Games » Los Angeles AngelsJul24
A quality start
The Kansas City Star
Will Smith pitched seven innings, gave up one run, didn’t give up a hit after the first inning, struck out four and provided the Royals with a quality start and a win. When this team gets starting pitching, fans can see what this team might become. Forget aces. There aren’t that many, and they’re expensive. Find five guys who can put up quality starts on a regular basis and take your chances.
This was a quality start.
First inning: Alex Gordon leads off the game with another broken-bat hit, a double near the line in short right field. Left fielder Mark Trumbo is moving away from second base, so Gordon hustles in with a double.
With nobody out and a runner on second, Alcides Escobar wants to hit the ball to the right side (the runner can advance), and Angels starter Garrett Richards wants Escobar to pull the ball to the left side (the runner can’t advance).
In the end, it doesn’t matter. A wild pitch moves Gordon over to third. Escobar grounds out, but Gordon can’t score. With one out and a runner on third, Lorenzo Cain needs a ball he can lift to the outfield. Cain finds one — and lifts it into the left-field seats.
Richards gives up two runs and throws 30 pitches while doing so.
In the bottom of the inning, Smith gets Charlie Browned (undressed by a line drive back through the box) by a Torii Hunter line drive and throws five straight balls after that. The subsequent walk to Albert Pujols moves Hunter into scoring position and allows him to score on a Mark Trumbo single.
(I don’t know what was going through Will’s head after Torii’s rocket went past it, but I once heard a pitcher theorize that you had to pitch George Brett inside because “that way the line drives won’t hit you.” After Hunter sizzles one past your ear, you might start nibbling with Pujols.)
Mike Moustakas then ends the inning on a 5-3 double play. It’s not crazy to use the words “Mike Moustakas” and “Gold Glove” in the same sentence. (It better not be. I just did.)
Second inning: With one down, Chris Getz on first and Eric Hosmer on second, both runners make excellent reads on another Alex Gordon flare hit to left field. Hosmer scores, and Getz makes it to third. Runners try to get to third with one out because they can score without the benefit of a hit, and that’s what happens. Alcides Escobar hits a double-play ball but beats it out while Getz scores.
(Getz appeared to be running on contact. No surprise. With one down and a runner on third, the contact play is usually on. It makes no sense in having a runner stand at third and watch the other team turn a double play to end the inning. If the defense cuts down the runner at home, so be it. There are two outs and a runner on second.)
Third inning: Both pitchers start to settle in. When this happens, the best chance of scoring may come when the pitcher tires or the bullpen comes in.
Sixth inning: Richards threw 30 pitches in the first inning and 25 pitches in the second. His 96-pitch total now catches up with him, and the Royals get into the Angels bullpen. Many games are won and lost in the sixth and seventh innings — the middle-relief innings. If the starter can’t get the ball to the setup man in the eighth inning or the closer in the ninth, the opposition gets a shot at the weaker middle relievers.
In this case, it doesn’t help. Hosmer triples, but no other Royal gets a hit off reliever Jerome Williams.
In the bottom of the inning, Hunter, who is already hurting from diving after Hosmer’s triple, fouls a ball off his left foot. Hunter knows what to expect next. When a hitter fouls a ball off a body part, look for the pitcher to throw the same pitch again. The hitter might be reluctant to swing the bat, and the pitch can get a called strike.
But Hunter has been around awhile, so he’s looking for that and rips the inside pitch foul down the left-field line. Now that Smith and catcher Salvador Perez have Hunter looking inside, they go away, but Hunter stays on that as well, lining out to Hosmer.
Seventh inning: After singling to right field, Lorenzo Cain steals second base. It is the Royals’ third stolen base of the night, and all came with two outs. Stay at first and it takes two hits to drive you in. Steal second — if you can — and you only need one hit to score a run. Good theory, but the Royals don’t get that one hit. Billy Butler grounds out.
In the bottom of the inning, Smith walks the first Angels batter, Howie Kendrick. Smith has to be on a short leash, he’s at 98 pitches. A double play wipes out the walk, and Smith finishes the night at 102 pitches.
Eighth inning: Greg Holland is on in relief. Manger Ned Yost said that after a bad outing the night before, he wanted to throw Holland right back out there. But Chris Getz gets the Angels started, committing an error on Jean Segura’s ground ball. Getz then makes up for it by starting the Royals third double play of the night.
Ninth inning: Gordon doubles on changeup, and the ball hits high off the right-field wall. To his credit, Alex does not stop and admire a ball that appears to be a home run off the bat. Gordon hustles all the way and makes it into second base.
Cain ends the inning with a strikeout after Jerome Williams sets him up for the final pitch. Cain’s first pitch was in (fouled off), in (fouled off), in (fouled off), away (ball), in (fouled off) and finally, away (swinging strike). Once Williams has Cain trying to get the bat head out early enough to try to pull those inside pitches, he can throw a pitch away and know Cain will be out in front on a cutter.
In the bottom of the inning, Royals closer Jonathan Broxton does his thing, bringing the tying run to the plate — through no fault of his own — before getting the save. Royals win 4-1.
I just got a hi-def TV this season, and last night got a good close-up of Alex Gordon’s hat. Gordon was doing the postgame interview, and it looked as though he’s up to his old tricks. Hats get really sweaty and smelly over 162 games, so most players change them at regular intervals. Not Alex Gordon.
He wears the same hat all year (superstition), and last season the smell got so bad people around him were threatening to change lockers. This year’s model already looks gross, and we haven’t hit August yet.
More than one type of managing
I once knew a big-league player who didn’t think his manager was very good. His skipper needed help with match-ups and double switches and had to be watched carefully toward the ends of ballgames to make sure he didn’t manage the team into a corner.
No wonder the player held a low opinion of his manager’s skills — until he got a new manager.
The new guy was better at game management but was so uptight he made everyone else uptight. Each game was exhausting and filled with tension. It then occurred to the player that there was more to managing than the game decisions. The first guy was a little fuzzy on the details but ran a happy, loose team that generally played well.
So that brings us to all the roles a manager plays. Fans tend to focus on game decisions (bunt/don’t bunt type stuff) because it’s visible, but managers also have to manage the clubhouse, the media, the coaches, the support staff and the front office.
Is spring training well organized? Does a player get a day off at the right time? How does he handle guys in a slump or guys on a hot streak? Does the daily schedule make sense? Are the players getting enough practice time? Are some of them working out too much? I could go on — I’m pretty sure I already have — but you get the idea.
Just because you don’t think the team should have bunted in that situation doesn’t necessarily mean the manager is bad. It may be that you and the manager just have a philosophical disagreement about how certain situations within the game should be played. It doesn’t mean that either of you are wrong — kind of like religion — it just means you’ve reached different conclusions.
So the next time you’re screaming at your TV set about the idiot who called for a hit and run, remember he may be terrific — or stink — at the less public parts of his job.
Jason Kendall has retired. Before he went out to test his shoulder in the minor leagues, Jason told me his arm felt better than it had in years. Under the stress of playing games, he apparently felt a “twinge. “ If his shoulder blew out again, he might not be able to live a normal life, so Jason hung it up after over 2,000 games, 2,000 hits and hitting .288, lifetime.
Jason says he wants to stay in baseball and wants to stay with the Royals. Some fans wondered why the Royals would want to keep a 38 year-old catcher around. Teams often find a place for someone with so much baseball knowledge because old catchers sometimes turn into young managers.