Games » Texas RangersAug3
Facing an All-Star
The Kansas City Star
Jeremy Guthrie pitched well, Matt Harrison pitched better. Harrison is an All-Star, and it showed. Guthrie is a guy the Royals hope can eat innings and give them quality starts. He did both Friday night, but it wasn’t enough.
First inning: Ian Kinsler singled, but two walks did the real damage. They pushed Kinsler to third so Nelson Cruz’s deep fly ball to Jeff Francoeur in right scored a run. No walks, no run. (Although Jeremy Guthrie had a little help issuing the walks from home plate umpire Jordan Baker. And Kinsler probably should have been out when he was caught stealing, but Jordan ruled the pitch ball four to Elvis Andrus.)
Second inning: Salvador Perez singled and Jeff Francoeur came to the plate for his first plate appearance since Ned Yost sat him down last week. Harrison started Francoeur off with two “show” pitches (a pitch you “show” the hitter but use to set up something else). The show pitches were inside, Francoeur didn’t chase and Harrison then went out away, which is where he wanted to get Francoeur out. Jeff eventually worked an eight-pitch walk.
Third inning: Elvis Andrus hit what seemed like a single into left field — until Alcides Escobar made another outstanding play at short. Esky was headed toward left, snagged the ball, jumped, turned in the air and threw a strike to first. Another play you should find on the Internet if you didn’t see it live.
Fourth inning: In the first inning it was two walks that hurt Guthrie, in this inning it was a wild pitch. Adrian Beltre had singled and was moved into scoring position by the pitch that got away. So many times in baseball it’s not what your opponent earns that beats you, it’s what you give him.
In the bottom of the inning, a hard out from Francoeur, the other two balls he put in play were more routine.
Sixth inning: The Royals turn a 5-4-3 double play and Getz is taken out by Josh Hamilton, but hangs in to complete the throw to first. Like I wrote yesterday, plays like this earn the respect of teammates.
Seventh inning: Jeremy Guthrie started the inning and got Michael Young to hit a routine ground ball to Alcides Escobar — until Escobar’s right foot slid on the grass and Esky came close to doing the splits. Ned came in, got Guthrie and brought in Mijares to face the lefty/righty/lefty combination at the bottom of the Rangers order. Jose got David Murphy on a line-out to left, walked Geovany Soto and then had Keith Moreland 0-2 on fastballs.
Time to change speeds: Mijares threw the right pitch, a slider, but in the wrong location and Moreland hit it out of the park.
Eighth inning: The Royals made it interesting: The tying run was on second with two outs, but Chris Getz flew out. Alexi Ogando and his 100 mph fastball finished the job an inning later. Rangers won, 5-3.
About last night
The leadoff hitter’s job is to get on base and if he can do it after seeing a bunch of pitches, so much the better. As a result, Alex Gordon almost always takes the first pitch of the game…almost always. Thursday night against a pitcher making his first start in the major leagues, Gordo teed off on the very first pitch. I asked Alex about it and he said, “I like to change it up.”
Swinging at the first pitch every once in a while gives the opposition pitcher something to think about — maybe he can’t just groove a fastball down the middle (although it didn’t stop Matt Harrison from throwing one Friday night on his first pitch to Gordon). Alex thought going after Corey Kluber’s very first pitch of the game might be a good idea and Alex was right.
When Holland fails
Jeff Montgomery, all-time Royals saves leader, had an interesting take on the new closer, Greg Holland. It’s not success that will tell us how good a closer Holland can be, it’s failure. All closers eventually fail and their reaction to that failure determines their future. The good ones write it off and move on. They’re the same guy every time out. The guys who can’t deal with failing in the most obvious way at the worst possible time probably need a new line of work.
Another interesting point Monty made: Holland had no special closer music, no scoreboard graphics, no big entrance. Jeff thought that might a good idea — just come in and pitch like it’s any other inning. There’s enough pressure on closers already, why put more on yourself?
Before the game Holland told me he didn’t care what music they played when he came in and told them to cue up anything they liked. “I’ve got bigger fish to fry.”
How’d you get there?
I was talking to Doug Sisson about outfield positioning (we’ll have a video posted soon) and as Doug does on a regular basis, he said something really interesting. The Royals reposition the outfielders once a hitter gets two strikes. Many hitters try to wait longer and hit the ball the other way once they’re in a two-strike situation.
But Doug said it also mattered how they got in that two-strike situation. A hitter who was 3-0, took a strike and then fouled a pitch off will be less aggressive than a hitter that started 0-2 and fought back to a full count.
One hitter had the world by the tail at 3-0 and now finds himself in trouble. The other hitter was on the verge of making an out and has fought back to get the pitcher in trouble. Both hitters are 3-2, but they got there in different ways. As a result, one hitter is feeling too confident and the other is feeling defensive.
(This is the reason I come out to the field at 3PM for a 7:10 start — if you’re here long enough, you’ll always hear something new.)