Games » Cleveland IndiansSep22
A marvelous moment
The Kansas City Star
If you truly love baseball, you still can find marvelous moments within a long and disappointing season. Moments that make you glad you came to the park even though your team is 12 games under without a prayer of going to the post-season. Moments that make you nudge the person next to you and say, “Did you see that?” Moments that make you glad you were there.
Saturday night, Jeff Francoeur gave baseball fans another one of those moments.
After a very good year in 2011, Francoeur has had a long and disappointing season in 2012. His batting average is down, his RBIs are down, his stolen bases are down — but the dude still can throw.
With one out in the ninth inning of a 5-3 ballgame and the Indians down by two, Cleveland’s Shin-Soo Choo lined a ball into the right-field corner. Francouer went to his left to cut it off. That meant he was going away from second base and would have no momentum on the throw. Whatever Jeff did with the ball, it would be all arm.
With most outfielders, that means an easy double. Choo made the mistake of heading for second. Francoeur caught the ball, spun around and launched a high, arcing throw that landed right on the money. Alcides Escobar caught the ball just in front of second base and actually had to wait for Choo to arrive to make the tag.
Without Francoeur’s 19th outfield assist of the season, the Indians would have had the tying run at the plate and the heart of the order due up. Frenchy’s throw pushed the tying run back to the on-deck circle and gave reliever Kelvin Herrera some breathing space. The tying run never made it to the plate. The throw changed the game.
A marvelous moment in a long, disappointing season.
• It was a mistake for Choo to go for two down by two. If he had stayed at first, the tying run would have been at the plate. And if the tying run — the only meaningful run — had scored, Choo would have, too.
After the game I asked Ned Yost why people kept running on Francoeur. The short version of his answer goes like this: because Francoeur should not be able to consistently make throws as difficult as the one he made on Choo.
When Jeff let the ball go, I thought, “No way.” Apparently, Ned thought something along the same lines, because he didn’t think Jeff would throw the runner out either…right up until he did.
• Billy Butler got his 100th RBI of the season — not a bad moment, either — and is now shooting for 30 home runs. (He needs three more.) Billy also gave credit to the 73 people who got on base and scored in front of him.
• In the second inning, Eric Hosmer stole third base. Eric tagged the back of the bag, which made sense. Bases are 15 inches wide (I got that off the internet, but it sounds right), and by tagging the back of the base, Eric made the catcher’s throw 15 inches longer.
• If the throw comes from the outfield, a base-runner will go to the inside of the bag and make the outfielder throws 15 inches longer.
• Cleveland’s Ubaldo Jimenez hit Jeff Francoeur with a pitch, but the pitch was a curveball. Pitchers do not use breaking pitches to intentionally hit batters, so no one was mad about anything.
• On the other hand, Jeff did not make an incredible effort to get out of the way of the pitch. That might be because he recognized breaking pitch and was waiting for the pitch to actually break. When it didn’t, it was too late to do anything.
• If a pitcher suspects a hitter decided to wear one to get an easy base, the pitcher might say, “Hey, if you want to get hit by a pitch, try this one,” and drill a guy with something a bit more firm.
• People are setting records all over the place. Billy’s RBIs. Hosmer’s stolen bases for a first baseman. Escobar’s hits for a shortstop. And Brayan Pena joined in with his first major-league triple.
After the game, manager Ned Yost was asked whether Brayan was deceptively fast. Ned said he thought Brayan popped a chute halfway to third. (Those last 45 feet are tiring.) With no outs, going for third is a risky move, but if you make it, you’ve got a good argument for doing it.
• Francoeur also turned a double into a single in the fifth inning when he kept Cleveland’s Thomas Neal from going for two. The fact that Jeff saved a base will be obscured by the fact that the next batter, Cord Phelps, hit a home run.
• Jeff also made a catch in the eighth off Russ Canzler that saved another run. The threat of Jeff’s arm kept Michael Brantley on second base and that meant Aaron Crow did not have to deal with a runner on third for the rest of the inning. I’m guessing Aaron appreciated that.
• With the score tied at 2 in the bottom of the fifth, Alex Gordon walked, Billy Butler Butler flew out, Mike Moustakas walked and Jeff Francoeur singled. Third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez held Gordon up at third and got some boos from the crowd for doing so.
It appeared Gordon would have been out at home if left fielder Thomas Neal had made a good throw. Neal already had demonstrated a strong arm earlier in the game. (He threw the ball on the fly from left field to first base in an attempt to double off Hosmer. If the throw had been on line, he would have gotten Eric.)
• With the bases loaded, Hosmer’s ground ball resulted in an off-line throw home, which pulled the catcher off the plate. The Royals led 3-2. With the bases still loaded, Brayan Pena did a nice piece of situational hitting and drove in Mike Moustakas from third with a sac fly. The Royals led 4-2.
• That set up the final run of the inning, and the key was Pena making the second out. With Francoeur on second, Irving Falu singled to left. With two outs, Eddie Rodriguez got very aggressive and sent Francoeur home.
Once again, it appeared the runner would have been out at the plate if Neal had made a good throw. But with two outs Eddie Rodriguez could push the envelope. Neal — who has been in the big leagues about 22 days — got excited, rushed the throw and neglected to catch the baseball on his first attempt. E-7. Francouer scored, and Royals were up 5-3. And that was your final score.
• Over the last 53 games, the Cleveland Indians are 12-41. Now that’s a rough patch.
A look back at Friday night
In the fifth inning, with the score 3-1 and two down, Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera stole third base. Mike Moustakas never moved to cover the bag, and Brayan Pena made no throw. On Saturday afternoon, Mike said that they had talked about it and decided not to cover if Cabrera took off. The runner was already in scoring position with two down, and the Royals didn’t want to give up defensive positioning to stop a stolen base that wouldn’t change the situation that dramatically. With one down, it would be a different story.
The stat sheet shows catcher Brayan Pena gave up a stolen base, but the stat sheet doesn’t tell the whole story.
In the second inning of the same game, Irving Falu drove Brayan Pena in from second base, but got caught between first and second in a base-running mistake and eventually was tagged out.
Here is what happened: David Lough was on first at the time. Falu hit the ball and got all the way to third base before Eddie Rodriguez threw up a stop sign. For some reason, Falu thought Lough was trying to score, so Irving tried to take second on the throw.
After the play, Falu told first-base coach Rusty Kuntz that he was “too jacked up.” Rusty said that is common with players who don’t get many opportunities. They try too hard because they want to make an impression.
You’ve got to start somewhere
Jake Odorizzi will make his first major-league start for the Royals at 1:10 p.m. Sunday. Whatever happens, there should be some positives. First, he’ll get it over with. As Ned Yost pointed out, a ballplayer’s whole life has led to this moment — his first appearance in the big leagues.
Second, if Odorizzi gets his rear end handed to him, he can start making the adjustments necessary to stay in the big leagues. Pitches that get chased in Omaha will get spit on in Kansas City. A fastball that might dazzle in Des Moines will get ripped in Detroit. The game is faster, and the players are better. Few rookies skate through their early big-league appearances.
Yost pointed out that Will Smith, who didn’t have a dynamite major-league debut, went back to the minors, worked on his game and came back a different pitcher — a pitcher who just won his sixth game.
So whatever happens to Jake Odorizzi on Sunday, remember: When it comes to learning how to pitch in the big leagues, you’ve got to start somewhere.