Games » Chicago White SoxSep9
The 10th inning
The Kansas City Star
The score was 0-0 after nine innings. The Royals had escaped a jam in the bottom of the ninth and went into extra innings with the score still tied. Alcides Escobar led off the 10th with a single. White Sox manager Robin Ventura brought in left-hander Donnie Veal and Donnie struck out Alex Gordon. (Veal’s full name is Donald T. Veal II, and I can see why he doesn’t use it. Would you be intimidated if an investment banker came in to pitch with the game on the line?)
Ventura then went to right-hander Brett Myers to face Billy Butler. Bingo! Myers has a lifetime ERA of 9.00 against the Royals, and it is over 20.00 in 2012. (And fans get mad at Ned Yost.) Maybe Ventura thought this can’t possibly continue, but if he did, he was wrong.
Even though Alcides Escobar was thrown out trying to steal (the one good throw A.J. Pierzynski made all day), Myers walked Butler to keep the inning alive. Jarrod Dyson came out to pinch-run for Billy and went first to third on a Salvador Perez single. Then Myers stayed in against Mike Moustakas. In the past, Moose had hit Myers well (a small sample size), and this at-bat was no exception. Moose singled to drive in the first run of the game, and then Myers gave up another single to Jeff Francoeur, who drove in the second, and ultimately winning, run of the game.
Ventura then brought in Leyson Septimo, another left-handed reliever, to face Eric Hosmer. But if Ventura had a lefty available in the pen, why not have him face Moustakas with the game on the line? (Maybe there’s a good answer, but I don’t know what it is.)
Anyway, Greg Holland made it more interesting than it had to be in the bottom of the 10th, issuing two walks and allowing one of them to score before nailing down his 13th save. But nevertheless, the Royals took the game and the series 2-1.
• Alejandro De Aza led off the game with a double, and the White Sox tried to use Ray Olmedo to bunt the runner over to third (assuming it was Robin Ventura’s idea). Olmedo failed to get the runner to third, but a passed ball by Salvador Perez did the job.
• With the runner on third and one down, Ned Yost brought the Royals’ infield in. The Chicago bunt and the Kansas City infield positioning meant both managers thought that one run was going to be significant. They were both right. The game was 0-0 after nine innings.
• With De Aza on third base and one out, Dewayne Wise hit a fly ball to Alex Gordon in left. Alex was moving laterally — which meant no momentum on the throw — and the fly ball was the second out of the inning. De Aza tagged up and tried to score, and Gordon threw him out at the plate for another outfield assist.
• If you’re wondering whether De Aza’s tagging up was a good decision, think risk and reward. What’s the risk, and what’s the reward? The risk was making the third out at the plate. The reward was scoring the go-ahead run. If a sacrifice fly is the second out of the inning, most teams want their base-runner on third to tag and try to score, if at all possible.
• Gordon made a strong throw despite having no forward momentum. And don’t forget the Salvador Perez catch, block of the plate and tag. For every one of those great throws from the outfield, there often is a great catch and tag at the other end.
• In the bottom of the second with Paul Konerko on first, A.J. Pierzynski singled. The White Sox should have had runners at first and third and one down, but A.J. got caught between bases and was thrown out by Jeff Francoeur (with a little help from Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer). Pierzynski’s base-running may have cost Chicago a run when Dayan Viciedo made the third out of the inning on a ball hit to Escobar. If there had only been one down, Konerko might have scored.
• The bad news after the top of the fourth inning? Hector Santiago had struck out eight Royals. The good news? It took him 88 pitches to do it. Striking hitters out is good, but it generally takes a lot of pitches (and the three walks Santiago issued didn’t help his pitch count). Hector was gone before getting a single out in the fifth.
• The Royals stole five bases in this game. Pierzynski has thrown out a little more than 10 percent of the runners who have tried to steal against him. That kind of number will make the opposition think about thievery.
• Jeremy Guthrie has now thrown 23.2 innings in three starts against the White Sox without giving up an earned run. Jeremy put up another quality start Sunday and once again pitched great. Of course, every time he does this, the cost of keeping him gets higher.
• In the seventh inning, Paul Konerko singled with one out. Alexei Ramirez came in to pinch-run. Alex Rios made the second out on a fly ball, and then Pierzinski singled. Alexei ran through the third-base coach’s stop sign to make the third out at third base when Jeff Francoeur threw him out.
• The White Sox are in first place. Two guys who aren’t exactly new to the league made bad base-running decisions. The lesson here is that the game is hard. People make mistakes, and it’s not just the people on your favorite team.
Players and coaches are making split-second decisions. If they’re right, it’s heads-up, aggressive baseball. If they’re wrong, they’re boneheads. That doesn’t necessarily make the Pierzynski or Ramirez base-running decisions OK. When the Royals screw up, players and coaches will go over the mistake and “clean it up.” But acknowledging that the game is hard and nobody plays it perfectly makes for a more reasonable fan.
The Kmart closer
There is a guy who cuts some of the players’ hair (you think Hosmer’s look happens by accident?), and I asked how much the ballplayers dropped on haircuts. Greg Holland said he didn’t know. He gets his done at Supercuts. Either that, or he just takes some clippers and runs them over his head a couple times each summer.
I said, “I’m digging you, Hollie. It’s just like you close. You’ve got no style at all.” Greg started laughing and said his wife had told him that for years. But think about it: The guy is 12 for 12 (after Sunday’s game, 13 for 13) since being named the closer, yet he has no closer music (he tells the Royals staff to play whatever they want) and no scoreboard graphics. Holland just comes in, throws a 98-mph fastball (Sunday he threw one at 100 mph; I have no idea how), a filthy slider and gets the job done.
I asked how Greg was he would handle it when he finally blew a save. “I’ve blown saves before. You just come back at it the next day.”
Relieving is not like starting. Whatever they do, starters have five days to think about it. Greg said that if a starter does well, it seems like forever until his next start. But if a starter does poorly, it still seems like forever until his next start. Relievers don’t have as long to gloat or mope. The whistle blows, and you get back to work.
Without a fancy haircut.
Royals infield coach Eddie Rodriguez recently talked to The Star’s Bob Dutton about Johnny Giavotella’s defense. Here’s what he said:
Infielders shuffle forward as the pitcher delivers the ball to home plate. A couple of shuffle steps forward get the infielder off his heels and on to the balls of his feet. It also brings the head and chest forward and down, which is a better fielding position. Finally, a body in motion tends to stay in motion, and the move forward adds fluidity to the infielder’s movements.
Johnny apparently was making this move too early. He would shuffle then stop as the ball entered the contact zone. Mistiming this move would have Johnny at a dead stop just when he needed to be inching forward.
Here’s the second adjustment: Once the ball was put in play and Johnny started moving forward again, the move to the ball was too hard. Eddie described it as two trains colliding. So Rodriguez slowed Gio down when he comes to the ball. That allows Johnny to pick the hop he wants and allows him to keep his feet positioned correctly.
When you hear about the small adjustments that players make, they can seem ridiculously small. But in a game played at high speed and decided by fractions of inches, small adjustments can make a big difference.