Games » Minnesota TwinsSep14
Throwing a fastball at the wrong time
The Kansas City Star
After seven innings the Royals were up 7-5 over the Angels. Reliever Aaron Crow was on the mound with a runner on first and two down in the 8th inning. One more out and Ned Yost could go to his closer, Greg Holland. The problem with this scenario was Kendrys Morales: Yost had spotted him the back of Angels dugout, wearing a batting helmet. That meant Morales was going pinch hit.
Morales, a switch-hitter, is much better from the left side (.290 vs. .209 as a righty) so Yost wanted to switch him around to his weaker side by bringing in Tim Collins. Morales hit for Chris Ianetta and Collins replaced Crow. So far, so good — but then Collins made a mistake.
Tim started Morales was a 94-mph four seam fastball, and pinch hitters usually come into a game hunting a fastball. Morales found one and knew what to do with it. A two-run homer and the game was tied. A single, a single, a hit batter and yet another bases-loaded walk (this one issued by Jeremy Jeffress), and the Angels had the lead for good.
Collins was dressed and ready to go by the time the media got to the clubhouse. He could have ducked us, but didn’t. In baseball, being a stand-up guy literally means standing by your locker and answering questions when you’d rather not.
When Ned has a lead there are four relievers he prefers to use: Collins, Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland. Herrera was not available for this game because he threw two days in a row and threw 40 pitches in those outings.
Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez collided on a pop fly. Moose managed to elbow Salvy in the head when Mike reached up to catch the ball. The third baseman is supposed to take any pop fly he can from the catcher, but it’s better if he doesn’t give the catcher a concussion while he does it.
Billy Butler hit his 100th home run on a cutter from lefty, C.J. Wilson. The cut fastball from a lefthander is supposed to bore in and a righty’s hands. If it doesn’t get in far enough, it’s a good pitch to pull.
The cutter is the same pitch Bruce Chen uses to get in on right-handers and probably the same pitch that’s been hit out of the park by those right-handers a few times.
After Giavotella doubled, Jason Bourgeois did a nice job trying to hit the inside half of the ball so he could drive the ball to the right side and move Johnny to third with one down. Sometimes doing the right thing pays off. Jason lined the ball through the infield, scoring Gio and picking up the RBI for himself.
When Alcides Escobar stole second, Erick Aybar tried to “deke” him. Esdcobar was safe and Aybar caught the ball, but then Erick spun to look into centerfield as if the ball had gotten away. All it takes is for the runner to take a step toward third and the middle infielder can tag him out while he’s off the base. Esky didn’t bite, probably because he uses the same trick.
It’s likely Jeff Francoer saved another run with his reputation: with runners on first and second in the 7th inning, Erick Aybar doubled. The runner on second scored easily, but Mike Trout, the runner on first, was held up. Teams are starting to shut down runners rather challenge Francoeur’s arm.
In the top of the 9th, the Angels picked up an insurance run when Giavotella tried to turn an inning-ending double play. Unfortunately, Escobar was already at the bag and could have made the play much more easily. Gio stepped in front of Escobar, caught the ball and then had to back up to tag the bag. As a result, Johnny threw flat-footed and there was not much on his throw. If Esky caught the ball, he would have been moving toward first base as he made the throw.
Because the Angels scored an insurance run, the Royals never got the winning run to the plate in ninth.
Alex and the wall
Thursday night Alex Gordon ran into a low wall down the left field line in Minnesota. I asked how he was doing, and Alex said he was fine. He bruised a knee, but nothing that will affect his playing. Alex said he lost track of the wall and got there faster than he anticipated.
Having a feel for the quirks of a park is a huge advantage for a home player. That lack of familiarity is a disadvantage for visiting players. In Kauffman, look for visiting outfielders to struggle with the depth of the outfield fences (many players aren’t used to having that much open area behind them) and the rounded corners (if a ball gets into one of those, the outfielder needs to head for the bullpen gate and wait for the ball to shoot out of the corner and carom to him).
Despite the expression on his face as he legged out a triple Tuesday night, David Lough said he’s OK. It may have looked bad, but David said there was no pain. He wanted to get to third on the play, but didn’t want to push his hamstring too hard while doing so.
Slowing the game down
Eric Hosmer didn’t know his precise batting average over the last month (a few games ago I figured it at .302), but he knew he’d been doing better. I asked if he’d changed anything or hits that were getting caught were now dropping. Eric said he’d “slowed the game down.”
Hitting the ball the other way is part of it. George Brett once told me every time he slumped, he’d work on hitting the ball to the opposite field. Going “oppo” allows the hitter to see the ball longer, improve his pitch selection and stay closed on the front side. Eric agreed with all that, and we both agreed a hitter looking the other way can still react and pull a ball.
The fact that Eric was able to hit a home run to left field is part of what makes Hosmer special: pitchers work the outside corner to rob hitters of their power. A hitter who can take an outside pitch and drive it out of the park the other way, present a real problem for a pitcher.