Games » Chicago White SoxSep20
Bottom of the 9th
The Kansas City Star
It was the bottom of the ninth, the game was tied 3-3 and Billy Butler had just come up with another big hit.
Jarrod Dyson came in to pinch run for Billy and everybody in the park knew why: Dyson was there to steal second base. Chicago White Sox reliever Jesse Crain used the entire bag of tricks pitchers have to stop base stealers: Crain threw over to first, held the ball in the stretch position and when he went home, went home quickly.
With nobody out and Salvador Perez at the plate, Crain attempted to pick off Dyson twice. Jarrod just barely got back to first. Crain finally delivered a pitch to the plate and got a called strike. He then attempted two more pickoffs, delivered another pitch to the plate and got another called strike. After the game Jarrod said he wanted to see Crain’s move, but now Dyson couldn’t go — not with an 0-2 count.
Ahead in the count, the White Sox had the luxury of pitching out if they chose to. Even though Dyson can sometimes still steal a base when the opposition pitches out, Crain was so quick to the plate — 1.1 seconds — it made success debatable.
The count moved to 1-2, Crain attempted his fifth pickoff, then delivered the ball home and Dyson took off for second. But Perez flew out to right and Jarrod had to scamper back to first. Then, with Mike Moustakas at the plate, the base-running battle began again. Another pickoff attempt, two balls followed by two strikes, another pickoff attempt and then Dyson took off with the count 2-2.
Moustakas fouled the ball off, Dyson returned to first and Crain once again tried to pick Jarrod off. Mike struck out on the next pitch. There were now two down and Jarrod was still on first base. Dyson was in the game to steal second and so far it hadn’t happened. Crain delivered his first pitch to Jeff Francoeur and Dyson was gone. The play was close at second, but Kansas City now had the winning run in scoring position with one more out to go.
Anytime you open up first base with a steal or a sacrifice bunt, you give the defense an option. With first base open, they can work around a hitter if they choose to. Coming into the series Francoeur was 4 for 9 against Crain. Hosmer — the on-deck hitter — was 1 for 9 against left-handed reliever Matt Thornton. Sox manager Robin Ventura chose to walk Francoeur and bring in Thornton to face Hosmer.
While all this was going on, hitting coach Kevin Seitzer went over Thorton’s pitch arsenal with Hosmer. Eric took a slider for strike one, fouled a fastball back for strike two and then with the game on the line and extra innings looming, took a two-strike approach, shortened up his swing and shot the 0-2 pitch down the left field line for a single. Dyson, who had done all that work to get to in scoring position, scored.
The Royals won 4-3.
In the clubhouse after the game, Jeremy Guthrie said he never settled in and each pitch was a struggle. In some ways, that’s impressive. When a pitcher has his best stuff, getting good results is easier. When a pitcher is scuffling, hanging in for six innings and giving up only one earned run is an accomplishment.
In the 1st inning the Royals put on a left-handed pull hitter shift and Adam Dunn hit the ball the other way for a single. You could say Dunn beat the shift, but you could also say the Royals forced a guy with 39 home runs and 90 RBIs to accept a single to left.
In the 2nd Guthrie issued a leadoff walk and then got Alexei Ramirez to hit a weak grounder to third. Mike Moustakas threw wide of first base and Eric Hosmer showed good judgment in leaving the bag to keep the ball on the infield. Unless an infield single will win the game, the ball is always more important than the bag.
With two on and nobody down, the Sox decided to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Since the bunt was in his direction, third baseman Mike Moustakas had to decide whether he needed to come in to field the ball or retreat to third and cover the bag. Mike made the right call, Guthrie got to the ball in time to force the lead runner at third, but bobbled the ball, rushed his throw to first and wound up with an E1.
With Alex Rios on third base in the 3rd inning, Salvador Perez turned what could have been a passed ball into an outstanding play. The ball got past Salvy, but he got a handle on it and shoveled it to Guthrie, who tagged out Rios when he tried to score from third.
Several things came together for Salvador Perez when he picked Alexei Ramirez off third base: there was one down, so the Sox probably had the “contact play” on (the runner on third breaks for home on contact). That meant Ramirez was fighting for a good lead off third. The other thing Salvy had in his favor was the left-handed hitter at the plate. That meant a clear throwing lane to third base.
Runners on third are taught to take their lead in foul territory (that means they won’t be out if hit by a batted ball) and return to the bag in fair territory (that gives them a chance to block a pickoff throw with their body). Runners are taught to run at the fielder’s glove in hopes of having the throw hit them in the back. Ramirez dove back to the bag in foul territory and avoided getting hit by the throw, but paid the price.
Johnny Giavotella had an outstanding defensive play to retire Adam Dunn in the 2nd and also had a triple that drove in two runs. According to Ned Yost, Gio’s hit turned the game around. The Royals couldn’t get anything going against Francisco Liriano and Johnny’s 5th inning drive put them back in the ball game.
With two outs, Gio took a chance going for three bases. If Johnny had been tagged out before Francoeur (running all the way from first base) touched home plate, the run wouldn’t have counted.
The White Sox stacked three lefties at the top of their order (Alejandro De Aza, Dewayne Wise and Adam Dunn) which made the 7th inning a bit easier for left-handed Francisley Bueno. He got through the inning with six pitches and without a ball being hit hard.
When Ned Yost stacks three lefties, he’ll make sure the middle lefthander has a right-handed alternative on the bench. That way the opposition can’t bring in a lefty reliever to get three outs. Either Robin Ventura didn’t set it up that way or he just wasn’t ready to pinch hit for Dewayne Wise in the 7th.
Using closer Greg Holland in a tie game in the top of the ninth bought the Royals two shots at winning the game: either they win it in the bottom of the 9th or — if they fail to score — they get another shot in the bottom of the 10th.
Good thing the Royal won it in the bottom of the 9th because the White Sox had the heart of their order coming up in the 10th.
A poor student
I asked Bruce Chen if he could teach me to throw a curve. Well, Bruce tried, but he didn’t have much with which to work. Bruce started by trying to teach me an easier version of the curve ball: instead of throwing overhand and pulling down on the front of the ball, I held it off-center and pulled down on the side of the ball. (We have a video coming that shows what I mean.)
I didn’t have much arm speed and I was standing too close to home plate (we were using the indoor hitting facility and space was limited), but even though my expectations were low, the results were disappointing. The ball maybe dipped a bit down and to the left, but when Bruce — who was trying to be encouraging — turned to Mike Jirschele and asked, “That’s curving, right?” Mike seemed unimpressed.
So then we went to the overhand curve and that looked a bit better, it wasn’t sharp, but you could see some movement. Unfortunately — as Bruce pointed out — the bend that was visible to me would also be visible to the hitters. If a pitcher throws everything flat and hard and then a high-arcing rainbow comes out of his hand, hitters will pick it up immediately.
They might lay off it once if they haven’t seen it, but the second time a curve is lollipopped up to the plate, they’ll wait back and pound it. All the pitches need to come out of the hand on the same plane and then move.
Enjoy the video when it comes out; Bruce is informative and interesting and I’m just pathetic. In the meantime, I need to go ice my arm.