Games » Seattle MarinersJul16
A good performance by a left-handed pitcher
The Kansas City Star
Here’s the good news: a left-handed Royals pitcher threw five innings while giving up only one run.
Here’s the bad news: it wasn’t Jonathan Sanchez. Fair or not, high draft picks and well-paid ballplayers get every chance to succeed. If Sanchez hasn’t run out of chances, he must be close. Sanchez gave up five runs in this game before he got an out. He walked the leadoff batter and things got worse from there. Ned Yost says Sanchez is healthy and pointed out that his first pitch of the game was a 93 MPH fastball.
It didn’t help.
The hitters were all over him. After the game Ned was asked about Sanchez’s future. The Royals manager pointed out that the game had ended 10 minutes earlier, that he hadn’t had a chance to speak with Dayton Moore yet and that when they did speak it would to figure out how to get through Tuesday’s game. Sanchez’s poor outing made the Royals use their long reliever, Louis Coleman and Tuesday’s starter — the lefty that had a good night — Everett Teaford.
But Yost did not say Sanchez would get another start.
First inning: The scoring system we use on this site has a category for giving up more than four earned runs. I’ve come to think of it as the opposite of a quality start. A quality start lets you know when a pitcher has given his team a chance. The “more than four earned runs” stat lets you know when a pitcher has knocked his team out of the game. I’ve never checked off that box on my score sheet before there was an out recorded in a game — until Monday night.
With a five-run lead, Seattle pitcher Jason Vargas should have been aggressive — but he fell behind Alex Gordon and gave up a single, then got a double play ball, then walked Eric Hosmer. Pitchers who walk batters with a five-run lead put managers in early graves.
Third inning: Sanchez gave up another two runs in the second, so Vargas was up 7-0. Salvador Perez led off the inning with a home run. Pay attention to what a pitcher does after he gives up a bomb: does he continue to throw strikes or does he get skittish?
After the Perez home run, Vargas walked Alex Gordon.
He then got Alcides Escobar to ground into a double play. Vargas was up 7-1 with two outs in the inning, but still walked Eric Hosmer. Next, he fell behind Billy Butler and gave the Royals DH a fastball in a fastball count. Billy leaned on it and hit it out of the park. It was 7-3. The Royals weren’t exactly back in the game, but because Vargas was pitching behind in the count, they were getting closer.
Fourth inning: Louis Coleman walked the leadoff batter — you can’t do that if you’re going to make a comeback — and Ichiro Suzuki tripled him home. A fan poll on the TV asked if people thought Ichiro would make it to 3,000 hits. The way things were going, it looked like he might get there before the game was over.
Yuniesky Betancourt led off the bottom of the inning with a double and Salvador Perez failed to move him to third (and I’m not really sure he should be trying). Alex Gordon then flew out to left, so failure to move the runner cost a run. Then the runner cost a runner when Betancourt tried to advance to third on the deep fly ball. Yuni was thrown out trying to advance. It’s generally considered bad base running to get thrown out at third when you’re already in scoring position with two outs.
Sixth inning: Teaford who, along with Coleman, saved the bull pen from being devastated by a starting pitcher going an inning and a third, had two outs, Dustin Ackley at the plate and Ichiro on deck. I was hoping Teaford wouldn’t have to face Ichiro with Ackley on base — he didn’t — Ackley homered, Mariner’s 9-Royals 3.
Seventh inning: Eric Hosmer broke an 0-12 stretch with an RBI single and Billy Butler came to the plate with a runner in scoring position. Butler worked the count to 3-1 and the next pitch was called a strike. Butler could clearly be seen talking, but not looking at the umpire. Hitters — or catchers — can complain about a pitch, but baseball protocol demands that they do it while staring out at the mound.
Turning back toward the umpire lets everyone know there’s a disagreement going on. This is considered “showing up” the umpire and they don’t like it. So Billy followed the unwritten rule, but it didn’t help: the same pitch was called for strike three.
Eighth inning: Jeff Francoeur picked up another outfield assist on a play that — for me — defines him as a player. Michael Saunders was on first when Munenori Kawasaki hit a single to right. Saunders decided to go first to third. Francoeur charged the ball. The Royals rule of thumb for outfielders is they can go for the lead runner if the ball is hit hard and takes them toward the lead base. Both factors applied.
Another Royals rule of thumb is outfield throws should come in on one bounce. That keeps the throw low and allows it to be cutoff. If the cutoff man is in position, he can freeze the trail runner by faking a cut. This keeps the double play in order. Throw over the cutoff man and the ball can’t be cut and the trail runner can advance to second.
Frenchy launched a rocket over everything on the infield, except Mike Moustakas. Moose acted like nothing was going on until the last second, caught the ball and made the tag on Saunders. If Francoeur had done the conservative thing — throwing the ball to second base to keep the double play in order — it would’ve been first and third, one down. Jeff rolled the dice and it was man on second, two down.
Francoeur drives some fans crazy with his all-or-nothing approach. But the flip side of home run cuts on sliders out of the zone is a throw to cut down a lead runner — the dude likes to gamble.
Fun play, but the Royals still lose, 9-4.
An autopsy of a plate appearance
Last Friday night the Royals lost to the White Sox, 9-8, in 14 innings. The plate appearance that produced the winning run for the Sox, was a 14-pitch marathon — Everett Teaford facing Kevin Youkilis. There was one down, runners on first and third, the score was tied 8-8. Teaford was trying to get Youkilis to pop up on the infield, hit a double play groundball or strike out. Here are the pitches Everett threw:
Curveball, ball; count 1-0
Slider, foul ; count 1-1
Slider, called strike; count 1-2
Fastball, foul; count 1-2
Slider, foul; count 1-2
Fastball, ball; count 2-2
Slider, foul; count 2-2
Slider, foul; count 2-2
Curveball, ball; count 3-2
Slider, foul; count 3-2
Fastball, foul; count 3-2
Slider, foul; count 3-2
Slider, foul; count 3-2
Changeup, in play; F8 sacrifice fly
The first pitch, the curve, was designed to get a groundball. Teaford thought Youkilkis might be looking for a fastball on the first pitch and hoped to get the White Sox third baseman to hit the top half of a breaking pitch and pound it into the ground.
The sliders were designed to get in on Youkilis’ hands and skinny part of the bat. Teaford thought Youikilis was looking to drive the ball the other way and might have trouble with a pitch boring in on him. (Remember, Teaf is left-handed and Youkilis is a righty.)
The fastballs were being thrown at the top of the zone, hoping to get Youkilis to swing and miss or to produce an infield pop fly.
Teaford kept busting Youkilis inside and on the 14th pitch the Royals pitcher decided he had the White Sox third baseman set up for a low and away change. Teaford thought Youkilis would be trying to get the bat head out in front after all the sliders in and would be fooled by something soft and away. He didn’t hit it great, but Youkilis kept his hands back enough to hit a fly ball to the outfield, allowing the runner to tag and score the game-winning run.
I picked this plate appearance to analyze because it was a long one and produced a big run, but this kind of battle is taking place during every plate appearance: the pitcher is throwing the pitches he’s throwing for a reason while the hitter is waiting for a mistake that allows him to carry out his game plan.
(We made a video with Teaford talking about this plate appearance and we’ll post in the next few days.)