Yuni’s ball gets into the gap, Bourgeois needs to score—his is the only run that matters. The second reason is Jose Valverde’s pitching motion.
Valverde has a number of things he likes to do before delivering the ball to the plate. His inward turn and high leg kick takes a lot of time and the Royals know this. They also know Bourgeois can steal second off Valverde if he needs to.
Next, Mike Moustakas hits a sac fly to score Hosmer and Jeff Francoeur walks to the plate with two outs and the tying run on first. As anticipated, Bourgeois steals second base and Frenchy now has the tying run in scoring position, game on the line.
The Royals want Francoeur to start laying off the inside fastball. To hit an inside fastball the batter needs to start his swing early and get his bat head out in front. That makes the hitter vulnerable to off-speed pitches and balls on the outer part of the plate.
Francoeur takes ball one, a 95 MPH fastball, is out in front on an 84 MPH splitter that dives out of the zone, takes a called strike on an 85 MPH splitter (while Bourgeois was stealing), fouls an 86 MPH splitter off his foot and swings through a 94 MPH fastball, low and away.
Tigers win 8-7.
In the second inning Salvador Perez picks Austin Jackson off first base when Jackson gets too aggressive with his secondary lead. This not only makes a difference in the second inning, but may intimidate Tigers base runners—and some on other teams—in the future. If they feel like they can’t get too far off a base, a runner may get thrown out trying to advance later in the game, the series and the season.
Scary, but it would look cool
Comerica Park has a low wall down the left field line and when we were in St. Louis I asked Alex Gordon if a similar wall in Busch Stadium bothered him. After all, in Kauffman, Alex can go into foul territory without fear that he’s going to hit a wall and flip into the stands. Kauffman’s walls are high enough that accidently falling into the crowd is not an issue.
Contrary to what you might think—or at least to what I thought—Alex wants to make a catch going into the stands. He thought the Derek Jeter grab that had the Yankee shortstop landing face first in the seats was really cool and is willing to pay the same price—maybe a bloody nose—to make a similar catch.
It might look cool, but I’m not sure I want to see that.