Games » Seattle MarinersJul19
A bad sign
The Kansas City Star
When the manager brings the infield in — especially in the second inning of a ball game — it’s a bad sign. Bringing the infield in is a gamble. It cuts down on the infielders’ range and makes a hit more likely. It’s done with less than two outs and a runner on third. And not just any runner, it has to be an important runner representing an important run: usually a tying, winning or lead-increasing run. A run that the manager believes his team cannot afford to give up.
In the second inning with one run in, one down and runners on second and third, Ned Yost brought the infield in. After the game, Ned said it was a tribute to the Mariners’ pitcher, Felix Hernandez. Bringing the infield in so early in a 1-0 game was essentially saying that if the Mariners scored a second run, the game might be over; Hernandez is so good we might not be able to score two runs.
Ned Yost was right.
The Mariners’ hitter, Michael Saunders, drove the ball between first and second (it would’ve been a hit with the infield back, too) and the Mariners had all the runs they’d need with Hernandez on the mound.
What makes Hernandez good?
Yost said Hernandez was outstanding, had nice action on the ball, showed command down and on both sides of the plate and was throwing strikes. When asked about Will Smith, Ned said he was OK. The matchup was about what you expect when a guy with a 2.82 ERA hooks up with a guy with a 7.97.
After six innings Hernandez had only thrown 59 pitches. That meant he’d get to the backend of the Mariners pen (where the better relievers reside) and the Royals would not get a shot at the weaker middle relievers. When asked about the easy innings Hernandez was having, Chris Getz said that’s what happens when a pitcher throws strikes.
Hitters don’t want to fall behind and have to face his secondary pitches, so they go to the plate hacking early, hoping to get a hittable fastball. (There is a lesson to be learned here.)
The prevailing theory on good pitchers is you have to get them early. Jump on them before they settle in. The Royals tried: they started the game with two hits and then last night’s hero, Billy Butler, hit into a double play. Hernandez had a bit of trouble in the second and after that, he was cruising.
In the second inning Jesus Montero, who has looked like the second coming of Lou Gehrig in this series, hit the ball over the center-field wall. Jarrod Dyson went back and hit the wall at full speed. Dyson gave, the wall didn’t. Jarrod clearly didn’t know where he was in relation to the wall, even after hitting the warning track.
With Eric Hosmer on second and Salvador Perez on first, Hosmer took off for third. After the game, Hosmer told me Hernandez takes 1.6 seconds to deliver the ball to home plate with a runner on second base. 1.6 is the magic number needed to steal third base. Unfortunately, Chris Getz put the ball in play and the Mariners turned a double play.
Speaking of Hosmer: he hit the ball on the screws in three of his four at-bats.
Chris Getz was caught stealing with two outs in the fifth inning. Some fans seem to think teams should always play for the big inning, but with Felix Herandez on the mound, there aren’t a lot of big innings available. Getz said that he wouldn’t have attempted the steal with nobody out or in the eighth inning, but with two outs in the fifth it seemed worth the risk. Steal the bag, let Alex Gordon drive you in and the score is 4-2 with four innings to go.
The Royals signed Jason Kendall to a minor league contract and he’s reporting Class AA Northwest Arkansas. Kendall is scheduled to start Friday night. I knew Jason wanted to attempt a comeback and I’d seen him playing catch and taking some early BP. I asked how his shoulder felt and he said great, but playing catch and taking BP is not the same as playing.
If Kendall makes it back it the big leagues, it will most likely be as back up, catching two or three times a week. He’d also provide some veteran leadership, both on the field and in the clubhouse. (Moustakas and Hosmer have plenty of stories about Kendall pulling them aside to offer advice — which is a polite way of saying Jason was happy to tell them when he thought they had their heads up their posteriors.)
I asked Ned Yost if Kendall could still be a clubhouse leader as a back-up and he said definitely. People tend to listen to someone who’d been in the big leagues long enough to catch 2,000 games and collect over 2,000 hits.
I’ve watched ball games with Jason and I can tell you the guy spots stuff that I miss completely — which isn’t that hard, I miss a lot — but he does the same with rookie players. Hosmer said Kendall could spot pitching patterns that he’d miss and tell Eric how to approach his next at-bat.
After the announced signing Yost said everyone down in Double A will benefit from being around Kendall. I just hope they’re ready to hear the truth — Jason specializes in blunt.
If you’re wondering about Lorenzo Cain’s hustle — and some of you have been — Ned Yost says Lorenzo is about 85 percent healthy. The Royals don’t think anything’s Cain’s doing will make things worse, but the time came for him to play through discomfort. Ned said Cain’s bat has been hot and it’s hard to keep it out of the lineup — they were sitting Francoeur in this game — so Cain was going to be in right and let Jarrod Dyson cover the larger territory of centerfield.