Games » Boston Red SoxAug26
Don't blame it all on Alcides
The Kansas City Star
The Royals gave this one away with sloppy play, but don’t blame it all on Alcides Escobar. Yes, Esky made two errors that lead to three runs, but he had plenty of help from his teammates. As we’ll see shortly, Tony Abreu, Johnny Giavotella, Billy Butler, Lorenzo Cain, Francisley Bueno and Louis Coleman — among others — did their part in this 8-6 Royals loss.
• In the first inning, Royals catcher Salvador Perez attempted a pickoff at first base. Though Perez didn’t get the runner, the throw still accomplished something. Runners know Perez will throw behind them. That translates into shorter leads and less aggressive secondary leads. That helps the Royals’ defense when they try to turn a double play or throw out a runner going first to third or second to home.
• And to prove the point, the Royals ended the first inning with a double play. The runner coming into second, Cody Ross, was nowhere near the pivot man, even though the DP ball was slow.
• Jeff Francoeur has been criticized for being too aggressive at the plate. Johnny Giavotella has been criticized for being too passive. Which approach is best? If a pitcher has a pattern of throwing first-pitch fastballs for strikes, it is smart hitting to attack the first pitch. Take the first pitch, and you allow the pitcher to nibble for at least two more pitches. If the pitcher hits a corner with one, then he can really expand the zone. But if a hitter is going to attack the first pitch, it should be a good pitch to hit and the hitter needs to get that pitch in play. Francoeur has been fouling back an awful lot of hittable pitches.
• Coming into this game, Eric Hosmer has hit .296 in August. (I got that one off TV.) That’s good news, but that number has been buried under an avalanche of bad ones.
• Another bit of TV news: Hosmer threw 95 mph in high school and was used as a closer. Mike Moustakas also pitched in high school and threw in the mid-90s. (And I blocked pitches from these guys? No wonder they were laughing so hard.)
• In the second inning, a Red Sox walk scored on a Mike Aviles double. Mike then made a mental mistake: trying to advance to third on a groundball hit in front of him. Escobar came up wanting to throw the ball to third base to cut down Aviles, but it appeared that Abreu also made a mental mistake, backpedaling back to third base. Because Tony didn’t bust it back to the bag, there was no play at third and the timing of the play was disrupted. When Alcides planted his back foot to make the long throw over to first, his foot slipped and no out was recorded.
• It was not the first time I had seen it. Someone on the opposition does something goofy and then you’re caught unprepared. I’m guessing Abreu was surprised that Aviles tried to advance and got caught backpedaling.
• Both Escobar and Butler ended the day with .304 averages. Esky has 37 infield singles. Imagine what Butler would be hitting if he could run.
• In the third inning, Royals starter Will Smith got a called strike three on a pitch off the plate to right-handed hitter Cody Ross. Unfortunately, a left-handed hitter, James Loney, was up next. When an umpire calls a strike on a pitch off the plate, the pitcher wants to repeat that pitch and force the umpire to call it a strike again or seem inconsistent by calling an identical pitch a ball. Forcing the umpire to establish a pitch off the plate as a strike then allows the pitcher to move even farther off the plate to see how far the strike zone extends. With a lefty at the plate, the pitch thrown to Ross would look well inside.
• In the fourth, the Royals staged yet another two-out rally. Giavotella singled, and so did Hosmer. The next single, by Abreu, showed the difficulty of scoring from second base in Fenway Park. Tony’s single went to left field. Scott Podsednik, who is not known for his arm strength, was able to one-hop a throw home and make the play close.
• Lorenzo Cain then made scoring from second easy by trying to kill a cameraman on top of the Green Monster with a home-run ball.
• In the fifth, Boston’s Pedro Ciriaco homered, Jacoby Ellsbury singled and Dustin Pedroia then hit a double-play ball to Abreu. Abreu misplayed the ball but grabbed it out of the air, firing over to first base to get Pedroia — maybe.
• First basemen have a trick to help their teammates. They catch the ball, then pop off the base to throw the ball around the infield. Catch the ball, then pop off. Catch the ball, then pop off. And then, when they need it, they change the sequence. Pop off then catch the ball. Coming off the base then catching the ball can fool the eye and get a call from the umpire. I won’t swear that Hosmer used this trick, but I know he knows it, and Hosmer is a very slick first baseman.
