Games » Texas RangersAug4
The Rangers don’t need help
The Kansas City Star
It’s pretty clear why the Texas Rangers have gone to the last two World Series: They’re good. Good enough that they don’t need help. After the game, Royals manager Ned Yost was asked whether he thought the umpires squeezed his starting pitcher, Will Smith. Managers often dance around this kind of question, but Ned didn’t hesitate.
Smith pitched “pretty darn good” (Ned’s words) to a very good lineup, but it wasn’t enough. Texas starter Scott Feldman was better, giving up six hits and two runs in seven-and-two-thirds innings. And home-plate umpire Tim McClelland didn’t help matters.
First inning: McClelland’s calls are so slow and subtle it appears the scoreboard operator is having a hard time figuring out whether the pitches are called balls or strikes. McClelland has done this for years, and it drives everybody bats. (McClelland is the guy who ejected George Brett for using too much pine tar, so he’s been around awhile — and then some.)
Second inning: Will Smith walks Mike Napoli. This will come up again in later innings.
Third inning: With one out and two runners in scoring position, Smith has the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton in a 1-2 hole. The Royals have been throwing a lot of breaking pitches to the Rangers No. 3 hitter, and so far he’s 1 for 5 with three punch outs in this series. But Smith leaves a slider up on the outer half, and Hamilton serves it into left field for two runs.
Adrian Beltre singles, Hamilton advances to second and then Nelson Cruz hits a high, bouncing ball to Alcides Escobar. Esky gets caught in a bad spot on the hop, and the ball glances off him to his left for an E-6. It should be bases loaded with one down, but the Rangers run themselves out of the inning.
Beltre has the play right in front of him. He sees the ball roll into short center field, assumes Hamilton is scoring and takes off for third. Unfortunately for the Rangers, Hamilton appears to have his head down and doesn’t see the ball get away. Escobar sees that Beltre has gone too far around the bag and gets the ball to Chris Getz, who was covering second in anticipation of a double-play attempt.
Chris runs Beltre down from behind and tags him out. Mike Moustakas then signals to Chris that something is going on behind him, and Chris turns and sees Cruz trying to get to second base. Escobar has the presence of mind to cover the bag, and Getz gets the ball back to him for your everyday routine E-6 6-4-6 double play.
There’s a good rule of thumb in baseball that goes like this: If you’re standing still, you’re in the wrong place. Neither Escobar nor Getz got caught playing spectator, and as a result, the Royals got two outs they might not have gotten otherwise.
In the bottom of the inning, Jarrod Dyson is on first, and the Rangers, expecting him to steal, pitch out. Dyson is not going. On the next pitch, the Rangers pitch out again, reasoning that Dyson will assume they wouldn’t pitch out two times in a row. And the Rangers are right. Dyson is stealing.
But as Dyson said after the game, if the pitcher is going to take 1.5 seconds to deliver the ball to home plate, it really doesn’t matter if they pitch out. And when pitchers pitch out, they often take something off the pitch. Scott Feldman’s fastball was in the 90s, his pitchouts were in the high 80s.
Fourth inning: Smith and Tim McClelland are not on the same page. Smith is not getting pitches down in the zone called for strikes and walks Mike Napoli again. David Murphy hits a shot at Eric Hosmer, and Hos can’t make the play or keep the ball on the infield. (It was scored a single.) The ball making it to the outfield means Napoli can go first to third and later score on a fly ball to right field.
Fifth inning: With Salvador Perez on third and Eric Hosmer on first, Chris Getz hits a ground ball that scores Perez. Hosmer moves to second. Jarrod Dyson then singles to left, but David Murphy is playing shallow. The outfielder in the opposite field often plays shallow against hitters who don’t have a reputation for driving the ball. They figure a guy like Dyson will have to pull the ball to hit it deep, and Murphy’s positioning keeps Hosmer from scoring, Murphy is too close to the infield.
A stolen base — which won’t show up in the box score — buys the Royals another run. Dyson is running when Alex Gordon hits what could have been a double-play ball. The stolen-base attempt means the Rangers get one out instead of two, and Hosmer scores in the meantime.
Sixth inning: Smith still cannot get a pitch down in the zone called for a strike. He walks Murphy, and that moves Michael Young into scoring position. Six pitches later, the walk costs Smith a run when Mike Olt singles. Rangers win 4-2.
About last night: Why Eddie didn’t send Hos
Let’s back up. it’s Friday night. The Royals are down by three to the Rangers. We’re in the eighth inning. Jeff Francoeur is on second, Eric Hosmer is at first and Yuniesky Betancourt is at the plate. Yuni bangs the ball off the left-field fence.
Francoeur scores easily, and Hosmer has rounded second and is now approaching third. Third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez has a decision to make. Hosmer is not the tying run. Betancourt is. If Eddie sends Hosmer and he’s safe, the Royals need a hit from Chris Getz (the on-deck hitter) to tie the game. Hold Hosmer, and the Royals still need a hit from Chris Getz to tie the game. So sending Hosmer was a big risk without much gain.
And here’s another factor. The Rangers were in “no doubles,” a defense that is used in the outfield to prevent extra-base hits. The signal is a hand behind the head (don’t let anything get hit over your head), and the idea is to keep the man at the plate — usually the tying or winning run — out of scoring position.
Even though David Murphy was playing deep, Betancourt still hit the ball over his head. But because he was playing deep, Murphy was near the wall and on the ball in no time. If the Rangers’ left fielder had farther to run, it would have taken longer to get to the ball and Hosmer might have scored. So all factors combined, Eddie held up Hosmer.
I asked Eddie whether it would ever have been worth it to take the chance and attempt to make the score 5-4. Then the Royals would only have been down by a run going into the ninth inning.
Eddie said he might have done that, but earlier in the game when there would have been time to get the run they needed. By stopping Hosmer, the Royals had the tying run in scoring position for sure. If Hosmer got thrown out, the Royals would have had to start from scratch in the hope of getting the tying run in scoring position.
Time for a change
First base and outfield coach Doug Sisson was let go Saturday morning and replaced by Rusty Kuntz. The official reason was that it was “time for a change.” I asked Ned Yost whether this change indicated any change of course in the Royals’ base-running philosophy, and he said no.
I’ve been around plenty of baseball firings — some involving friends — and I can tell you that the public never knows all the issues involved. Even when the team gets a bit more descriptive than “time for a change,” there are almost always other issues involved.
In any case, I owe a lot to Doug. He spent countless hours on hot baseball fields explaining some of the plays I had seen the night before. Doug was always on the field early and always ready to talk. Wherever he winds up next, I wish him well.
(Doug’s last video, shot Friday afternoon, will be posted soon.)