Games » Tampa Bay RaysAug22
How the Royals helped the Rays
The Kansas City Star
In the bottom of the third with one out, B.J. Upton singled. Matt Joyce followed with another single and the Rays would have had runners at first and second, but Lorenzo Cain let the ball get away and Upton advanced to third. Then, Royals starter Luis Mendoza hit Evan Longoria with a pitch and Joyce moved to second.
Ben Zobrist followed with a fly out to left, so Upton tagged and scored. Jeff Keppinger followed with a single and Matt Joyce scored. Without the error and hit by pitch, the Rays would have scored one run, not two.
In the sixth, relief pitcher Louis Coleman walked the leadoff batter, Carlos Pena. That was the third consecutive inning in which the Royals walked a leadoff hitter, and you can only get away with that for so long. Pena scored on Ryan Roberts’ double. In the seventh, pinch runner Sam Fuld scored on an Alcides Escobar error, and even the eighth inning home run by Jose Lobaton came after Aaron Crow fell behind 2-1 and had to throw the Rays catcher a fastball in a fastball count.
The Royals lost 5-3 and helped the Rays score at least three runs with walks or errors. When teams talk about beating themselves, this is the kind of game they’re talking about.
In the first inning Johnny Giavotella kept a Salvador Perez throw on the infield when B.J. Upton stole second base. Not every outstanding play results in an out, some just save a base. Lorenzo Cain was not charging hard from center field on the play. Once the center fielder determines the ball has not been put in play, it’s his job to back up throws to second.
Mendoza appeared to struggle with his command all day. The walks are one indication, but here’s another: With two outs in the second inning and runners at first and second, Luis went 3-2 on Jose Lobaton, a .236 hitter. Going to 3-2 with two outs lets the runners get a head start. It makes it easier to score from second on a single and from first on a double. Fortunately, Lobaton grounded out to second.
Kevin Seitzer once told me that Johnny Giavotella was a “fastball hunter” in the minor leagues. In his book on hitting, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt says every at-bat contains a hittable fastball. His job was to find it. I’d think the same advice applies to Gio: He can’t afford to take hittable fastball at this level; hitters don’t get that many. Johnny probably won’t get a second or third mistake in one at-bat.
Before his departure, Doug Sisson told me that the pitchers around the league were speeding up delivery times to home plate. That meant “situational” base stealers — like Jeff Francoeur or Eric Hosmer — were going to have a tougher time stealing a base. Doug also predicted the “true” base stealers — Chris Getz, Jarrod Dyson and Alcides Escobar — would still get their 20 steals. Esky got his 25th of the season, Dyson already has 22. With Getz injured and Dyson on the bench, Kansas City has only one base stealing threat in the lineup, and that’s Escobar.
Jeff Francoeur had a long run into foul territory and overran a pop-up. The ball hit the ground behind him — no error was scored. I won’t know until I talk to Jeff, but I’m guessing the Tropicana dome was the culprit. As I wrote at the beginning of this series, the roof is white, the lights are low and if a fielder takes his eye off the ball for even a moment, he’ll have a hard time finding it again.
Just to make things more interesting, the bullpens are in play. A fielder running into foul territory has to worry about suddenly running up and then off a pitching mound — neat, huh?
When Mitch Maier told me all warning tracks in the majors are not uniform, I was surprised. You’d think baseball would want to protect one of their biggest investments, the players. The tracks are different widths and made of different material. Remembering how many strides it takes to cross a warning track before hitting the wall also depends on remembering which city you’re in.
Ryan Roberts was hitting eighth and batting under .240 when he led off the fourth inning with a walk. Unless the Royals turned some type of double play, walking Roberts meant that the number two hitter, B.J. Upton — who already had two hits in the game — would get a plate appearance with a runner on base. Walks issued to the right hitter can help a pitcher negotiate his way around a problem. Walks issued to the wrong hitter can force the pitcher into a bad matchup.
Roberts set sail for second before Mendoza delivered a pitch, but Luis neglected to step off the rubber before attempting to pickoff the runner.
In the sixth inning with a run in, nobody down and a runner on second base, Jose Lobaton, batting ninth, bunted the runner, Ryan Roberts, to third. At that point, Tim Collins got up in the Royals bullpen. In the later innings, fans who keep an eye on the bullpen can sometimes divine the manager’s strategy. The next left-handed hitter in the lineup was Matt Joyce, batting third. Ned Yost was going to let Coleman face Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton, but if Joyce got to the plate, he’d bring in Collins.
Joyce got to the plate with two down and runners at first and third. Ned’s strategy worked: Collins got Joyce to ground out to end the inning and no further damage was done.
In the eighth, Eric Hosmer was called out on strikes, the fourth time a Royals hitter went down looking. That usually indicates disagreement between the players and the home plate umpire on the exact location of the strike zone. In the ensuing argument, Ned Yost got tossed. Interesting, because I don’t think Chino Cadahia is with the team — family business — so I wonder who managed the rest of the ballgame.
The Green Monster
The Royals now head to Boston and Fenway Park. Of course, the most famous feature of Fenway is the Green Monster. The Monster is 37 feet, 2 inches high, and the left-field foul pole is 310 feet away from home plate. Everyone knows how it affects hitters: Routine fly balls can become home runs or doubles — if they’re high enough. Long line drives that might be home runs elsewhere can become singles — if they’re low enough.
But the Monster also affects base running.
The normal rules go out the window. A runner cannot be sure of scoring from second with two down, the wall’s just too close. So the “never make the first or third out at third” rule doesn’t apply. Runners still might hold up with no outs, but with two down, they need to get to third whenever they can. Also pay attention to the wall down the left field line that juts out toward the field. A ball that’s normally a double down the line can ricochet into short left field so the shortstop might be the first one that can get to a ball in that area.