Games » Minnesota TwinsJul21
Hope for the future
The Kansas City Star
Give the Royals a quality start, and they’ve got a chance. Luis Mendoza did just that, and the offense came up with seven runs. And speaking of the offense, Alex Gordon’s currently hitting .292, Alcides Escobar is at .314, Billy Butler is at .294, Lorenzo Cain is at .326 and Chris Getz is at .297. Imagine what this offense would look like if Eric Hosmer and Jeff Francoeur were hitting as well as they can.
The Royals are 13 games under .500 and still have multiple issues with their starting pitching, but this many guys hovering around .300 is reason to hope for the future.
First inning: Alex Gordon singles, advances to second on an E-4 that has Alcides Escobar safe at first and then advances to third on Billy Butler’s double-play ball. Lorenzo Cain comes up with a two-out RBI, and the Royals lead 1-0.
Second inning: Alcides Escobar turns an acrobatic double play to wipe out a leadoff walk and help Mendoza get out of the inning unscathed.
In the bottom of the inning, Mike Moustakas singles, Jeff Francoer flies out to right, Eric Hosmer singles and Yuniesky Betancourt continues his hot RBI streak, driving in Moose. Hosmer goes first to third on Yuni’s hit and arrives there with one out. But Alex Gordon fails to get the ball in play, striking out looking. With one down and a runner on third, the batter needs to do everything he can to get the ball in play. A 40-foot dribbler can turn into a run.
Third inning:Mendoza hits Minnesota’s lead-off batter, Alexi Casilla, and Alcides Escobar bails out his pitcher with another 6-3 double play.
Fourth inning: With a run in, runners on first and third and one out, Royals manager Ned Yost does not bring the infield in. Against Seattle with Felix Hernandez on the mound, Ned brought his infield in early. He believed Hernandez was pitching so well, a second run scored early in the game would be all Seattle needed to win. (Ned was right.)
The fact that Yost did not bring the infield in when several opportunities presented themselves in this game probably means he thought the run the Twins might score in each situation would not stand up. Once again, he was right.
With runners at first and third and one down, Yuniesky Betancourt is not able to turn a double play. A slight bobble on the pivot requires him to take an extra step, and the delay makes the throw late (and wide). The Twins tie the game.
Fifth inning: With two runs in and Jeff Francoeur at the plate, Salvador Perez makes what appears to be a base-running mistake. Francouer hits a laser beam at the second baseman, and Perez is doubled off to end the inning. The Royals’ base-running policy is not to freeze on a line drive but to hustle back to the base. If the ball gets through and the runner can advance only 90 feet, so be it. But at least they stay out of a double play.
Sixth inning:Just as he did in the second and third innings, Mendoza again puts the leadoff batter on, again with a walk. Minnesota’s Joe Mauer appears to bunt for a hit but leaves the ball too close to the mound. Mendoza grabs the ball and guns it to first base, but the throw is low. Just as he’s been doing all season, Eric Hosmer handles a bad throw and prevents the ball from shooting into right field. Hosmer’s play means a runner on second with one out instead of runners on second and third with nobody out. The Twins do not score.
Seventh inning: With the Royals leading 4-3, one down and three left-handed hitters (Denard Span, Ben Revere and Joe Mauer) coming to the plate for Minnesota, Yost goes to reliever Jose Mijares. Mijares gets Span to hit the ball to Eric Hosmer and — just as the Royals did Friday night — the Twins have the contact play on. Casilla heads for home, Hosmer’s throws beats him there, and Casilla heads back to third base, arriving at the bag after Jamey Carroll, who is running behind Casilla, is already standing on the base.
The rules go this way: unless forced to advance, the lead runner has the right to the base. Tag both runners while they’re standing on the bag, and the trail runner is out. But Casilla ran through the bag and headed for the dugout. That’s abandoning the base paths, so Casilla was out and Carroll had the right to the base. (Ned wanted both outs, but the umpires didn’t bite.)
If Casilla is a preferable base-runner to Carroll — and I don’t know that he is — he made a mistake by turning the right to the bag over to Carroll.
