Games » Detroit TigersSep26
The bottom of the eighth
The Kansas City Star
Let’s start by saying that Irving Falu played a very good game. Any time a utility player has three hits, scores a run, makes three outstanding defensive plays and almost makes a fourth, you’ve gotta say that’s a good game.
But Falu was also involved in two plays that did not go so well, and, unfortunately, those two plays changed the game.
Let’s go back to the beginning of the eighth inning. Kelvin Herrera was on in relief of Jeremy Guthrie. The score was tied 4-4, and Detroit’s Prince Fielder was at the plate. Herrera was behind in the count 2-1 and threw Fielder a 97-mph fastball, which left home plate going about 197 mph toward deep center field. Fortunately, deep center field in Detroit is real deep, and David Lough ran a long way and then made a leaping catch. One out.
Next, Herrera had Delmon Young in an 0-2 count, and Young hit a ground ball to Eric Hosmer’s right. Hosmer dove and deflected the ball to Falu, who was playing second base. Irving made an acrobatic play to even get a throw off, but it was low, and Herrera, who was covering first, couldn’t hang on. Pinch-runner Don Kelly replaced Young and then stole second base. Falu was the cover man on the steal but got behind the bag to take the throw.
Styles of play change, but I’ve heard a number of “old-school” ballplayers criticize current ballplayers for not straddling second base when taking a throw from the catcher. The old guys think the young guys don’t want to mix it up with the runners and avoid that by being in front of or behind the bag.
I haven’t watched Falu enough to know if his positioning is the way he always does it or he got caught in a bad spot and couldn’t get where he wanted to be. (Chris Getz, as old school as a young player can be, says sometimes you have to come out in front of the bag to be able to react to throws that tail off to the right-field side.)
Whatever the reason, Falu was behind second and, according to the umpire, applied the tag late.
Andy Dirks singled to left. Kelly was held at third because the Tigers didn’t want to add to Alex Gordon’s outfield assist total. The Tigers had runners on first and third with one down. Jhonny Peralta hit a grounder to Mike Moustakas, and Moose didn’t hesitate. He went for the double play. Mike could have gone to home plate and cut down the runner, but that would have given the Tigers another at-bat with a runner in scoring position.
Falu covered second and got the first out, but he didn’t clear the bag. Dirks, the runner on first, got to Falu and broke up the double play. (When sliding into the pivot man, a base-runner puts his hands up to protect his head. And if he happens to hook the pivot man’s leg and flip him, so much the better. Dirks’ left hand caught Falu’s leg. Had Falu been able to make the catch and tag and then get away from the bag by continuing forward, Dirks would have had a more difficult time making contact.)
Dirks got to Falu. Falu could not get a throw off. The run scored, and the Tigers won their third game in a row 5-4.
• Detroit starter Rick Porcello is a sinkerball pitcher so, no surprise, hitters want to wait for a pitch up in the zone. When a sinkerballer gets the ball down, hitters are likely to hit the top half and pound the ball into the ground.
• Porcello got a few too many pitches up, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland went to his bullpen to start the fifth inning. Justin Verlander threw eight innings on Monday, and Anibal Sanchez threw a complete game on Tuesday. That meant the Tigers’ relievers fully rested and Leyland could go to them early.
• That’s why it’s such a big deal for a starting pitcher to go deep in a game. It not only helps his team on the night he pitches, it can help his team the next night, too.
• Austin Jackson was on second base with no one out in the first inning when Quintin Berry hit a ball out in front of the mound. Guthrie had to hustle to pick up the ball and get an out at first. Jackson did not advance to third on the play.
• Jackson staying at second cost Miguel Cabrera an RBI when the Tigers’ third baseman grounded out up the middle. Prince Fielder then grounded out to third, and Jackson never scored.
• Alex Gordon got his 50thand 51st doubles to tie Billy Butler for second on the Royals’ all-time doubles list. (Hal McRae is first with 54.) The first double was a hustle double on a shallow fly ball that kicked away from the defender. Alex’s accomplishment just points out how impressive Butler’s record is. Billy does not get many hustle doubles. Most of the time he has to crush the ball to get a double.
• Gordon scored with a headfirst slide at home plate, a technique that is not generally advisable. You might run into a big guy wearing catcher’s gear. (Gotta love the hustle, though.)
• Porcello got a called third strike on David Lough when he threw a 90-mph two-seam fastball inside to the left-handed hitter. The trick works this way: Start the pitch in off the plate, get the lefty to raise his hands to avoid being hit and let the two-seam movement run the ball back over the plate.
• In the fourth inning, Avila and Jackson hit home runs off Guthrie. According to MLB.com, both homers came on change-ups. Most of the time, a pitcher wants a change-up start in the zone and then drop down out of the zone. A poorly thrown change will start in or above the zone and stay in the zone — until someone smokes it.
• The home runs will get the attention, but don’t overlook the walk to Jhonny Peralta. He scored in front of the Avila home run.
• In the fifth, Gordon went up and over the left field fence to take a home run away from Miguel Cabrera. After the game, manager Ned Yost called the catch routine, and he kind of has a point. Alex was there in plenty of time and didn’t have to do much more than jump straight up and catch the ball.
• But Gordon made the catch routine by doing everything right. He got to the wall early, got one hand on the wall so he knew where he was and timed his catch perfectly. Put a lesser outfielder in the same situation and the play might not look so routine.
• The catch that Yost called phenomenal came in the same inning. Detroit’s Delmon Young hit a pop fly directly behind Alcides Escobar, and Esky took off into the outfield with his back to the infield. The ball came directly over Esky’s head, and that meant Alcides had to look straight up and wait for the ball to appear, running blindly to what he hoped would be the right spot. It was. The Royals shortstop slid, caught the ball and popped up to make the throw back to the infield.
• If you didn’t see the play last night, find it on the Internet. It will be well worth your time.
• A straight-over-the-head catch is so difficult because the fielder can’t track the ball. All he can do is look straight up and hope that when the ball appears, he’s in the right spot.
• Jeff Francoeur hit the deck when he got a pitch up and in. Once a hitter gets straightened up — or knocked down — by a fastball up and in, look for the pitcher to next throw a breaking pitch or something away. The pitcher figures the hitter might not be too eager to hang in on a slider or lean out over the plate for something on the outside corner. (Frenchy got a slider, then a fastball and grounded out on a nice play by Jhonny Peralta.)
• After Falu’s third hit in the seventh inning, with the game tied 4-4, David Lough could not get a bunt down to move Falu into scoring position.
• After Lough flew out, Yost put on a hit-and-run. The Tigers pitched out, and Falu was trapped between bases. Lough’s failure to get the bunt down cost the Royals two shots at driving in the go-ahead run.
• Detroit reliever Joaqin Benoit came in to pitch the eighth inning, and he faced the heart of the Royals order, Gordon, Butler and Perez. Benoit followed the book and stayed away from power late. In other words, he threw pitches on the outer half and made the big guys beat him by going the other way.
• Gordon grounded out. Butler struck out. Perez singled. And Mike Moustakas tried to beat Benoit by going the other way but came up short on a fly ball to left.
• The Butler at-bat showed what a good pitcher can do when he falls behind in the count. On a 3-1 fastball count, Butler got a slider. When the count went to 3-2, Butler got a change-up. Good pitchers can throw any pitch in any count. Hitters can’t sit on fastball.
• Coming into this game, the Royals were 9-0 in Guthrie’s last nine starts. He got the win four times and kept his team close enough to win the other five.