Games » Texas RangersAug5
The Royals make a move
The Kansas City Star
“Twenty-five guys with one goal.” According to manager Ned Yost, that is the culture the Royals need if they ever are going to turn things around. Yuniesky Betancourt had expressed the desire to play more, and Ned said the Royals were going to give him that chance — elsewhere.
Complaining about playing time when things are going badly and you’re hitting .228 is generally not considered a wise move. Betancourt has been designated for assignment, and Tony Abreu is being brought up to fill his spot.
First inning: There’s a sacrifice bunt in the scorebook, but Yost has said he doesn’t call for those in the first inning of a game. That means Alcides Escobar was bunting for a hit with Jarrod Dyson on first base. There are two ways to look at this. 1.) Esky bunts for a hit, and if it doesn’t work out, the Royals at least have a runner in scoring position 2.) Bunting on the first pitch with a base-stealing threat like Dyson on first is not a good move.
(Some hitters like to do it because it’s a chance for a hit, and if it doesn’t work out, there’s no penalty. It’s a sac bunt in the scorebook, and your average doesn’t drop.)
The Rangers walked Lorenzo Cain, and then Dyson stole third and Cain stole second. They did it on a curveball, which is probably no coincidence. The Royals keep track of the percentage a pitch is used in each count, and if an opposing pitcher shows a pronounced tendency to throw a certain pitch at a certain time, the Royals can use that information to their advantage.
Second inning: Adrian Beltre doubled, and Nelson Cruz was trying to move him to third by hitting the ball to the right side. Royals starter Luke Hochevar was trying to prevent that by forcing Cruz to pull the ball. Cruz tried to take an inside fastball the other way and popped it up to Chris Getz. That meant David Murphy’s fly ball to center field was just an F8, not a sacrifice fly. In a game that goes extra innings, even a pop-up in the fourth has meaning.
Fourth inning: Josh Hamilton doubled, but after the game, Jeff Francoeur admitted it probably should have been a single and an error. Frenchy was there, and the ball got under his glove. In the bottom of the inning, Jeff homered.
Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer has been trying to get Francoeur to lay off the inside pitch and wait for something out over the plate. Pitchers have been coming inside early, letting Frenchy swing and miss or pull it foul and then going away. Sometimes it’s not what you swing at that matters as much as what you leave alone. If Jeff doesn’t get his timing jacked up by chasing inside, he can be effective on the pitches out over the plate. Hitting a home run to right-center is a good sign that he’s adjusting his pitch selection.
Seventh inning: A leadoff walk by reliever Aaron Crow eventually allowed the Rangers to tie the game. Walks are bad. Leadoff walks are worse (the opposition has all their outs available to move the run around the bases). The Royals’ leadoff walk in the seventh made them play extra innings. The Rangers’ leadoff walk in the 10th cost them the game.
I asked pitcher Jeremy Guthrie whether he was satisfied with Friday night’s quality start. (Bad question. Good athletes are never satisfied.) Among other goals, Jeremy wants to go deeper into games. Fifteen pitches per inning are about average. On Friday, Guthrie’s first inning required 25 pitches. Ten pitches too many in the first inning can mean coming out early in the seventh.
Watch Guthrie’s next start to see how he does in keeping that first-inning pitch count down, and you may have some idea what will happen five or six innings later.
Saturday night, Yost made out a lineup that stacked four lefthanders in a row: Eric Hosmer hitting seventh, Getz hitting eighth, Dyson hitting ninth and Alex Gordon hitting first. This would seem like an ideal spot for the opposition to bring in a left-handed reliever … but Ned confirmed that when he stacks three or more lefthanders, he will make sure he has a right-handed alternative for the guys in the middle.
If Texas manager Ron Washington decided to bring in one of his left-handed relievers, Yost could counter with Betancourt for Getz or Francoeur for Dyson. Any time we see three or more lefties stacked, there probably will be a right-handed pinch-hitting alternative available for the guys in the middle.
(And it only took me two years to notice Ned was doing it this way.)
Not naming names
I asked Everett Teaford about umpires who work slowly and what it does to a pitcher. As it turns out, having to wait for a call is disruptive to a pitcher’s rhythm. It also toys with his emotions. Is that a ball or a strike? (I could figure out the first problem on my own, but didn’t think about the second one until Teaford mentioned it.) Just when a guy is trying to get into a pattern — staying calm and working quickly — the man behind the man behind the plate can make that difficult.
Making his mark
Also from Saturday night: Time was called and Lorenzo Cain was on first base. Lorenzo walked out on the base path and made a mark in the dirt with his foot. Lorenzo confirmed Sunday morning that he was making the mark to tell him how far he should lead off.
Lorenzo can’t do it every time he’s on base. Time needs to be called. But when he gets a chance, he’ll do it.