Eighth inning: Francoeur hustles a single into double because the Minnesota shortstop gets a piece of ball and slows it down on the way to the outfield. The delay in getting to the ball allows Jeff to hustle into second base. Then, on a Hosmer groundball to third, Francoeur sets sail again, advancing 90 feet to third base.
With one down, the Twins bring in their infield, and that allows a soft flare off Betancourt’s bat to fall just behind third base. Francoeur scores, and now Yuni hustles into second base. Chris Getz comes out of the dugout to pinch-run and advances to third on a wild pitch. Once again, with the infield in, a soft flare — this time off Alex Gordon’s bat — lands just beyond the drawn-in infield. Getz scores, and Gordon has a hit and an RBI.
This is the upside of aggressive base-running. Nothing looks worse when it doesn’t work. Nothing looks better when it does.
Royals win 7-3.
Chris Byrnes, a baseball coach from Switzerland is visiting Kansas City, and I introduced him to Royals first-base coach Doug Sisson. Chris is well aware of Doug. Byrnes has watched all the website videos and uses the information provided by Royals players and coaches to train his players.
Chris had a list of questions for Doug, and, as usual, I learned some new things listening to them talk. For instance: When the ball is in center field, the Royals base-runners will decide whether to go first to third based on what they see when they look at the center fielder. If they see the team name on his uniform, they can take the extra base. If they see the top of his cap, they make a hard turn and stop.
Here’s why. Seeing the team name means the outfielder has not reached the ball yet and is not about to field it. Seeing the top of his cap means the outfielder is in the act of bending down to field the ball. (Hosmer saw the team name on the jersey in the second inning of this game and went first to third. The cool thing was knowing the visual key and seeing the play develop in front of me.)
If the outfielder is moving toward third in the act of fielding the ball, the base-runner may shut it down (having momentum going in the right direction means a strong throw). If the outfielder is moving away from third while fielding the ball, the base-runner can advance (moving away from the base means a weak throw).
Doug also advised Chris to play the hitter, not the park. Some teams come into Kauffman Stadium and play deeper because the fences are farther back, but the fences don’t change how far a hitter can drive a ball. The Royals want to take away the flares and cheap hits that fall behind the infield. Other teams back up and give up doubles on balls in front of them. We saw a couple of those Friday night.
Fakes and feints
Sisson also said the fake bunts by a hitter and false starts we see a base-runner make are often by design. If a runner starts to take off and stops, the offense can see which infielder moves to cover second. That lets them know where a hole might be on a hit and run.
Squaring to bunt and pulling the bat back can also reveal useful information. Who broke for the plate? Who moved to cover the bag? All of this helps a manager to decide what to do next.
The catcher’s signs
If you at the ballpark and want something new to check out, look at the catcher. You won’t be able to see the signs he uses to call pitches (unless you’re in center field and have unusually good eyes), but you still can watch the catcher communicate with the guy on the mound.
If the catcher taps his shoulder, he’s telling the pitcher to keep his front shoulder closed. The pitcher is flying open, which will make the ball go up and in to a like-handed hitter.
If the catcher taps his glove on the ground, he’s telling the pitcher to get the next pitch down. (Brayan Pena and I had a disagreement about this one—all I can say is: watch our video on this subject). If the catcher sticks his throwing arm out, he may be asking the pitcher to adjust his arm angle. If so, he will demonstrate where he wants the arm on the next pitch.
If the catcher makes an upward signal with his hand or rises up out of his crouch, he wants the pitch to be up and out of the zone.
If the catcher makes a downward motion with both hands, he’s telling the pitcher to slow down or calm down.
If the catcher makes a spinning motion with his throwing hand, he’s telling the pitcher to speed up.
If the catcher taps his thigh, he’s telling the pitcher to use his legs more.
If the catcher makes a fist, he’s telling the pitcher to give him a little something extra on the next pitch.
If the catcher points his glove at the pitcher, he’s telling him that was a good pitch. Keep throwing it just that way, regardless of whether it was called a ball or a strike.
There are probably more signs that I’m unaware of, but you get the point. The catcher is communicating with the pitcher all night long. The visual signs save trips to the mound by the catcher and the pitching coach and give smart fans further insight into what has and will happen.