Games » Seattle MarinersJul29
End of the road
The Kansas City Star
The Royals finished this road trip 1-7. Seattle hadn’t swept a four-game series at home in 11 years but managed to do it this weekend. The Royals offense, which is showing more heart than many Royals fans, battled back, tied the game in the late innings, and, after the pitching gave the lead back, had the tying run in scoring position when the game ended for the second straight game.
But, as manager Ned Yost said after the game, the Royals pitchers did not execute pitches when it mattered and the Royals lost 7-6.
With the Mariners at the plate and time called right before Royals starter Will Smith delivers a pitch, catcher Salvador Perez makes a veteran move. Perez was set up low and away when time was called but quickly moved back inside. This quick thinking didn’t allow the hitter to see where Sal was set up.
Second inning: Billy Butler walks, and Perez hits the ball off the fence. Billy is only able to advance to second base, and that keeps Perez at first and the double play in order. Eric Hosmer immediately hits into one, and the threat is ended.
In the Mariners’ half of the inning, Smith has Kyle Seager down 0-2, but, even though he’s ahead in the count, Smith puts a fastball down the middle of the plate. After the game, Yost says Smith has trouble finishing pitches to his glove side (low and away to lefties), and that cost him.
Seager then steals second when Smith uses a full leg kick (knee all the way up) to deliver a pitch. The stolen base costs Will when Seager scores on Mike Carp’s double. Smith once again has missed a spot to a left-handed hitter. (Fans watching on TV can focus on the catcher’s mitt to see how much it moves to receive the pitch. That gives fans an idea of the pitcher’s ability to locate that day.)
Third inning: Jarrod Dyson singles, advances on a wild pitch and is driven in by Alcides Escobar. The game is tied at 1.
(The Royals’ lineup has three left-handed hitters in a row: Getz hitting eighth, Dyson hitting ninth and Gordon in the leadoff spot. This is an obvious place for the opposing manager to bring in a left-handed reliever. So why set it up this way?
Seattle has two lefties in its pen, Oliver Perez and Lucas Luetge. Both appear to be available for this game. If, when Felix Hernandez is done, Seattle manager Eric Wedge brings in one of his left-handed relievers to face Getz, Dyson and Cain, Yost can pinch-hit Francoeur for Dyson. Frenchy isn’t hitting anybody well right now, but he has hit lefties better in the past.
Wedge then gets a choice: He can let one of his lefties face Francoeur — and Ned gets a better matchup — or the Seattle manager can use three pitchers — lefty, righty, lefty — in order to get three hitters. In that case, Ned has cleared the Seattle pen of lefthanders for the rest of the game.
What we don’t know at this point — and this was being written an hour before game time — is whether the score will be close enough in the later innings for any of this to matter.)
Fourth inning:On 3-2 count, Eric Hosmer — who hit the ball hard in every at-bat Saturday — smokes an 82 mph curveball back through the box and drills Hernandez on the wrist. Pitchers who don’t finish in good fielding position — squared up to the plate with their glove up and ready to catch the ball — have a greater risk of being hit by line drives. Hernandez guts it out and stays on the mound.
In the bottom half of the fourth, Smith gives up another 0-2 hit to Seager. Will’s inability to finish off Seager once he’s ahead in the count will cost him another run. Oddly enough, 0-2 counts can present a danger to some pitchers. If they mentally ease up, thinking they’ve got the situation under control, they can get burned just when they should be in total control.
This time, with Seager on first base, Smith is paying more attention to the runner. He’s mixing in slide steps and pickoffs, but now the danger is not paying enough attention to the hitter. This is the quandary a pitcher faces whenever a base-stealer demands attention.
Smith slide steps in order to get the ball to the plate more quickly, but, possibly because of that slide step, the curve he throws doesn’t have good bite. Mike Carp hits the ball foul, but has home run distance.
