Games » Baltimore OriolesAug11
Why the Royals are suddenly hitting home runs
The Kansas City Star
The Royals got a quality start from Luis Mendoza and hit four home runs. That was enough to beat the Orioles Saturday night — or Sunday morning — depending on how you want to look at it. Ned Yost was asked about the Royals’ newly found power. He said it was the park. None of the balls that got out of Camden Yards would have gotten out of Kauffman.
But as Ned said, you play the park.
That’s also why Yost said he wasn’t comfortable with a seven-run lead; teams can put up runs in a hurry when the ballpark plays small.
In the first inning, Alcides Escobar tried to steal second with two down. There are a couple of reasons for doing this: stay at first and it will probably take two hits to score the runner and the Royals had Lorenzo Cain at the plate. If Esky gets thrown out (and he did), Cain’s speed makes him a decent leadoff hitter in the next inning. Had it been Billy Butler at the plate, Esky might stay at first.
The pitches Cain saw in the first inning (two four-seam fastball a curve and a cutter), may have helped him in the second inning. He’d already seen what Chris Tillman was throwing. Cain singled on the third cutter thrown to him.
Salvador Perez hit a low line drive over the wall in left. Camden Yards is roughly 364 feet from home plate at that point. Kauffman is more like 375. A homer that lands in the first couple rows in Baltimore is a double off the wall in Kansas City — at best. If the outfielder beats the ball to the spot, it’s just a long out.
Billy Butler’s homer came on another 3-0 green light from Ned Yost. It’s significant that Billy hit the ball the other way. Some guys get so excited with a green light, they come out of their shoes, swinging at just about anything. The fact that Billy stayed calm and let the ball travel deep in the zone, then took it out to right, indicates maturity as a hitter.
Once again Jeff Francoeur hit a ball hard to right field. Jeff went 0-3, but hitting the ball hard the other way is a sign he’s sticking with the program. The Royals want Francouer to look away and adjust in. Trying to do the opposite doesn’t work.
Baltimore’s Adam Jones got drilled, but pitchers need to pitch inside and Jones stands on top of the plate. Jones got hit in a previous game, so the Orioles didn’t like their star playing getting plunked — although the first time he got hit by a curve, so it was hardly intentional.
Mike Moustakas threw out Manny Machado to start the fifth and you could see Mike circle the ball to get a strong throw off. When they have time, infielders move in a little half-circle so their momentum is headed toward first base. Mike also tapped his glove with the ball, which allows his feet time to get in the right position and Eric Hosmer time to get over to first base.
Salvador Perez got hit by a pitch in the sixth, flipped the bat and stared down the pitcher. Jason Kendall, who has been hit by a lot of pitches, has a philosophy on this: if you think it’s personal, go to the mound. If not, go to first.
After Salvy got drilled, Tillman walked Francoeur and the Orioles went to the pen. Hitters will sometimes take pitches in order to get the starter out of the game early, but they don’t do the same with relievers (no point in running their pitch count up when they’re only pitching an inning or so.) Hosmer jumped on the first pitch he saw and so did Getz. Hosmer’s aggressiveness paid off; his single drove in Perez.
With Hosmer on first and Francoeur on third, the Royals tried a delayed steal. The delayed steal is intended to screw up the opposition’s timing. The runner does not appear to be going, everybody relaxes and then the runner breaks. That can make the middle infielders late to cover second and that’s what happened here. Matt Wieters rushed his throw, the middle infielders were late to the bag and the ball wound up in the outfield. Meanwhile, Francoeur scored from third.
Mike Moustakas completed his night at the plate with a pop fly to left, making him 0 for 4. If I’ve counted right, Moose is 3 for 18 on this road trip, but the Royals will be more concerned with how he’s hitting the ball than whether he’s getting hits. An 0-4 with two strikeouts, a jam shot and a weak grounder is different than 0-4 with two line outs and a couple of hard grounders at somebody. Kevin Seitzer keeps track of hard outs and I’ll check with him when the team gets home.
Moustakas hasn’t been taking his offense onto the field defensively. When some guys slump, they let their defense go to hell at the same time. Moose keeps playing hard and went over the dugout railing head first in an attempt to catch a pop fly. Teammates appreciate the effort.
Jeff Francoeur is known for having a strong arm, but he also has a quick release. Once in a while that means a throws off-line or airmailed, but he doesn’t waste any time getting the ball on its way. That quick release helped prevent Omar Quintanilla from scoring from first on Nate McLouth’s double in the seventh. (Interesting side note: runners and base coaches will be more aggressive about advancing right after a rain delay — they know outfielders are dealing with a wet ball.)
Speaking of interesting: Lorenzo Cain did some interesting things on the base paths in the eighth. Cain started like he was stealing second base, abruptly changed his mind and headed back to first. A good throw would have got him, but Wieters chucked another ball into the outfield.
Perez doubled over Adam Jones’ head and Cain did the right thing with nobody out: he went back to tag second in case the ball was caught, that way he’d be on third with one down at worst. But somehow Cain did not score when the ball got to the wall. I don’t know if Eddie Rodriguez threw up a late stop sign or Cain had his head down and didn’t see the sign sooner (hard to tell on TV.) The Orioles threw behind Cain and caught him off third. The Royals just can’t let that kind of thing happen: either Cain needed to get stopped sooner or he needed to be sent home.
The Royals needed to get this one in. It’s their last trip to Baltimore and if they didn’t start Saturday night, they’d be playing two today. Kansas City has an off-day Monday, but the Royals have a charity golf tournament that day. So, they waited out the three-hour delay.
Using a fake break
Runners at first and third, the runner on first breaks like he’s stealing, stops and comes back to the bag. If you were looking in the right direction, you just gained some valuable information. When the runner on first broke, who moved to cover second base?
If neither middle infielder moved to cover second and the third base man moved to cover third, the defense is planning to attempt a pickoff at third base. You might now be able to steal second base uncontested, that’s probably not where they’re throwing the ball.
If one of the middle infielders did move to cover second, you now have a good idea which side of the field will be open for a hit and run. You also know which arm — the shortstop or the second baseman’s — will be making the throw home should you attempt a double steal.
When people tell me baseball is boring, I tell them there so much going on I don’t know where to look. And if a runner makes a fake break, you might just want to look at the infielders.
The other day Jason Kendall was out early working with Chino Cadahia and the catchers. I asked Jason, who recently retired, what his new job was: “Hang around and be the blunt guy.” Every organization needs one — the guy who says what he really thinks when others are holding back.
Who knew I was qualified to be a coach in the major leagues?