Games » Minnesota TwinsSep1
The Royals lose two
The Kansas City Star
The Royals lost both ends of a doubleheader against the Twins. Will Smith put up a quality start in the first game, but the offense couldn’t produce more than a single run, so the Royals lost 3-1. Luke Hochevar imploded in the second game, giving up eight runs in an inning and two-thirds. So even though the Kansas City offense was able to score seven runs, it was one short of what they needed to keep the game going. The Royals lost game two 8-7.
Game one notes
The problem was not the pitching. According to manager Ned Yost, starter Will Smith did fine (six innings, three earned runs) and Vin Mazzaro was fantastic in relief. The problem was the offense: It couldn’t do much with Minnesota starter Cole De Vries. Lorenzo Cain said De Vries did a good job of mixing it up. Ned said De Vries did a good job of keeping the ball down. Those two things seemed to be enough for a seven-hit, one-run outing.
The Royals lost 3-1.
• Whenever you watch a game after a rain delay, be aware that the outfielders are dealing with a wet ball. If the infield was covered during the rain, the base-runners are dealing with a dry track.The advantage goes to the base-runners, and sometimes they will push it in those conditions.
• In the second inning, Minnesota’s Chris Parmelee doubled on 2-0 fastball. The other hitters watch how a pitcher works and what pitch patterns he uses. Trevor Plouffe was on deck when Parmelee got his fastball. Plouffe also went to 2-0, but Smith threw him a changeup. Smart pitchers keep changing their pitch patterns.
• Plouffe eventually grounded out to short, but Parmelee was able to advance to third on the play. With a runner on third, Mike Moustakas made the key play of the inning. Moose made yet another diving stop, glanced at Parmelee (the look froze the runner) and threw the ball to first.
• Catcher Brayan Pena also kept that run on third from scoring by blocking a pitch in the dirt.
• Moustakas made another diving stop in third inning. If you’ve been watching Mike play all summer, diving stops are seemingly routine. Imagine falling down and catching a ball coming at you at nearly 100 mph before you hit the ground. No matter how often Moose does this, it’s not a routine play. Fans should appreciate the show.
• Small point: Third-base coaches can seem enthusiastic because they always are clapping their hands. I don’t know if every coach does this, but Eddie Rodriguez, the Royals’ third-base coach, claps his hands to let his players know that the sign sequence is over.
• In the fifth inning with one down and the bases loaded, Smith threw his first pitch to Justin Morneau at the bottom of the zone. If Smith could have gotten Morneau to offer at it, that pitch might have turned into a double-play ball. Morneau knew what to do: spit on the low pitch and wait for one up. He got it on the next pitch.
• That pitch turned into a sacrifice fly and a run, but after the game, Smith said he was OK with that. Giving up one run can seem like a good deal when the bases are loaded and Morneau is at the plate.
• After Morneau’s fly out, Ryan Doumit singled, Darin Mastroianni scored from second and Josh Willingham tried to go first to third. The ball might have been wet, but that didn’t stop Jeff Francoeur from throwing out Willingham. Making the third out at third base looked like a bad decision by Willingham.
• Before the game, Yost said he had a lot of guys in the bullpen who needed work — a nice problem to have on a doubleheader day. Everett Teaford, Vin Mazzaro, Louis Coleman and Francisley Bueno had been sitting for too many days. Before every game, the manager is made aware of who needs work and who has been worked too much. That explains some of the pitching moves we see in games.
• In the seventh, Smith walked the leadoff batter, Mastroianni. Yost went to the pen and brought in Mazzaro. Jamey Carroll singled, and Mastroianni went first to third. Willingham then hit a fly ball to center field, but Lorenzo Cain did everything right and that stopped Mastroianni from tagging up. Cain got to a point behind the ball and came forward as he caught it. That set-up makes for a strong throw, and the runner and third-base coach can see that the outfielder is in good position. The ball that Willingham hit wasn’t that deep, but Cain’s approach made sure there was no attempt to score.
