Games » Minnesota TwinsJul20
Good game, bad ending
The Kansas City Star
In games this tight, every little thing matters. A slight bobble of the ball, a carom misplayed off the wall, a ball hit right at someone instead of two steps to his right or left and the contest is decided.
First inning: Starter Luke Hochevar gets through it without giving up a run, but throws 27 pitches — almost two innings worth — that could come back to haunt him. Those pitches in the first inning could cost him an inning at the back of his outing.
In the bottom of the inning Alcides Escobar uses his speed to turn a single into a double, sliding in safely by reading the infielder’s movements. The runner sees where the infielder is and slides to the opposite side of the bag.
Second inning: Darin Mastroanni gets a fastball in a fastball count and hits it 389 feet. Unfortunately, the outfield wall he hit it over was only 387 feet away
In the bottom of the inning, Jeff Francoeur breaks his bat, but gets a hit. Ballplayers say the bat “died a hero.” Alex Gordon‘s done this a few times also. Gordon said he led the league (or all of baseball — don’t remember which, I wasn’t listening that closely) in broken bats. That brings up an important question: who the heck counts that stuff?
Third inning: Francoeur tries to throw Joe Mauer out at first base after Mauer smokes a line drive into right field. Francoeur grins at Mauer. When Jeff pulled that trick off last season, the base runner who was robbed of a hit and embarrassed by being thrown out from right, told Fancoeur that the play was “un-(bleeping)-necessary.” Frenchy smiled and said, “Totally.”
Fourth inning: Hochevar starts Ryan Doumit with a strike and then does not get a call on the next two borderline pitches. Instead of being 1-2 — had Hoch gotten either call — Doumit is 2-1. In a 1-2 count, the hitter shouldn’t get anything good to hit for another couple of pitches. In a 2-1 count the hitter will probably get something good right away. It’s not throwing a fastball that’s bad, it’s throwing a fastball when the hitter expects a fastball that gets pitchers in trouble.
Hochevar throws a fastball, Doumit expects it, and doubles down the line. The next batter, Mastroanni gets almost nothing but breaking pitches away. He homered in his last at-bat and Hochevar is making sure nothing like that happens again. Mastroanni strikes out.
Seventh inning: A line drive is hit back at Hochevar and he makes an emergency stab at the ball, just trying to keep it off his body. The ball sticks in his glove. The phrase you hear in baseball goes like this, “He didn’t catch that ball, that ball caught him.” An eight-pitch inning and Luke is almost back on track: an average pitch count would be 105, Luke finishes the seventh at 109. He also has limited the damage by issuing no walks.
In the bottom of the inning, Yuniesky Betancourt comes to the plate with Eric Hosmer on first base. On the eighth pitch of his at-bat, Betancourt hits a line drive into the left-field corner. The ball gets away from Josh Willingham — another outfielder struggling to play Kauffman’s rounded corners — and Hosmer scores from first. Getz comes into run for Yuni, the move means better speed on the base paths and better defense in the field.
Eighth inning: With the score 1-1, runner on second base and first base open, Kelvin Herrera issues an intentional walk to Joe Mauer. The third pitch of the intentional walk is issued at 92 miles an hour. Some pitchers like to throw the ball firmly on an intentional walk so they don’t lose their release point after lobbing four pitches. Even so, Herrera goes 3-0 on the next batter, Willingham, before getting him to ground out.
Ninth inning: The Royals have been playing a pull shift on left-handed Justin Morneau; infield swung around to the right and the second baseman back on the grass. So far, it’s worked: a fly ball to right and two ground balls to second. This time Greg Holland strikes out Morneau, which also works.
Tenth inning: A line drive down in the right field corner kicks away from Francoeur and Mastroanni triples. With the infield in, Holland gets a ground ball hit at Escobar and then strikes out the next two batters. Both strike outs come on sliders in the dirt. Perez makes two game-saving blocks. Perez allows Holland to throw his nastiest pitches when he needs to.
Eleventh inning: Joe Mauer doubles and Josh Willingham drives him in. After the game Ned Yost says that only 1 percent of Mauer’s hits are in the spot he doubled and only 2 percent of Willingham’s hits are in the spot he singled. The Royals played the odds and lost. Afterwards, Francoeur said his slight bobble of the ball didn’t change anything: the ball died and Mauer was going to score regardless.
In the bottom of the inning Alcides Escobar doubles, advances to third on a Billy Butler line drive to right field and finally comes home on a contact play. The contact play means just that: the runner breaks for home on contact. The Royals gambled that Mike Moustakas would put the ball in play at least two steps to someone’s right or left. Moose hit it right at the second baseman.
The Royals lost the gamble and the game.
Why avoiding a strikeout may be a bad thing
Let’s say a hitter see “paint” on the first pitch. Paint is the current baseball slang for pitches on the corner, a pitcher’s pitch. If a hitter is afraid of hitting with two strikes, he may expand his zone with one. Suddenly a hitter that is 0-1 becomes defensive and is willing to chase another marginal pitch. The hitter is taking a two-strike approach before he has to.
Kevin Seitzer said a hitter may not have many strikeouts just because he avoids two strike counts. But swinging at a marginal pitch often results in poorly hit baseball. So a hitter may be avoiding striking out on future pitch by making an out now — and that’s a poor bargain.
Hitters who are comfortable hitting with two strikes (usually guys adept at going the other way which allows them to see the pitch longer and possible foul off the nasty ones) have a huge advantage. Hitters uncomfortable hitting with two strikes may avoid it by making an out earlier in the count.
And that’s why avoiding a strikeout may be a bad thing.
Speaking of hitting with two-strikes, before Friday’s game against Minnesota, Doug Sisson said he would sometimes run instructional games in which all the hitters walked to the plate in an automatic 0-2 count.
It forced the hitters to battle: fight off the borderline pitches and wait for a mistake. So when hitters found themselves in a two-strike situation in game, they were used to it. It also meant they weren’t afraid to hit with two strikes and made them more selective earlier in the at-bat.