The mental trick a pitcher needs to pull off with a base runner on is to have 100 percent of his attention on whatever course he chooses. If he throws to first, he needs to have his entire mind on that. If he delivers home, he needs to do so with full concentration … but throwing a pitch to the batter with 30 percent of his mind on the runner is a recipe for disaster.
No telling what percentage of his mind gave up Carp’s single to right, but with two runners now on, Smith gives up a double and a sacrifice fly. Mariner back in front 3-1.
Fifth inning: Getz singles, and another distracted pitcher makes a mistake, walking Jarrod Dyson. The walk moves Getz to second and Gordon has an eight-pitch at-bat, flies out to center, but moves both runners up. Dyson’s walk and Gordon’s fly ball pay off when Escobar hits a weak grounder and Getz scores. The Royals are now down by only one run.
Sixth inning: Billy Butler leads off an inning for the third time, not an ideal situation. Hernandez strikes out Butler, and then, with the count 2-0 to Salvador Perez, throws a curveball for a strike. I’ve told fans to watch for pitchers who throw fastballs in fastball counts (it’s a good way to get hammered), but the reverse is also worth noting.
A pitcher who throws his secondary pitches for strikes when he’s behind in the count keeps hitters from loading up on fastballs. Then, if the pitcher does throw a fastball in a fastball count, the hitter will not get the same quality hack because the hitter is not sure he’s getting a fastball.
Smith finishes the bottom of the inning 1-2-3 and qualifies for a quality start. He has issued no walks and has given his team a chance to win.
Seventh inning: The Royals’ bullpen gives it right back. Kelvin Herrera gives up two singles, fields a bunt and gets the lead runner out at third, but Yuniesky Betancourt, filling in for Mike Moustakas, can’t complete the double play. His throw to first base is wide and requires Getz to perform some acrobatics just to keep the ball on the infield.
Tim Collins replaces Herrera, gets a strikeout, but throws a wild pitch to advance the runners to second and third. Because the runners advanced, Kyle Seager’s single scores two runs, not one. The Mariners now lead 5-2.
Eighth inning: Hernandez is out of the game, replaced by, Lucas Luetge, one of Seattle’s left-handed relievers. Luetge takes off his hat and briefly stares at it before throwing his first pitch. Ballplayers often write messages to themselves — reminders of what they want to do in big situation — on the undersides of the bills of their caps. Either that or Luetge is just weird. Whichever, it works. Luetge gets leadoff batter Alex Gordon.
Wedge then shows no reluctance to use one pitcher to get one batter and pulls Luetge in order to bring in his set-up man, Brandon League. The Royals will not have another lefty come to the plate until they get to Hosmer, five hitters away from Gordon. If it gets that far, Wedge still has another lefty, Oliver Perez, to face Hosmer.
League promptly makes a mess of things. Escobar singles, then guesses right and steals second when League throws Lorenzo Cain a splitter. The splitter dives in the dirt and gives Seattle’s catcher, Miguel Olivo, no chance of throwing out Esky. Olivo tries anyway and chucks the ball into center field. Butler singles, driving in Escobar. Perez also singles. Suddenly, the tying runs are on, Hosmer is at the plate and Seattle’s last lefty, Oliver Perez, gets the call.
Perez and Olivo combine on a wild pitch, and both runners are now in scoring position. Hosmer comes through with an opposite-field single and the game is tied. The inning ends with the Royals and Mariners tied at 5. The Royals’ hitters got Hernandez out of the game and successfully attacked the Seattle bullpen.
In the bottom of the eighth, with the left-handed Mike Carp due to lead off for Seattle, Yost brings in Jose Mijares. Jose struggles to locate his pitches, falls behind 3-1 and throws one of those fastballs in a fastball count we’ve been talking about. Carp leans on it and doubles. Trayvon Robinson lays down a bunt to move the go-ahead run to third, and, once again, Mijares has trouble with a bunt, throwing the ball down the right-field line.
Carp scores, Robinson moves to second on the error, then he eventually scores and, despite battling back for one more run in the ninth, the Royals lose 7-6.