Games » Boston Red SoxAug25
The biggest comeback of the year
The Kansas City Star
If you turned this game off in the top of the fourth when the Royals were down by six runs, you missed the biggest comeback of the year. It took four hours and 31 minutes. Nineteen runs were scored. There were 34 hits, 10 walks, 16 strikeouts, 33 runners left on base, 97 at-bats, 16 pitchers used and 406 pitches thrown. (You might want to double-check that last number. My calculator was starting to smoke at about 11:30 last night.)
The winning run was scored in the 12th inning. With two outs, Jeff Francoeur walked. (One more time in case you think that’s some kind of typo: With two outs, Jeff Francoeur walked.) Eric Hosmer had a long at-bat and doubled to the opposite field, and Tony Abreu singled with two strikes to drive in Francoeur. And don’t forget the eight innings of shutout baseball that the Royals bullpen threw to make the offense in the 12th possible.
It’s been a long season that hasn’t gone the way Royals fans had hoped, but there are still nights when a Royals fan can see something terrific. This was one of those nights.
• Boston starter Aaron Cook might have done Jarrod Dyson a favor by throwing the Royals center fielder sinkers. Dyson needs to hit the ball on the ground and use his speed. Cook’s sinking fastball makes hitting the ball on the ground easier, and Dyson led off the game with a single. Alcides Escobar followed with another single, and then Alex Gordon doubled. Once again, Boston left fielder Scott Podsednik got caught too close to the Green Monster. The ball caromed past Podsednik and, once again, Jacoby Ellsbury saved him by coming over from center field to back him up.
• Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie threw a shutdown inning in the bottom of the first — and then the roof fell in during the next two innings. Guthrie was either too far out of the zone (he walked two and one scored) or two far in the zone (he gave up seven hits and six earned runs), and the Royals were getting blown out.
• In the fifth inning with two down and Tony Abreu on second base, Escobar singled. Third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez held Abreu at third. As predicted, runners are having a hard time scoring from second base in Fenway Park, even with two down. (Two down makes it easier. The runner does not have to wait for the ball to drop.) The left fielder is just too close to the infield.
• Although in this case, the left fielder is Scott Podsednik, who is not known for having a strong arm. There are a couple of ways to look at this. The Royals were down by six runs at this point. Was it worth risking an out for a single run? The other school of thought says that it was too early to get conservative, and playing station-to-station baseball can force the offense to get three or four hits to score just one run.
• Boston’s Cody Ross didn’t challenge Alex Gordon’s arm in the sixth inning, settling for a single instead of a double. Sometimes the best arms don’t get assists because runners decline to run on them.
• Just to prove this theory isn’t always true, Mauro Gomez tried to stretch a single to right field into a double, and Jeff Francoeur picked up his 15th assist. Gordon saves time on his throws by charging the ball hard. Frenchy does it with a quick release.
• The Royals made a game of it in the seventh inning, scoring six runs on five hits and three walks.
• In the eighth, Ellsbury doubled, and you could see how much better Gordon handled the Green Monster than Podsednik had in the first two games of this series. Gordo saw the ball was going to hit high off the wall, backed up, caught the carom in his bare hand as he turned and threw to second.
• In the 10th, Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera gave up another 0-2 hit to Pedro Ciriaco. Kelvin then threw a wild pitch. Ciriaco went to second, and Podsednik bunted him to third. With the winning run on third base in extra innings with one down, the Royals had to bring their infield in.
• Manager Ned Yost ordered an intentional walk to Dustin Pedroia. That allowed the Royals to play their middle infielders slightly back at double-play depth and leave the corner infielders in. Ned brought in left-hander Francisley Bueno to pitch to the left-handed Ellsbury. The Royals’ defensive alignment (corners in, two up the middle) meant that if a ball was hit up the middle, the Royals would try to turn a double play to get out of the inning. If a ball was hit to first or third, they would throw home to cut the run down at the plate.
• Ellsbury hit the ball to Hosmer. Eric took a quick glance at second and then made a good decision. Turning a 3-6-3 double play is hard, and with Ellsbury running, maybe impossible. Hosmer threw to the plate. The throw was slightly up the line and drew catcher Salvador Perez into the runner. Sal made a spectacular catch and tag. Bueno struck out Che-Hsuan Lin to end the inning, and the game went to the 11th.
• In the bottom of the 11th with one out, Lorenzo Cain hustled and cut off a Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit before it got to the wall. That kept Salty at first and set up the 1-6-3 double play that ended the inning.
