Games » Chicago White SoxJul14
Alcides Escobar looks like an All-Star
The Kansas City Star
After the game, Royals manager Ned Yost was asked whether Alcides Escobar was making him look awfully smart. Last season, Yost stuck with Esky when all the critics thought the Royals shortstop should be sat down. This season, Escobar is hitting .311. He also hit two home runs in this game and played his usual outstanding defense.
Ned said Esky isn’t making him look smart. Escobar is making himself look like an All-Star.
First inning: White Sox center fielder Alejandro De Aza catches a very deep Alex Gordon fly ball, then bangs off the center-field wall. This catch demonstrates the difficulty that visiting outfielders can have in an unfamiliar park. De Aza does not appear to know where the wall was, hits it solidly, but holds onto the ball after the collision.
Second inning: After Billy Butler singles, Mike Moustakas hits a deep fly ball to left field. Butler goes back to first base, tags and moves into scoring position. He does this not by watching the ball, but by watching the outfielder. Reading Dayan Viciedo’s movements lets Butler know whether the catch will be made and whether there will be any momentum on the throw that follows. Fans can do the same thing. Watch the outfielder, not the ball.
Third inning: Royals starter Luke Hochevar walks Chicago’s Gordon Beckham, then throws a wild pitch, advancing Beckham to second. Beckham scores on a double by De Aza. Before the inning is over, De Aza makes a base-running mistake by trying to advance from second base to third on a ball hit to his right.
Third-base coaches have a sign to remind the runner at second to wait for a ground ball in front of him to get through the infield before attempting to advance. If the shortstop fields the ball moving to his right, it’s an easy throw to cut down a runner at third. This is what happens. Escobar throws to Moustakas for the second out, which leaves a runner on first instead of third. The inning ends. White Sox 1, Royals 0.
In the bottom of the inning, Escobar homers on the next pitch after Chicago starter Jake Peavy attempted to pick off Alex Gordon at first base. The pitch is a 91-mph four-seam fastball on the inside corner, but up. Remember that description. it won’t be the last time you will hear it.
Fourth inning: Hochevar now has a 3-1 lead, but he walks the leadoff batter, Alex Rios. Rios attempts to steal, but someone on the Royals knows something the rest of us don’t. The Royals call for a pitch out, and catcher Salvador Perez guns Rios down.
Fifth inning: The left-handed De Aza triples down the right-field line on an 87 mph changeup. Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer is playing De Aza straight up, and the ball goes between Hosmer and the line.
After the game, I asked Hosmer about his positioning on this play. Hosmer told me that Chris Getz sees the catcher’s signs and signals to Hosmer what the pitch will be, a fastball or an off-speed pitch. If the pitch is off-speed, Hosmer can’t move three steps to his left before the pitch. Everyone will notice. But he can move that direction as the ball is being released. Even so, it’s not enough, and De Aza’s hit shoots past him.
Sixth inning: Hochevar is still in the game, but nearing 90 pitches. Chicago’s Adam Dunn leads off the inning with a 451-foot home run to center field. Yost lets Luke face one more batter, but when Paul Konerko singles, Hochevar is done. Yost got burned sticking with Bruce Chen too long on Friday night, and he appears determined not to make the same mistake twice in a row. Aaron Crow replaces Hochevar and gives up a triple that scores Konerko.
In the bottom of the inning, Mike Mostakas singles and is thrown out trying to steal. Jeff Francoeur walks, and Chris Getz doubles. There are two outs, and that’s a time you take chances to score a run. Hold the runner up, and you’re asking for another hit. The White Sox get the ball back in quickly and Francoeur is held at third. Salvador Perez is coming to the plate, and he’s been swinging the bat well.
Perez works the count to 3-0 and is given the green light. (Jarrod Dyson is on deck and hasn’t been swinging the bat as well, so the point is to let the hot hitter take his shot.) Perez lines the ball to deep right field, but Rios makes the catch.
Seventh inning: Crow gives up a hit to Chicago’s No. 9 hitter, Beckham. With no outs, the White Sox have a lefty (De Aza), a righty (Kevin Youkilis) and a lefty (Adam Dunn) at the top of the order. Yost brings in Jose Mijares to face the lefties. De Aza bunts Beckham to second. That opens up first, and Yost has Mijares walk Youkilis, then go after the next lefty, Dunn. Mijares strikes out Dunn, and Greg Holland is brought in to face the right-handed Paul Konerko.
