Games » Cleveland IndiansJul31
The Royals win one
The Kansas City Star
First inning: Alex Gordon led off with a single, and the scorebook said Alcides Escobar had a sacrifice bunt. After the game, I asked manager Ned Yost if it was a straight sacrifice or Esky was bunting for a hit. Ned said that if we see a bunt in the first inning — unless it’s a playoff game with two aces facing off — we’re seeing a hitter trying to lay one down for a single.
Second inning: When Cleveland’s Johnny Damon hit the ball to Eric Hosmer, Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar made a mental mistake, failing to cover first base. Yost said that was a sign that Luke had too much going on his head. Major-league pitchers should cover first base in their sleep.
With two down in the bottom of the inning, Chris Getz got things started with a single, Jarrod Dyson doubled, and, with first base open, it appeared that Cleveland starter Derek Lowe was trying to get Alex Gordon to chase a bad pitch.
Having first base open allows a pitcher to work around a hitter if he chooses to. The pitcher will throw balls just out of the zone and see whether the hitter chases them in an effort to be a hero. Alex stayed disciplined and wouldn’t chase bad pitches. After Gordon’s walk, Escobar came to the plate and singled in Getz and Dyson. Lowe didn’t have to throw strikes to Alex, but Gordon’s plate discipline forced Lowe to throw a hittable pitch to Escobar.
Third inning: With the score tied at 3, Billy Butler singled, Mike Moustakas fouled out and then Salvador Perez added another single. Hosmer was at the plate, fell behind 1-2 and once again Lowe tried to get a Royals hitter to chase. Eric is hitting in the low .230s, and Lowe wanted him to expand his zone.
Hosmer didn’t, and his walk loaded the bases. Lowe balked (it looked as though he caught a spike on his delivery) and a run was in. Then Getz doubled, Dyson flew out, Gordon doubled, Escobar tripled and the game was pretty much over … but interesting things continued to happen.
*Fourth inning: With a five-run lead, Hochevar walked Cleveland’s Casey Kotchman, who was hitting .226 when the game started. Luke also walked Shin-Soo Choo. At that point, Everett Teaford started throwing in the Royals bullpen. This can be a psychological ploy by the manager. It sends the message to the pitcher on the mound that if he isn’t going to throw strikes, the manager will find someone who will. After the game, I asked Ned whether getting Teaford up was a message to Hochevar. “A little bit,” Ned said.
Hochevar then threw strikes to Asdrubal Cabrera and got a fly ball to end the inning.
Sixth inning: With two outs, Gordon ran a long way for a fly ball in the left-field corner. Alex made the catch and then banged into the wall. Going into the wall, especially with a crowd hanging out overhead, can be incredibly distracting. The outfielder has to put his full concentration on the ball, and, as Gordon said later, “not be afraid of the wall.” Give some thought to the collision that’s about to happen, and you might not make the catch.
Seventh inning: Tim Collins replaced Hochevar and — once again with a five-run lead — walked a batter. Walking a batter when you have a big lead drives managers — and reporters — crazy.
Eighth inning:The inning started with an error by Alcides Escobar. Carlos Santana hit a ground ball to Esky, and Alcides threw it over Hosmer’s head at first base. Santana made a slight move toward second, saw that the ball had caromed right back to Hosmer and tried to walk nonchalantly back to first.
Unfortunately for Santana, Getz was doing his job (backing up first), saw Santana’s move to second and had Hosmer tag the runner for the out.
Ninth inning: Aaron Crow came into finish the game, and with a five-run lead, he walked a hitter,Jack Hannahan, who was hitting .235 when the game began. A couple of strikeouts and a 4-3 ground out later, and the game was over. Royals win 8-3.
What Frenchy is fixing
Jeff Francoeur is taking some time off to make an adjustment. Frenchy has been “wrapping” his bat, and the Royals need to get it unwrapped. Here’s what that means. When a hitter strides, he takes his hands back. It’s the backward motion that precedes many forward motions in sports (pulling the arm back to throw a ball, pulling an arrow back before release, pulling the fist back before a punch). The backward motion stores energy and makes the forward motion more powerful.
When a hitter’s front foot sets down and his hands have been pulled back, he’s in ‘launch position,” ready to strike. The bat’s barrel should be above the hitter’s back shoulder. When Frenchy gets to his launch position, his bat is “wrapped” too far behind his head. The bat’s barrel is pointed almost back at the pitcher.
From that launch position, Jeff’s bat has a long way to travel to get to the ball. If you have a long trip, you tend to start early. Starting early means getting fooled. The hitter is committing to swing before he’s sure where the pitch will wind up.
According to Kevin Seitzer, the Royals’ hitting coach, Francoeur has had this problem throughout his career. He made some adjustments last season, but the problem is back. The Royals need to get this fixed. Before the game, Ned Yost said part of what’s gone wrong this season is that the team is not getting the power production it anticipated from Francoeur and Eric Hosmer. When Jeff is back in the lineup, check the bat position when his front foot hits down, and you’ll know how the fix is going.
Fraternizing on the bases
On the Royals’ last road trip, Alcides Escobar was caught on camera laughing with an opposing base-runner. That bugs old-school ballplayers. Nobody questions Escobar’s work ethic, and Ned Yost said it’s understandable that Latin players far from home, would want to visit. (Like Escobar, the base-runner was from Latin America.)
But, as Yost pointed out, there’s plenty of time to visit before and after games. Fans can see ballplayers subtly say “hello” to a friend on another team by tapping the other player with a bat or glove. It’s the baseball equivalent of “Hello, how are you?” and it looks better than hugging at second. Ned didn’t seem to think it was big deal, but he said the problem had been addressed.
If fans want to read fascinating account of baseball cultures clashing, try Warren Cromartie’s, “Slugging It Out in Japan.”