More on Fenway
A couple more points on playing the Green Monster. (Boston bench coach Tim Bogar told me this stuff last year, but Royals broadcaster Joel Goldberg reminded me of it on the “Royals Live” pregame show.) There is a ladder on the wall, and balls hit to the left of the ladder carom to left field. Balls hit to the right of the ladder carom to center field.
If a ball hits the left-field scoreboard, it tends to drop down. If it hits above the scoreboard, it comes off hard. If the left fielder is on the warning track when the ball hits the wall — as Scott Podsednik was Friday night — he’s too close. The ball might carom over his head.
If I remember what Bogie told me accurately (and there’s every chance I don’t), the Monster has panels in it. If the ball hits the middle of a panel, it can come off differently than when it hits a seam.
Podsednik and Aviles
After watching every pitch of every Royals game for the last two seasons and counting, I’ve become fairly familiar with the players and their styles of play. My reaction when I watch other teams play generally goes like this: “Man, I don’t know anything about these guys.”
Being familiar with the players makes the games vastly more entertaining. Knowing that Brayan Pena’s throws to second tail to the first-base side, that Jeff Francoeur needs to lay off the inside pitch or that Jarrod Dyson needs to lay off the high one makes the games more interesting. I’ve got a better idea of each player’s strengths and limitations and a better idea of when each succeeds or fails in his personal battle with baseball.
Which brings us to Scott Podsednik and Mike Aviles.
Scott and Mike are now with the Red Sox. I never got to know Scott when he was with the Royals. It was my first year covering the Royals, and I was slowly feeling my way, trying to figure out the best way to use this website and the access to the players. But I did watch Scott play a lot of baseball, and here’s what you might watch for in this series:
Podsednik is (or at least was) fast. He was a good bunter, a base stealer and he sometimes used an odd little swing to punch the ball softly at the shortstop in an attempt at an infield single. He was a good hitter without a lot of power.
On the downside, Podsednik did not have a strong arm, and runners in Kauffman Stadium challenged him by going second to home on a regular basis. He often declined the challenge, throwing the ball to second to keep the double play in order. Things might be different in Fenway. He is closer to third and home. As a Royal, Podsednik also did not play the wall well, often slowing down as soon as he hit the warning track. Once again, things may be different in Fenway.
Alex Gordon told me that visiting outfielders often struggle with the wall in Kauffman because it is so far behind them. They have a chance to reach full speed and then just a couple steps warning when they hit the track. When a wall is closer — like the Green Monster — you’ve got a better idea of where it is and won’t hit it at full velocity.
Mike Aviles is a different story.
I got to know Mike very well, and he’s still one of my favorite people in the game. If you want a sense of Mike’s personality, watch the video we have on dressing for success in the big leagues. Mike once told me he would talk to a lamppost, and that made him a very easy interview.
Mike has some pop at the plate and can steal a base. The Red Sox have him at shortstop, and that suits Mike better than second. Aviles struggled with the double-play pivot when he played second base in Kansas City. He was clearly uncomfortable turning the double play when he had his back to the runner.
Second basemen have to develop a clock in their heads and know when they’ve got time to turn and make the throw or have run out of time and are about to get dumped. Mike struggled to develop that awareness, and I’m guessing he’s more comfortable approaching second base with the runner in front of him.
Aviles also has that distinctive “helicopter” motion as he waits for a pitch. Apparently, some pitchers try to time a delivery home that catches Mike in mid-motion. If it works, Mike can be late on a fastball. (I’m guessing pitchers who do that throw fastballs. Why try to make Aviles late and then throw a slower pitch?)
Another thing to watch for: Mike, try as he might not to, stylishly flips the bat every time he puts the ball in play. Home run? Slow flip. Ball on the ground? Quick flip. I tried to get him to make a video showing kids the correct way to style and flip their bats and he refused, claiming he didn’t do it. (Pitchers don’t like guys styling at the plate. If a pitcher thinks a hitter showed him up with an exaggerated bat flip, the pitcher might drill him the next time he gets a chance.)
Anyway, Mike claimed he didn’t do it at all, and I suggested we go watch video to settle the dispute when Mitch Maier — whom I really didn’t know at this point — spoke up. “Mike, you do it on every at-bat, and everyone knows it.” Aviles started laughing and claimed that if he did it, he was unaware that he did it and it was just a case of having so much style, he couldn’t contain it all.
I watched him Friday night, and he’s still can’t contain all that style.