• The Royals were down by two in the eighth inning with Alex Gordon on first and Billy Butler at the plate. Billy hit a shot down the right-field line, and Alex made what looked to be a mental mistake. The Royals’ base-running policy is to go back to the bag on low line drives. Alex broke the wrong way and was doubled off when Morneau caught Billy’s line drive. (By the way, it’s really hard not to break the wrong way on a line drive. Runners are trying to get a good jump and even a step or two in the wrong direction is enough to get you doubled off.)
Game two notes
Starter Luke Hochevar continued his history of being wildly inconsistent, giving up four runs before his team came to the plate and another four immediately after his offense put him back in the game. Three walks scored. Many times, it’s not what the opponent does to you that hurts, it is what you do to yourself.
• As bad as it was, the first inning could have been worse without a double play started by Tony Abreu. Afterward, Yost said there were still a lot of positives in this game, and he was right. Outstanding defense was at the top of the list.
• David Lough got a hit in first major-league at-bat. The crowd responded, and you could see Lough’s excitement. September call-ups often look very energetic compared with the guys who have been here all year, grinding it out. The new guys are thrilled to be in the big leagues, and they get a shot of adrenaline when the regulars are playing out the string.
• That is one of the reasons why it is hard to evaluate in September. Rookies often are challenged with fastballs to see whether they can handle the major-league version, and call-ups often are playing against other call-ups. Just like in spring training, veterans will advise you to take these September numbers with a grain of salt.
• In the bottom of the first with a run in, Billy Butler on second and Salvador Perez on first, Minnesota starter Liam Hendricks threw a wild pitch. Billy was able to advance to third, but Perez did not advance to second. That might have cost the Royals a run when Mike Moustakas singled.
• The Royals scored two runs after the Twins’ four-run first inning. Kansas City was right back in the game, but Hochevar led off the second with a walk to Drew Butera, who was hitting .213. Pedro Florimon doubled. Hochevar then walked Ben Revere, struck out Alexi Casilla and then threw way too good a 1-2 pitch to Joe Mauer. Grand slam. The Twins had all the runs they needed.
• When a pitcher issues a walk, look ahead in the lineup and see what kind of trouble he’s bought himself. The walk to Butera meant Casilla probably would come to the plate (unless the Royals turned a double play or the Twin made an out on the base paths). The walk to Revere meant Luke probably would have to face Mauer. Walks not only put a man on base, they usually mean someone else gets another at-bat.
• After Mauer’s homer, Hochevar struck out Morneau, then gave up a single to Willingham. At that point, Yost came and got him. After the game, The Star’s Bob Dutton asked Ned if he had waited too long to get Luke. Ned eventually said yes and no. He tries to give a starter the chance to work out of early trouble and can’t go get every pitcher starting pitcher who walks a couple guys. But in hindsight, Ned said he might have gone to get Hochevar earlier.
• Reliever Everett Teaford came in, and he was one of the positives Ned was talking about. Teaford pitched five-and-a-third innings of shutout ball.
• Putting your team down 8-2 in the second inning also hurts your offense. Eric Hosmer went to the plate planning on taking a strike because the Royals had such a long inning on defense. Hitters lose their aggressiveness, and so do base-runners. Down 8-2, your run doesn’t mean much, so hitters can start taking hittable pitches and base-runners start going station to station.
• Here’s an example. Normally a third-base coach is aggressive about sending runners home with two outs. In the third inning, Moustakas hit a double with Perez on first. It looked as if Perez might have scored, but down by five, is it worth sending the runner home on a bang-bang play? Eddie Rodriguez didn’t think so, and held Perez up. He might have sent him if the Royals had been trailing by a run.
• The defense put on a show all night. Moustakas made another diving stop. Lorenzo Cain went back to the wall to make a catch. Eric Hosmer scooped another short hop. But the guy who really opened some eyes was Tony Abreu. He ranged to his right and to his left to get balls that seemed destined for the outfield grass, making at least four outstanding defensive plays.
