Games » Detroit TigersAug30
Slow runners make for great plays
The Kansas City Star
What’s the first thing you need to turn a great play on the infield? Probably a slow runner. If an infielder makes a diving stop, pops up and throws the runner out at first, the runner isn’t likely to be Jarrod Dyson or anyone else with his kind of speed. Lucky for the Royals, the man coming down the first base line Thursday night was Miguel Cabrera.
Here’s what happened: Jeremy Guthrie threw eight innings, gave up one run and no walks. He worked quickly and kept his pitch count low. The Royals took a 2-1 lead into the ninth. Because Greg Holland wasn’t available — he’d pitched two days in a row — Kelvin Herrera was filling the closer’s role. Kelvin admitted to being over-amped and as a result walked the first hitter, Alex Avila, on four pitches. Next, Austin Jackson hit a line drive into center field, and this time Lorenzo Cain made a diving catch to save a ball game. (Wednesday night it was Dyson.) Andy Dirks hit another single and suddenly the tying run was on second, the winning run was on first and one of the best hitters in the American League, Miguel Cabrera, was at the plate.
Cabrera hit the first pitch he saw — a 101-mph fastball — to second baseman Johnny Giavotella. Gio fed the ball to shortstop Alcides Escobar covering second base for the second out, but Dirks was right on top of Esky. Alcides couldn’t make the throw with Dirks under foot, so he jumped over him, landed on the other side and then made the throw.
On more time; he jumped over a runner, landed on the other side and then completed a game-ending double play!
And the most important guy in that highlight-reel play was Miguel Cabrera. Slow runners make for great plays.
Chris was in the clubhouse after the game — he’s been coming to all the home games — and we talked about slow runners and great plays. Chris said any time there’s a highlight play on the infield, the runner is probably going to be a DH or corner guy. Chris wasn’t saying great infield plays are never made on fast guys, but most great infield plays require time to develop.
In the 4th inning, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer combined on another highlight reel infield play. The Royals were playing left-handed Brennan Boesch to pull and instead, Boesch hit the ball the other way. Mike was well off the line and had to dive to keep the ball on the infield. Moose fired the ball to Hosmer. A first baseman one inch shorter might not make the play. Eric stretched to his full height and kept the tip of one toe on the bag.
Infielders like to throw to big first baseman. The bigger the target, the easier the throw. Aim the throw at the first baseman’s head, miss by three or four feet and by stretching and footwork the first baseman can still get to the ball. Infielders don’t have to think about putting the throw in the money when they’re throwing the ball to a guy who has as much size and agility as Hosmer.
In the bottom of the fourth Billy Butler pulled a Rick Porcello 83-mph changeup into the crowd down the left field line. Porcello then went hard away. A 93-mph fastball and Billy lined that pitch to right. Ten miles an hour difference, one in, one away and Billy was right on both pitches. That’s hard to do.
Salvador Perez was hit with an E2 when he missed Gerald Laird’s pop up over by the first base dugout. If you’re a regular reader you may already know this, but pop ups curve as they come down and they curve back toward the mound. That’s why they want a corner infielder catching those whenever possible: the ball is curving toward them and away from the catcher.
Mike Moustakas doubled again and is now 5 for 12 since he told me he thought he’d figured out the flaw in his swing.
Jeff Francoeur snapped an 0 for 19 slump with a line drive single up the middle in the 5th inning. The fact that he’s still playing drives some people crazy, but the Royals owe him $6.75 million next year. They’ve said they’re not going to eat his salary or trade him for little in return and that would seem to mean they need Jeff to figure things out and get back to his 2011 approach.
Francoeur was asked if he took a bad route on the Prince Fielder ball that got past him for a double. Jeff said he thought he was where he needed to be and expected the ball to hook toward him. (Line drives hook toward the foul lines and outfielders have to take that into account as they run their routes.) Francoeur said the ball sliced away from him and he’d never seen that happen off a left-hander’s bat.
In the 6th inning Alex Gordon homered, Billy Butler doubled and Salvador Perez hit a line drive up the middle. One right after the other. Rick Porcello was also approaching 100 pitches. One of the rules for a pitching change I learned from Clint Hurdle goes like this: three line drives in a row is not an accident, especially after the fifth inning.
Jim Leyland must have the same rule book, because after Sal’s line drive single, the Detroit skipper took his starter out of the game.
Jeremy Guthrie came out to start the 8th inning with the score 2-0, Royals. Guthrie was at 90 pitches and about to face the top of the order for the fourth time. Guthrie got Miguel Cabrera, then gave up singles to Prince Fielder and Delmon Young. Ned Yost said he wasn’t going to let Guthrie lose the game, so when the winning run came to the plate, Ned went to the pen.
In case you were wondering
If you were watching the game on TV Wednesday night you might have seen a shot of the bullpen that showed several Royals relievers with the bottom of the pant legs pulled down over their shoes. Just in case you wondered what the heck that was about: the new look that many players prefer is long pants with loose, floppy bottoms.
The players achieve that look by pulling the bottom of their pants up over their thighs (usually done only in the club house) or pulling the pants down over their shoes. Either one stretches the bottom of the pant leg.
One of the first things I learned from professional ballplayers is the importance of looking good. If you’re in a slump looking good might make someone think you’re about to come out of it.
Speaking of relievers, I stopped by Everett Teaford’s locker to ask how he keeps ready when he hasn’t thrown in a while. (His last appearance was Aug. 25.) If Teaford throws to stay sharp, he’ll throw during the day. If he does it during the game Teaf says he won’t really concentrate, he’ll be distracted by what’s happening on the field.
Everett’s the long reliever, but said he’s been told he might come in to face a lefty if the situation calls for it. I wanted to know how aware he was of what was happening on the field while he was warming up and he said it depends. If he’s starting an inning, bullpen coach Steve Foster will tell him the three batters due up. If he’s being brought in to face a particular batter, he’ll be told to be ready by the time that hitter comes to the plate.
Teaford also said the more information he has about how he will be used, the better. It helps to know how quickly he needs to get hot.
A while back we had the discussion about a rotation of five #3 starters, and what that would mean. True #1s are hard to come by and expensive if you do. I wondered what the Royals record was when they got a quality start (3 earned runs or less in six innings or more) and David Holtzman, Royals Director of Media Relations, came up with the numbers.
Before Thursday night’s game, the 2012 Royals have had 53 quality starts and are 38 and 15 in those games (72%). For comparison Holtzman looked up the White Sox and found they have had 73 quality starts and are 51-22 in those games (70%).