Games » Cleveland IndiansSep30
The 10-run fifth
The Kansas City Star
Coming into the fifth inning, Royals starter Luke Hochevar had thrown 65 pitches and given up one run. Two-thirds of an inning later, Luke had thrown 103 pitches and given up nine runs. Hochevar’s roller-coaster season ended on a low point, a 15-3 Royals loss.
The fifth inning started with a double by Cleveland’s Shin-Soo Choo. Hochevar seemed to ignore Choo, who then stole third. Jason Kipnis doubled on a curveball, and Choo scored. Asdrubal Cabrera bunted for a single and Kipnis moved to third. Pitching coach Dave Eiland visited the mound, and Hochevar then struck out Lonnie Chisenhall.
With runners at first and third and one down, Hochevar was a ground ball away from getting out of the inning. But then he hung a curve to Jack Hannahan. Luke struck out Hannahan on a curve in the third inning, but this curve was up, and Hannahan doubled. Kipnis scored, and Cabrera wound up on third.
With first base open, Brent Lillibridge walked on five pitches. Without talking to Luke, I couldn’t tell you for sure, but when first is open, it gives the pitcher a base to work with. If Luke thought he could get Lillibridge to chase pitches just off the plate, he was wrong.
Pitchers will sometimes try to use a hitter’s aggressiveness against him (especially with runners in scoring position), but if that was what Luke was doing, Lillibridge didn’t bite. Hochevar had the bases loaded once again.
A double play still would have gotten Hochevar out of the inning with the score 3-0. Casey Kotchman hit a grounder to Billy Butler at first, and Billy attempted a 3-6-3 double play, the hardest double play there is. (It usually takes two long throws instead of a short flip and one long throw.) The Royals got the lead runner (and according to Bob Dutton’s story, even that out was a gift). But the Royals couldn’t turn two. That meant Cabrera scored, and there were runners at first and third — again.
Hochevar then walked Lou Marson (who ended the day hitting .230), and the bases were loaded again. (OK. Going through this disaster blow by blow is starting to seem a little masochistic, but if I had to sit through it in real time, the least you can do is read about it.) Where we we? Oh, yeah. Hochevar then hit Jason Donald with a curveball, which forced in another run. Then Shin-Soo Choo — who seemed to be coming to the plate every 15 minutes — singled, driving in two more.
Saturday night, the Royals bullpen supplied 12 innings of pitching, and I’m guessing Yost wanted Luke to go as deep as he could in this game, but that was it. Ned went to the pen and brought in Everett Teaford.
• The bullpen, which has been outstanding for much of the season, didn’t help matters. Everett Teaford, facing the left-handed Jason Kipnis, walked him on four pitches. Everett then threw Asdrubal Cabrera a 1-1 fastball that ran back inside and Cabrera hit a grand slam.
• A 10-run inning will generally take you out of a ballgame, and this 10-run inning was no exception. Ned began to bring in bench players and let some of the regulars sit down.
• Before he left the game, Salvador Perez singled and ended the day hitting .301. Yost has said it is only fair to put the best possible team on the field against contenders, but if it weren’t Detroit coming in to finish the season, would Sal sit the last three games and finish with a .300 average?
• In some ways, it looks as if the Royals are limping to the finish line. Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar have shoulder injuries, and Mike Moustakas came out of this game with a groin problem. (I know the feeling. At my age, I have a groin problem almost every day.)
• A lot of these guys have never played 162 games before, and these last few games may be a learning experience.
• Imagine if the Royals had made the playoffs and another month of baseball was a possibility.
• Some of these games may see meaningless (and a 15-3 game against Cleveland comes close), but guys are playing to make next year’s team. What Jeremy Jeffress, Tony Abreu or Irving Falu does in a blowout still matters.
• Recently, Jeremy Guthrie had a start where he said every pitch was a battle and he had to figure out a way to fight through not having his best stuff. He did. Hochevar has not demonstrated the ability to do the same. When things go bad, they go very bad.
• According to Bob Dutton’s game story, this was the seventh time in 32 starts that Hochevar had allowed at least seven runs. Luke has been excellent at times, but when he’s bad, he gives his team almost no chance to win.
• I’ve got no inside scoop, but the betting is that Luke will be back next year but at the back of the rotation, not the front.
Getting it right
(This is another piece I wrote a while ago and never found time to post.)
When Johnny Giavotella got back to the major leagues, I told him the same thing I tell all the players: If you ever think I got something wrong, come tell me.
When the team is in town, I can run downstairs after a game and talk to the people involved. When the Royals are on the road, I give my opinion, but sometimes I can’t confirm that what I thought happened actually happened.
If a player tells me I’ve got something wrong, even if I disagree, I still will give his side of the story. I’m much more concerned with getting it right than being right.
Years ago, I was watching a game in which the starting pitcher was getting knocked around pretty good. I expected the manager to pull him, but he didn’t. The pitcher’s ERA was going up like a car’s odometer and yet he was still out there, flinging pitches at the plate and getting them roped all over the park. The starter stayed in the game far longer than seemed reasonable.
After the game, I asked one of the coaches what was up with leaving the starter in so long. The coach told me that the pitcher had complained that the manager came to get him too soon “so we left him.” Hey, you think we come get you too soon? OK, hotshot, get out of it on your own.
The team was already losing and buried in the standings, so cooking the starter wasn’t costing much. It also allowed management to send a message to the other players: Shut up, do your job and let us do ours. Fans probably thought they had just seen an awful managing job. What they really saw was a manager dealing with a problem.
It just goes to show, you never know.