Games » Chicago White SoxSep18
The Kansas City Star
Tuesday afternoon, the Royals were about to play their 16th game of the season against the Chicago White Sox. After seeing the same team so many times, were the Royals planning on throwing something new at them?
According to several coaches and players, the answer was no. Everyone knows what the opposition brings to the table. They just don’t know how well they will execute it that night.
And that brings us to Luke Hochevar. Luke pitched well. He threw seven innings, gave up three earned runs and didn’t walk anybody. But he didn’t execute three fastballs as well as he would have liked, and those three poorly executed fastballs cost him the game.
1.) In the first inning, Hochevar threw a 1-0 91-mph fastball to leadoff hitter Alejandro De Aza. Luke wanted it “belt in” (belt high and inside), but left it in the middle of the plate. De Aza homered to right.
2.) In the sixth inning, Hochevar threw a 1-0 91-mph fastball to Gordon Beckham. Luke wanted the ball down and away. It ended up in the middle of the plate. Beckham homered to left.
3.) In the seventh inning, Hochevar threw a 3-0 91-mph fastball to Alex Rios. Luke had a gut feeling that Rios had the 3-0 green light (managers like to give it to power hitters). Thinking Rios might be hacking, Luke tried to “step on the gas,” but the pitch stayed up and Rios homered to deep left.
Cy Young winner David Cone once said any pitch was the right pitch if it was well-executed. Any of the pitches Hochevar threw would have been fine if he had got them to their intended locations. Any time you can look at a game and say three pitches did all the damage, the pitcher pitched well — but in this case, not well enough.
Blame those three fastballs.
• Alex Gordon hit his 48th double of the season in the first inning. It seems as though about half of them were hustle doubles. Gordon has the good sense to always bust it out of the box and take advantage of any momentary bobble or lack of hustle by the defense.
• Butler then drove in Alex and David Lough (who led off the first with a walk) for his 96th and 97th RBIs of 2012. That is another personal best, and with 14 games left, it seems Billy has a very good shot at his first 100-RBI year.
• In the fourth inning, the Royals put on a left-handed shift against Chicago batter Adam Dunn. Second baseman Tony Abreu was playing in short right field, and Hochevar was pounding Dunn inside, trying to make the White Sox DH pull the ball. Luke got the job done, but Abreu didn’t. Dunn pulled the ball, but Tony made an error that allowed Dunn to go to all the way to second base.
• Two things about that error: Abreu did not “body up.” That means getting his body behind the ball so that if he missed the catch, the ball would hit his body, fall to the ground and give Tony a chance to make the play.
Here’s the second thing: The ball was smoked. Most of the time, if an infielder gets a glove on a ball, it slows the ball down so it still is somewhere in the infielder’s vicinity. This ball ate up Abreu and just kept going into right field.
• Before the game, one of the White Sox told Trevor Vance that the Royals’ infield is the fastest infield in the league. Trevor wasn’t buying it, but even if it’s one of the fastest that will affect the number of balls that Kansas City infielders can reach.
• Of course, if your infielders have more range than the opponent’s infielders, a fast infield can be an advantage.
• Chicago’s A.J. Pierzynski didn’t get the memo and decided to challenge Alex Gordon’s arm in the fifth inning. This was bad idea for two reasons. One, A.J. was the leadoff batter and was trying to stretch a single into a double. That’s a better risk with two outs than none. Two, Alex is really good at throwing out runners.
• After the game, I asked Alex whether playing third helped with outfield assists. Gordon is not afraid to charge a ball and has a quick release. Both are necessary skills for a third baseman.
Alex agreed then said something I hadn’t considered. The angles for a third baseman and a left fielder are somewhat the same. A third baseman throwing to first is working the same angles as a left fielder playing a ball down the line and throwing to second. The distances are just greater.
• Alex added that when he first started playing the outfield, he made a lot of mistakes on balls off the wall. He had to learn to slow down and make sure he fielded the ball cleanly. Any bobble, and he wouldn’t get the runner. Fielders can make up time by charging the ball and throwing it hard, but the time in between — the transition between catching and throwing the ball — is bad time to rush.
• In the fourth inning, Francoeur hit a ball off the top of the left-field wall. A couple feet higher, and this would have been a different ballgame.
This game marked the beginning of the Royals’ sixth series against the White Sox. Speaking as a fan — and a fan that has to watch all 162 games — I would rather see the Royals play division rivals less often and teams outside the division more often.
But the Royals coaches might not agree.
Until recently, I hadn’t considered what a pain in the neck interleague play can be for a coaching staff. Any time a new series begins, coaches have to spend hours putting together a game plan.
Outfield coach Rusty Kuntz and infield coach Eddie Rodriguez have to study spray charts and hitters’ tendencies to decide where to position the defense. Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer has to study pitcher tendencies and decide on an offensive plan of attack. Pitching coach Dave Eiland, the catchers and pitchers have to devise a plan for getting opposing hitters out.
All this takes hours of homework. On the first day of a series, coaches might be at the stadium by 10 a.m. to prepare for a 7:10 p.m. game. This work has to be done whether the team is preparing for three interleague games or 18 division games.
But by the sixth series, the coaches have a pretty decent idea of what the other team does. They may need to brush up the game plan by adjusting to any new tendencies that the other team has begun to exhibit, but at least they’re not starting from scratch.
So while I might like to see a new team play the Royals, a series against a familiar team is a lot less work for coaches.
It’s amazing. I played baseball for 20 years. I’m in my third year of covering the Royals, and just about every day someone tells me something I didn’t know. Here’s Tuesday’s revelation: A base-runner has to start his slide sooner in the latter stages of a game.
This came from Rusty Kuntz while he was talking about Jarrod Dyson over-sliding second base on a steal attempt in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game. According to Rusty, baseball fields dry out as the game progresses. The infield dirt is harder later in a game than it was at the beginning.
Speedsters such as Dyson need to take that into account. Their slides will not stop as quickly in the ninth inning as they did in the first. Rusty said most over-slides happen later in games.
It wouldn’t be fair
Unless he gets in a bind, Ned Yost will not play any September call-ups against contending teams. Ned doesn’t think it would be fair to the Detroit Tigers to play anything less than his best team against the Chicago White Sox. He will take the same attitude when the Royals play Detroit.
If you want to see the rookies in action, check out the games against Cleveland. The current plan is for rookie right-hander Jake Odorizzi to start against the Indians this weekend.