Games » Oakland AthleticsAug14
A big inning
The Kansas City Star
How do you score five runs on three hits? Well, a leadoff walk helps.
Oakland starter Jarrod Parker walked Salvador Perez to begin the fifth inning. Jeff Francoeur, standing on deck, saw Parker get strike one on Perez and then throw Perez four straight balls. Jeff figured that Parker didn’t want to walk two batters to start the inning, so Frenchy geared up for a fastball in the zone. Instead, Parker started Jeff with a breaking pitch for strike one. Jeff didn’t bite. He was still waiting for that fastball.
He got it on the next pitch.
The fastball was 94 mph on the outside corner. It was exactly the kind of pitch that Francoeur had been trying to pull much of this season without much success. This time, Jeff went with the pitch and doubled to right-center. (Francoeur is 11 for 39 with three doubles and two home runs since being benched for a few days.) With no one out, third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez held up Perez, and the Royals had runners at second and third and nobody out.
Next, Eric Hosmer worked the count to 3-0 and was given the green light. With two runners in scoring position and the score 0-0, manager Ned Yost was hoping Hosmer would get a “cookie” (baseball slang for a fastball down the middle). Parker suspected that might be the case, and instead of throwing a 3-0 fastball down the middle, he threw Hosmer a changeup. Eric was out in front, and the count went to 3-1.
Parker threw a slider next, and this time Eric stayed back and drilled a single to right field. Perez scored, and Francoeur moved up to third. Then Lorenzo Cain walked, and the bases were loaded for Chris Getz. Getz did what a hitter is supposed to do in this situation: find a pitch he can hit in the air. It took him seven pitches, but Getz hit a fly ball to right. Francoeur tagged and scored.
Then Alex Gordon broke another bat and got another hit, scoring Hosmer. Cain went first to third. Then Alcides Escobar hit the ball to Jemile Weeks at second base and Weeks booted it. Cain scored while Gordon went first to third despite the ball never getting that far from the infield. Gordon’s base-running paid off when Billy Butler hit another sacrifice fly to drive in the fifth run of the inning.
How do you score five runs on three hits? Walks, good situational hitting and smart base-running. The Royals only scored in one inning, but with Jeremy Guthrie on the mound, that was enough.
Guthrie puts up another quality start
Guthrie pitched seven scoreless innings, struck out eight, put up a quality start and won the game. That’s now 15 consecutive innings of shutout baseball for Guthrie. After the game, Ned Yost said that when Jeremy was missing, he was missing down. Miss down and the umpire calls it a ball. Miss up and someone in general admission catches a ball.
In the clubhouse after the game, Guthrie said Kansas City was on his short list of places he’d like to play. After the last two outings, fans might start hoping it also is a place where he’d like to stay.
• Guthrie went 1-2-3 in the first inning. He threw a 77-mph curve, a 79-mph slider, an 86-mph changeup and a fastball that ranged from 90-96 mph. That’s 19 mph of separation in speed and a lot of different looks.
• In the bottom of the inning, Gordon saw nine pitches before making an out. For a hitter leading off a game, that is a very good at-bat. Gordon’s long at-bat gave his teammates a chance to see Parker’s pitches (fastball, slider, change). Hitters have already seen video and may have faced a pitcher in the past, but everyone wants to see what the pitches are doing that night.
• Gordon flew out to left, then Escobar shot a double down the line past Oakland’s third baseman, Josh Donaldson. If you’re counting how many times one of Escobar’s bunts turns into a hit, you ought to add this one. Donaldson was in on the grass — just like Manny Machado was in Baltimore — defending against the bunt.
• Esky then tried to get tricky. Butler hit a grounder to Donaldson at third, and it was clear Escobar was going to try to advance from second to third once Donaldson threw the ball to first. Donaldson pump-faked to first, then threw the ball to second to trap Escobar between the bases. The timing on this play is tricky for a base-runner. He can’t break too soon, or he will alert the infielders.
• Esky also tried to advance at a bad time. There already was one down, and had the throw gone to first, there would have been two. A runner on second is already in scoring position. The reason you take chances to get to third base is so you can score without a base hit. If a runner is going to try this maneuver, it’s better to try it with nobody down.
• In the third inning, Donaldson tried to go first to third on a ball Coco Crisp hit to right. Francoeur was charging straight in (remember the rule of thumb: it’s easier to advance when the outfielder is moving sideways) and came up throwing. I don’t know if Donaldon tripped over second base or remembered who was playing right field. He stopped halfway, the Royals ran him down and Francoeur had another outfield assist.
• After the Royals scored five runs in the fifth, Guthrie came out to pitch the sixth. When the offense scores, it is psychologically important for the pitcher to go out and throw a shutdown inning. Let the other team score, and they start to believe they can get back in the game. Put up a zero, and defeat starts to seem inevitable.
One more time for anyone who missed it: Ned Yost is not asking Alcides Escobar to sacrifice bunt in the first inning of ballgames. When that happens, Esky is doing it on his own, and he’s bunting for a hit. If that doesn’t work, at least the Royals have a runner in scoring position with their No. 3 and 4 hitters due up. So even though the Royals aren’t playing for one run, they might get one anyway.
I asked Ned how important is for the Royals to score first, and he pointed out the team’s record when they do: 39 wins and 16 losses. That means the Royals are 11-49 when they don’t score first. Even so, Ned said he doesn’t call for sacrifice bunts until the seventh inning unless the Royals are already lead and he wants to tack on an insurance run.