Games » Chicago White SoxAug8
The best-pitched game of the year
The Kansas City Star
“The best-pitched game of the year.” That was how manager Ned Yost described Jeremy Guthrie’s 2-1 win against the Chicago White Sox.
Guthrie gave the Royals everything they’ve been looking for in a starting pitcher. Jeremy went deep in the game, threw first-pitch strikes, worked ahead in the count, worked quickly, threw his fastball in the mid-90s, showed a curveball with depth, pitched down in the zone and on both sides of the plate, didn’t walk a batter in eight innings, put up a quality start and allowed the Royals to win the series.
They got this guy for Jonathan Sanchez?
After his last start, Guthrie told me he would like to go deeper in games. Guthrie said that to do that, he needed to keep his pitch count down in the first inning. So I was paying attention to how this game started.
It started with an E-6, later changed to a hit. Either way, it was a play Alcides Escobar could have made and not making it cost Guthrie an extra eight pitches. Pay attention to errors that cost pitchers extra pitches. The inning may be scoreless, but it might shorten the starting pitcher’s outing. And getting into the pen in the seventh inning instead of the eighth might cost a ballgame.
Guthrie got back on track with a 12-pitch second inning.
Salvador Perez got a fastball in a 2-0 fastball count and homered to right field. Guys who can homer the opposite way are special. Pitchers stay on the outer part of the plate to rob hitters of power. Guys who can take those outside pitches and drive them out of the park are scary.
Eric Hosmer saved Mike Moustakas on a high throw in the fourth inning. Moose launched the throw, Hosmer went up, snagged the ball and came down to tag the runner while spinning counterclockwise. The counterclockwise move is necessary when a first baseman reaches in to tag a runner. It prevents the runner from bending the first baseman’s wrist back. The spin move can save a broken wrist.
In the fifth inning, Jeff Francouer singled and took off for second base on what appeared to have been a straight steal. On a hit-and-run, the runner looks to the plate to pick up the ball, but Frenchy had his head down all the way. Hosmer swung at a hung slider (if the hitter does not get a take sign, he’s free to swing) and Chicago shortstop Alexei Ramirez deked Francouer.
Hosmer popped up to center field, but Ramirez went to the bag and pretended to be taking a throw from the catcher. That made Francoeur hustle all the way to the bag, and by the time he picked up the fly ball in center, it was too late. The Sox doubled him off first.
In the eighth inning, Alex Gordon stole second on a breaking pitch. Most of the time that doesn’t happen by accident. The Royals either know the percentage pitch in that count with that pitcher or have some other way of figuring that an off-speed pitch is on the way.
Guthrie came out for the eighth inning with a 2-0 lead. He was facing the bottom third of Chicago’s order, got two quick outs and then gave up a single to the No. 9 hitter, Orlando Hudson. Aaron Crow and Tim Collins then got up in the bullpen.
Many managers won’t let a starter who goes deep into a game face the winning run late in the game. A manager is not going to let a guy bust his butt for the team and then take a loss. So if leadoff hitter Alejandro De Aza had gotten on base, it wouldn’t have surprised me if Yost went and got Guthrie. Guthrie got De Aza, so Crow and Collins sat down and Greg Holland got up.
The ninth inning
One of the questions asked about any new closer is this: Will he be able to execute his pitches under pressure? The ninth inning of this game gave fans an answer: So far so good. Holland was throwing in the upper 90s, and Chicago’s leadoff hitter, Gordon Beckham, fouled one of those fastballs straight back. That is a sign that the hitter’s timing is right. He’s just under the ball. The pitcher usually has two options at this point: Throw the next pitch higher or change speeds. Holland changed speeds and struck Beckham out on a slider.
Holland then got Adam Dunn to two strikes, and catcher Salvador Perez wanted a high fastball. Many lefties are low-ball hitters (picture a golf swing), so there’s a hole in their swing up and in. If you throw hard enough and if you hit that spot. Guthrie took advantage of that hole in Dunn’s swing, striking him out three times, and Perez wanted Holland to do the same. Greg missed, slightly down, and Dunn doubled.
Holland used the same pattern on Kevin Youkilis that he used on Beckham: speed the bat up with fastballs and then strike the hitter out with sliders. A.J. Pierzynski didn’t give Holland a chance to change speeds, hitting the second fastball he saw. Then Holland and Perez pitched backward to Alexei Ramirez.
Ramirez probably was seeing all the early fastballs everyone was getting and came to the plate geared up to turn on the fan. So Holland went slider instead, getting Ramirez out in front and allowing him to pull strikes one and two foul. (This is a common tactic early in the count: go soft inside, let the hitter crush the ball foul for strike one or two.)
After that, Ramirez got one between the white lines, but right at Escobar. Game over. Royals 2, White Sox 1.
In case you missed it
The Star’s Bob Dutton had a story about Baseball America’s annual survey of major-league managers, who were asked which players have the best tools. Here are the Royals who got mentioned.
• Jarrod Dyson, third-fastest American League base runner behind the Angels’ Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos.
• Eric Hosmer, third-best defensive first baseman in the AL behind New York’s Mark Teixeira and Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez.
• Mike Moustakas, third-best defensive third baseman in the AL behind the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre and Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria.
• Alcides Escobar, third-best infield arm in the AL behind Beltre and Oakland’s Cliff Pennington.
• Jeff Francoeur, third-best outfield arm in the AL behind Toronto’s Jose Bautista and Cleveland’s Shin-Soo Choo.