Konerko hits a high chopper to Moustakas, and Moose lets go of a mid-90s low throw to Hosmer over at first. Hosmer sees he’s going to get an ugly hop and decides to “body up,” or to put in in English, “let the ball hit him.” Eric figures Konerko doesn’t run well and if he knocks the ball down, he may still have time to pick it up and tag the base. Letting a mid-90s throw hit him also will keep the ball from going past and Beckham from scoring from second. Hosmer scoops the throw. The top half of the inning is over.
In the bottom half, Peavy once again tries to get a 91-mph four-seam fastball past Escobar. Escobar once again homers.
Eighth inning: With one out, Chicago’s Alexi Ramirez hits an infield single. In the last three innings, baseball players and managers often will start to figure out how many shots the top of the order will get before the game ends. A single by the No. 6 hitter means that Youkilis, Chicago’s No. 2 hitter, would get one more trip to the plate. If another batter gets on, Adam Dunn would get another chance to do some damage.
Every batter you don’t get out means the opposition sends one more guy to the plate. This is why managers have a fit when pitchers walk a weak hitter at the bottom of the order. They just gave a good hitter another shot — unless they can eliminate that runner with a double play.
With a one-run lead going into the eighth inning, the Royals tack on two insurance runs. The Royals go into the ninth inning up 6-3.
Ninth inning: After the game and a 1-2-3 save, someone says we saw a different Jonathan Broxton tonight. We also saw a different umpire. Pitches that were being called balls on Friday may have been called strikes on Saturday. In fact, Yost says Broxton’s most impressive attribute is that he doesn’t change. Good or bad, Broxton keeps the same approach. Royals win 6-3.
About last night
When a game lasts five hours and 23 minutes, players — and journalists — aren’t eager to extend the evening, so some questions have to wait until the next day. After Friday’s night game lasted until Saturday morning, I waited until Saturday afternoon to ask some questions. Here are a few of the answers:
What happened when Jarrod Dyson got picked off second base in the ninth inning?
Dyson was stealing third. He actually wanted to steal third with Yuniesky Betancourt at the plate. Yuni is right-handed, and that would have prevented Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski from having a clear shot at third base. When a left-hander is on the mound (in this case, Leyson Septimo), the pitcher’s back is to the runner and a base-stealer often can get a better lead. But as Royals first-base coach Doug Sisson pointed out, Dyson was a marked man as soon as Dyson left the dugout to pinch-run. Dyson was clearly out there because of his speed, and the opposition was going to do everything it could — pitchouts, slide steps, pickoffs and inside moves — to stop him.
Yuni put the ball in play on the second pitch, so Jarrod didn’t have time to steal the base. And Dyson needed to have a better idea of where the outfielders were positioned—he almost got doubled off second after Betancourt lined out to center. Once there was one out, Dyson still liked his chances of stealing the base. Mike Moustakas was at the plate, lefty on lefty, so a lot of breaking pitches were likely. Those pitches take more time to get to the catcher and give the runner a chance to steal.
The runner has to break when the pitcher lifts his foot, and lifting the foot and spinning back to second base — an “inside move” — is totally legal. It’s a guessing game that Dyson lost.
How will Eric Hosmer approach the second half?
We discussed mechanics and pitch selection, but Hosmer said he thought one of the reasons for a poor first half has been missing his pitch. You probably have heard this before, but hitters in the big leagues think you get only one really hittable pitch per at-bat.
These pitches often come in fastball counts — 2-0, 2-1, 3-0 and 3-1. Eric said that when he has been in those counts, he’s been over-swinging. That causes the muscles to tighten, and that causes the head to move with the swing. A pitch that should have been hammered is fouled back.
So why not swing easier?
You can try, but you can also swing too easy, resulting in weak grounders. Finding the right effort level is difficult. Staying there is even harder. The goal is to be “unconscious” — turning loose and letting your mind and body work together without conscious control. Hosmer said that when you’re in that zone, you hit a ball and wonder how you did it. Hosmer’s goal for the second half of the season is to find that zone and stay there.
Was Alcides Escobar bunting on his own in the fourth inning?
Yes. There were two outs, so it wasn’t a safety squeeze or a suicide squeeze. Esky saw Chicago’s Kevin Youkilis playing back at third base and decided to lay one down. Lorenzo Cain was at third and running on contact with two outs. It all worked out for the best and turned into an RBI single for Escobar.
With speed at the plate, watch Youikilis’ positioning at third. It might not be the last time we see a bunt for a hit in this series.
Was Lorenzo Cain limping?
Apparently, Lorenzo is not at 100%, but is playing through it. (At this point in the season, that describes a whole lot of ballplayers.) Athletes often have to define the difference between discomfort and injury. Discomfort is when something is painful, but you’re not making things worse by playing. Injury is when something is physically wrong and you need to shut it down.