Games » Boston Red SoxAug24
Two pitches that changed the game
The Kansas City Star
Bruce Chen gave up two runs in the first, settled in and then threw five consecutive scoreless innings. In the seventh, he walked the first batter he faced, Mauro Gomez. Chen was at 98 pitches, the tying run was on and the winning run was at the plate, so Ned Yost brought in Kelvin Herrera. Kelvin was facing ex-Royal Mike Aviles.
Herrera quickly got Mike 0-2 and then left a pitch too far up and too far out over the plate. Aviles hit a soft single into right. The tying run was at second, the winning run at first and another ex-Royal, Scott Podsednik, hitting ninth was up to bat. Podsednik laid down a sacrifice and now both runs were in scoring position with one down.
The plan for getting out of the inning without a run scoring appeared to go this way: have Herrera blow away leadoff hitter Pedro Ciriaco, then bring in Tim Collins to get lefty Jacoby Ellsbury. Ciriaco took a 99 mph fastball for strike one (and I’m guessing it looked about 199 after facing Chen for three at-bats), dialed it up for another fastball and instead got a changeup down in the zone and swung over it.
At this point, 0-2, I wondered if Herrera might go back up the ladder with another fastball at the top or above the zone, but he threw another change, this time down and in. Ciriaco golfed it softly over third base for a double, two runs and a Red Sox lead that held up. Herrera’s two 0-2 pitches changed the game.
In the first inning, 20 miles an hour separated Jon Lester’s fastest and slowest pitch. He gave up an infield single to Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar lined out, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler struck out. For the first four Red Sox batters, only eight miles an hour separated Chen’s fastest and slowest pitch. By the fifth hitter, Bruce was getting more separation in speed, but by then Bruce has given up two runs.
Chen throws a lot of cutters that bore in on a right-handed hitter’s hands. When Bruce gets it far enough inside, it’s a tough pitch. When he doesn’t get it far enough inside, righties can pull the pitch and do some damage.
Bruce threw one of those cutters to Ryan Lavarnway, and the Red Sox catcher got the bat head out and ripped the pitch into the crowd down the left field line. Leave the same pitch a bit further out over the plate and it’s off the left field wall.
In the bottom of the second, Johnny Giavotella threw away a double-play ball. His footwork on the pivot seemed off and the ball sailed wide of first. Johnny’s error didn’t result in any runs, but cost Chen 10 extra pitches and two extra hitters before the inning was over.
Podsednik, singled later in the inning and Aviles couldn’t score from second, even with two out. As I wrote a couple days ago: in Fenway, scoring from second with the left fielder positioned so close to the infield can be difficult.
In the third inning, Eric Hosmer homered over the Monster. Having the left field wall to aim for the next three games may be good for Eric. The Green Monster can be an inviting target for left-handers who wait, go to the opposite field and try to drive the ball off the wall.
The Monster can also be bad for right-handers who get home-run happy and start trying to pull everything.
Gordon doubled high off the same wall and Podsednik misplayed the ball. Scott was on the warning track — too close to the wall if it hits above the scoreboard — and the carom went over his head. Jacoby Ellsbury might have prevented a triple by coming all the way over from center and fielding the ricochet Podsednik missed.
Left fielders who are really good at playing the wall can take a ball off the wall, catch it as they turn back to the infield and turn doubles into long singles.
Brayan Pena threw Ellsbury out trying to steal in the bottom of the inning, thanks to high fastball (easier to catch and throw) and a nice catch and tag by Giavotella. Gio got out in front of the bag so he could move with Pena’s throw as it tailed to the first base side. Unfortunately, Johnny didn’t get his left foot out of the base path and Ellsbury took the opportunity to use his leg to hook Johnny’s as he slid past. Ellsbury dumped Gio on his face in an attempt to jar the ball loose, but Gio held on.
In the fourth, Johnny took a hittable fastball with the bases loaded. There are times to sit dead red: certain counts, right after the pitching coach visits the mound (most of the time he’s out there to tell the pitcher to throw strikes) and when the bases are loaded and the pitcher wants to get ahead.
Gio got away with taking the fastball, by hitting a dribbler to the first baseman, Mauro Gomez. Lester covered first, but the feed from Gomez was late and behind the Red Sox pitcher. The late feed made Lester try to catch the ball and tag the base at the same time. He caught the ball, but missed the bag.
