Games » Minnesota TwinsSep13
Billy can't get tossed there
The Kansas City Star
David Lough, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Johnny Giavotella and Luis Mendoza on the mound: that’s the lineup that started Thursday night’s game against the Twins. How many of those players have even a full season in the big leagues?
The Royals are a very young team with few veterans to show the kids how it’s done. The guys who do have some time in, need to provide leadership.
And that brings us to Billy Butler’s ejection during a key at-bat in the 10th inning. The game was tied 3-3, the winning run — Alex Gordon — was standing on second base. The count was 2-1 and the Twins pitcher, Glen Perkins, threw Bill an 83-mph slider at the top of the zone. The home plate umpire, Mike Estabrook, called it strike two and Billy reacted by turning back to Estabrook to complain. That’s unwritten rule violation number one: you don’t turn and look back at the umpire when complaining. You do it staring straight ahead so fans don’t know what’s going on. Billy also motioned that the pitch was up. That’s another unwritten rule violation: you’ve now let the fans know you think the umpire screwed up and now you’re letting the fans know just how the umpire screwed up.
Estabrook, who bears some blame for helping the situation escalate, confronted Billy. Words were exchanged and the Royals’ best hitter, the guy they need to count on in the clutch, was ejected from the game in the middle of a key at-bat. Whatever Butler thought of Estabrook’s work behind home plate (and apparently Butler had been warned to knock it off twice), a team leader cannot allow what’s happening to him overshadow what’s happening to his team.
Billy can’t get tossed there.
Salvador Perez stayed hot with a two-run single in the first inning. When Perez first came up, few people questioned his defense while several people questioned his offense. If Sal wasn’t ready to hit big-league pitching, someone forgot to tell him.
Luis Mendoza gave the Royals a quality start and a chance to win. Over six innings, he gave up two hits and one run. You’d rather Luis didn’t give up homer to Josh Willingham, but you can’t fault a pitcher for throwing strikes — that mainly works out.
Lorenzo Cain had a 10 pitch at-bat to end the first inning, Eric Hosmer saw nine pitches to lead off the second. Neither player reached base, but both added to Liam Hendricks’ pitch count. Hendricks came out after five innings. At-bats like Cain’s and Hosmer’s are part of the reason why.
David Lough started off the top of the fifth with a triple and appeared to grimace as he was approaching third. If Lough’s hamstring is bugging him that makes three dinged-up Royals outfielders: Lough, Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain.
Young players given a shot at the big leagues need to stay on the field if at all possible. They spend years getting here and can’t make an impression while sitting on the bench. Even if the impression is that you’re a tough kid and a gamer, it’s better than no impression at all. Or worse, the impression that you won’t play through discomfort.
The Royals got the Twins starter’s pitch count up and Liam Hendricks threw 98 pitches through five innings and was done. Later in the game, reliever Casey Fien got through an inning throwing only nine pitches. Hitters don’t worry about getting a reliever’s pitch count up, a reliever isn’t going to be out there long enough for it to matter.
Alex Gordon went after a foul ball and slammed into a low wall down the left field line. If Gordon’s banged up, that’s four gimpy outfielders.
Closer Greg Holland blew a save, giving up a game-tying home run to Trevor Plouffe in the ninth inning. That will get some attention, but to me, the game got away in the eighth. You can’t ask pitchers to be aggressive and throw strikes and then be horrified when they give up hits. Pitchers won’t be perfect, if they’re in the zone, they’ll eventually give up hits.
You can expect big-league pitchers to throw strikes. The Twins scored a run in the eighth inning on a hit batter, a single, a fielder’s choice, a walk and a walk. That final walk came with the bases loaded and forced in a run. The home run in the ninth wouldn’t have mattered without the hit batter and walks in the eighth.
When a team sets its infield defense it also decides where the ball will go if caught by one of those infielders. Here’s a brief guide to the main infield defenses and how fans should to interpret what they’re seeing.
This is the defense you see most of the time; the infielders are stationed near the outfield grass in order to increase their range. When you see this defense the manager is saying the most important out is the man at the plate. If a run scores while an infielder throws the ball to first base, the defensive team either has a big lead or believes they have time to get the run back. Basic managing strategy says you play to prevent the big inning early (when you’re not sure how many runs it will take to win the game) and play to prevent one run late. But if one or both teams have an ace on the mound, basic managing strategy can change.
With a runner on third and less than two outs, the manager may bring the infield in. Now the manager is saying the most important out is the runner on third. The runner on third will represent a tying, winning or lead-increasing run. Bringing the infielders in reduces their range and increases the batting average of the man at the plate. The manager will only put his team in this position when he believes the run represented by the man at third is very important and has to be prevented at all costs. If a ball is hit to an infielder and the runner on third breaks for home, that’s where the throw should go.
Corners in, middle back
This is used with an important run on third, one down and the double play in order. If the ball is hit to first or third and the runner breaks for home, that’s where the throw should go. If the ball is hit up the middle, the shortstop and second baseman need to turn a double play to end the inning.
This is a risky defense if the man at the plate is left-handed and fast — he may be hard to double up.
Now the infield is halfway between “back” (near the outfield grass) and “in” (near the infield grass). The infielders have to make a decision based on the speed of the runner at third, whether he breaks for home and how hard the ball is hit.
If it’s a slow roller and the man on third is fast, the infielder needs to go to first base to get an out. A hard grounder or slow runner may give the infielder a chance for an out at home. Unlike the other three defenses, “halfway” leaves the decision up to the infielder. If a manager does not have good decision makers on the field, he may want to use one of the other options.