• I’ve seen the replay, and I also won’t swear Hosmer was off the base when he caught the ball. But I will swear the umpire bought it and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine didn’t. Bobby V. argued too long or too emphatically and got tossed. Suddenly my buddy Tim Bogar was managing the Red Sox.
• Even though there were two outs in the inning, Jacoby Ellsbury stole third (I’m guessing he also knows it’s hard to score from second base), and that allowed him to score easily on James Loney’s single up the middle.
• In the sixth inning, the shadows started to approach home plate. (Watch for the same thing to happen Monday.) I’ve experienced this personally, and it’s a little scary. The object of your attention (the ball) goes from light to dark. Your eye can’t adjust that fast, and the ball disappears on you. You will see hitters whiff on what look like very hittable pitches when the lighting is bad.
• Escobar got caught backing up on a Mauro Gomez grounder. If at all possible, infielders want to move forward on ground balls. Moving forward puts the weight on the balls of the feet and the head and glove down. Moving backward puts the weight on the heels and the head and glove tend to come up. Gomez eventually scored, and the Red Sox had their second gift run.
• The shadows played a part in Gomez scoring. The lighting can affect fielders as well as hitters. A fielder has to pick up the ball as it leaves the shadows and comes into the light. Ellsbury hit a catchable line drive to Hosmer, and Eric seemed to mistime his leap. After the game, manager Ned Yost said Hosmer had a hard time picking up the ball and thought it was hit harder than it was.
• Without talking to the players, I don’t know if it was a factor (or if they would admit it if it was), but the extra-inning game forced Yost to use relievers Tim Collins and Aaron Crow three days in a row. Two days on and one day off is the usual pattern. The bullpen getting stretched out may also come into play in Monday’s game.
• Once again I’m only guessing, but Esky’s second error came in the seventh inning when Ryan Lavarnway was on second base and passed in front of the Royals shortstop just before Podsednik’s grounder arrived. An advancing runner can visually shield the ball from an infielder and cause an error when the ball gets on a defender too quickly. The Escobar error led to two more Boston runs.
• Also give an assist to pitcher Francisley Bueno. With two down, the bases loaded and one run in, Francisley got ahead of leadoff hitter Pedro Ciriaco 1-2. Bueno then started nibbling and ran the count to 3-2. Two down and a 3-2 count meant that the runners were going. Ciriaco hit the ball to Abreu at third, but the runners getting a head start meant there was no easy out at second. Podsenik was already arriving at second when Abreu looked that way, so Tony was forced to go across the infield to first. Ciriaco was just too fast to be thrown out, and another run scored.
• The bases were loaded when Giavotella walked to the plate in the eighth inning. Butler and Perez had singled, and Francoeur had walked. The score was 7-4, and Gio represented the winning run. With a runner on third and less than two down, the hitter has to get the ball in play. It’s a chance to score a run without a hit. Giavotella struck out.
• With one down, Hosmer hit a sac fly — which would have been at least a single except for a great play on a sun ball by Cody Ross — and then Tony Abreu singled. The score was now 7-6, and the tying run was on third with two down.
• Cain worked the count to 3-0 and then took a “cookie.” Cain appeared to have the 3-0 green light, but didn’t trigger on a hittable fastball. Lorenzo then swung at a slider out of the zone and took another slider in the zone for a called strike three. Except for a Dustin Pedroia homer in the bottom of the eighth and Butler striking out in the top of the ninth (his fourth strikeout of the day, a career first), the game was over.
Can he put together another good start? Luke was outstanding in his last start against the Tampa Bay Rays and David Price. Was that the beginning of something different or just another high in the roller-coaster ride that is Luke Hochevar?
We’ll know more at about 3 p.m. Monday.
Or maybe it will be 4 p.m. Boston’s starting pitcher, Daisuke Matsuzaka, is known as a very slow worker who has to walk off the mound to receive the throw back from the catcher, then walk around the mound and climb up the back before he’s ready to step on the rubber and deliver another pitch. (I wonder if I can get paid overtime.)