With the bases still loaded, Lorenzo Cain took another hittable fastball 0-0. Cain didn’t get as lucky as Gio, chasing two pitches out of the zone and striking out to leave ‘em loaded.
A 67 mph curveball to Podsednik had him out on his front foot and Scott struck out swinging. Chen’s speed separation between his fastest and slowest pitch was now 23 mph.
Bruce was encouraged to speed opposition bats up first and then slow them down. I don’t know for sure, but it seemed possible that he didn’t get to the “slow them down” part of the formula soon enough in the first inning.
In the sixth, Bruce faced David Ortiz for the third time. Ortiz had seen exactly two pitches from Chen and already had a single and a double. Bruce threw four pitches over the top and got the count to 2-2. With two strikes on Ortiz, Chen dropped down side arm for the first time. If a left-handed pitcher suddenly drops down on a left-handed hitter, the new look can freeze the hitter. That’s exactly what happens to Ortiz and he struck out looking. Bruce once told me he didn’t know what arm angle he’d use until he started his motion, but it seems likely that Bruce was saving that sidearm motion until he had two strikes on Ortiz.
Scoring decision overturned
Last Sunday Jeremy Guthrie took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. A scoring decision said Guthrie lost that no-hitter in the seventh on a Paul Konerko groundball. That decision has now been overturned on appeal. Officially, Guthrie made it to the eighth inning before he gave up a hit.
I’ve got to give Ned Yost some credit: he said he was so mad about the initial scoring decision he couldn’t think straight for a while. But, even though he was angry, he made a very good decision that day: he kept managing as if the no-hitter was still going.
The last time someone took a no-hitter deep — Luis Mendoza — Ned would not get someone up in the pen until Luis gave up a hit. He didn’t want Mendoza looking down at the pen to see someone warming up while he was in the middle of throwing a no-hitter.
Ned did the same thing with Guthrie on Sunday. Even after Guthrie gave up a hit — according to official score keeper Del Black — Ned didn’t get anyone up. In fact, Yost didn’t get a pitcher up until Guthrie gave up a clean hit in the eighth. I suspect — I’ll ask when they get home — that Ned figured the scoring decision would be appealed and might be overturned.
Imagine if Yost had pulled Guthrie after giving up the first hit and then that scoring decision was overturned. Yost avoided that by continuing to manage as if the decision would be overturned. Pretty smart for a guy who wasn’t thinking straight.
Bob Dutton, Royals beat writer for The Star, had an interesting piece about Jeff Francoeur and Wil Myers Friday morning. First, the Royals still owe Francoeur $6.75 million dollars next season and are not inclined to eat the contract or accept little in return. They need Frenchy to return to his 2011 approach that allowed him to hit .285, 47 doubles, 20 home runs and drive in 87 RBIs in order to keep him in the lineup ormove him and get anything worthwhile in return.
They also think Myers still has things to work on: he still chases too many off-speed pitches and hasn’t “overmatched” Triple-A the way Eric Hosmer did before his call up. (Eric was hitting .439 in Omaha when he got promoted.)
The Royals are also concerned about the roster: they worry about the number of prospects eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft if not placed on the 40-man roster. Dutton wrote that one club official estimated there are a dozen players under consideration for what might be three or four spots.
Myers doesn’t have to be protected until next season. Does it make sense to give him a September call up and use one of those spots so he can play in some meaningless games? Especially at the cost of losing another prospect? According to Dutton, the Royals may let Myers come to camp next spring and compete for a job as a non-roster player.
(Over time, I’ve narrowed the focus of this website to the areas that often don’t get extensive coverage: breakdowns of plays and strategies from the point of view of the people who play, coach and manage the games. There’s no shortage of websites that look at the game from a statistical point of view or like to offer advice on front office issues. I try to focus on the game between the white lines and what the participants have to say about that game. As a result, I have no special expertise or insight to offer on a great many baseball issues. That’s why I read all Bob Dutton’s stuff — he knows about parts of the game that I don’t. If you’re a Royals fan and you’re not reading him, you should. Nobody has more overall information about a baseball team than the local beat writer.)