• After the game, I asked Ned whether what Abreu showed was normal for him. I didn’t know because I haven’t seen Tony play that much. Ned said he hadn’t seen Tony play a lot either, but he was really impressed with what Abreu showed, especially on a play that had Abreu going toward second and throwing across his body to first.
• Teaford said that kind of defense behind a pitcher gives him the confidence to pound the zone.
• A few other highlights: Butler had three hits. Perez had four. Lorenzo Cain put up a nine-pitch at-bat that turned into a walk and pushed Perez into scoring position in the seventh. Eric Hosmer came up with a big two-out, two-RBI flare hit the other way. But after Hochevar’s start, none of that was enough.
Just in case you missed it
(We posted the following after game one, but here it is again just in case you missed it.)
Too much to watch
The other night, Billy Butler got thrown out at home trying to advance on a ball that went to the back stop. Former umpire Steve Palermo, who sits next to me most nights, commented on the great play by the kid behind the plate. I would not have called Tiger catcher Gerald Laird a kid, but I said, yeah, heads-up play by the catcher.
But Steve wasn’t talking about the catcher. He was talking about the umpire, Manny Gonzalez. Steve told me that Gonzalez had maneuvered the hitter, Mike Moustakas, out of the way and then got in perfect position to make the call on Billy. I wasn’t aware there was an umpire in the vicinity of the plate until he called Butler out. I was too busy watching the ball.
Whenever people tell me baseball is slow and boring, I tell them there are so many things happening on the field, I don’t know where to look. Should I watch the outfielders adjust their defensive alignments? How about the infield and their setup? Or the cutoff and relay men on balls hit to the outfield? How about the signs that are being flashed all over the place? The base runner’s lead? The pitcher and whether he delivers the ball out of a slide step? The catcher’s mitt to see how much it moves when receiving the pitch? The radar gun reading? All that going on and now Palermo wants me to watch the umpires?
There’s always something happening at a ball game if you know where to look.
You might already know that pitching coach Dave Eiland has made adjustments to Jeremy Guthrie’s pitching motion. Eiland and Guthrie have added a more pronounced inward turn (front knee moving back toward second base), and I recently had a chance to ask Dave more about the effects of that adjustment.
The inward turn helps Jeremy get his weight back and over the rubber. It also hides the ball longer. Dave imitated Jeremy’s old motion, and I could see the pitching hand the entire time. With a slight clockwise twist, the pitching hand disappeared until it came out from behind Dave’s head.
The change in glove position, combined with the turn, also allows Guthrie to get the ball out of his glove on time. In the old motion — hands together at the chest — the ball was coming out of the glove as Jeremy moved forward. That meant his body was too far out in front of his arm and the resulting release point kept the ball on a higher, more even plane.
Now Guthrie is taking the ball out earlier, the turn keeps him back longer, the arm has a chance to get on top and ball is delivered in a sharper downward plane. If the only thing a hitter sees is the top of the ball, he’s got a better chance of hitting it on the ground.
Eiland said Guthrie was one of the guys on his wish list. He liked his stuff and thought if he ever got a chance to work with Jeremy, he could help him. So far, so good. It’s amazing what big results come from small adjustments.
Recently, Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer sat down with me and talked about his hitting philosophy and how that’s played out in 2012. We talked about hitting for average versus hitting for power, the criticism that the Royals don’t walk enough, why high team batting average hasn’t translated into more runs and why it’s important for a hitter to be able to swing and miss on purpose. (The answer’s pretty interesting.)
We made a video of the conversation, and we soon will post it here on the site. We had to cut the discussion up into several parts, and we’re still figuring out the best way to present those videos. But don’t miss them. If you want to understand what the Royals are attempting to do and how that’s been playing out this season, you’ll want to see these videos.