Games » Detroit TigersOct3
A disappointing finish
The Kansas City Star
Down by one in the fifth inning, Irving Falu led things off with a walk. Jason Bourgeois flew out to left, and Alcides Escobar stepped to the plate. The Royals then pulled off either a perfect hit-and-run or a perfect run-and-hit. (On a hit-and-run, the runner takes off and the batter must try to put the ball in play. On a run-and-hit, the runner takes off and the batter has the option of swinging the bat.)
Either way, Escobar hit the ball through the hole on the right side, and the Royals had runners on first and third with one down.
Alex Gordon stepped to the plate, and I said to the person next to me, “This is the at-bat of the game.”
Wrong again. I figured Gordon had the chance to tie the game with a fly ball or the Tigers had the chance to get out of the inning with a double play. Neither one happened. A pitch temporarily got away from Tigers catcher Alex Avila, and, after a long hesitation, Escobar took off for second. Avila picked up the ball and threw out Esky easily.
Gordon then walked. Luis Marte replaced pitcher Drew Smyly, and Marte walked Butler. Suddenly, the winning run was in scoring position — through no fault of the Royals — and Jeff Francoeur was at the plate. Frenchy had already hit the ball hard twice and made it three times when he hit a screaming line drive to right field. The third time was not a charm.
The ball drove right fielder Andy Dirks deep, but he made the catch, and that was about as close as the Royal would come to winning this one. Kansas City lost 1-0 and finished the season with a 72-90 record. A disappointing finish to a disappointing season.
• Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera came off the field to a standing ovation from the crowd, his teammates and the players in the Kansas City dugout. After the game, Royals manager Ned Yost said we may never see someone do this again in our lifetimes, and he compared the accomplishment to a 30-game winner or hitting .400.
• Alex Gordon told TV reporter Brad Fanning (who then told me) that Prince Fielder deserves some of the credit for Cabrera’s accomplishment. Good point. Just like Billy Butler, who gave credit to the players who got on base so he could drive them in, Cabrera didn’t do it all on his own.
• Ned was also asked whether the Royals have enough offense to compete in 2013, and he said he thought they did. Some people are going to have to step up, but he believes the offensive potential is already there.
• Despite the team’s “Our Time” promotion, the people who should know thought the Royals would win 78 to 81 games this season. Injuries and a 12-game losing streak made sure the Royals missed the mark.
• In the last game of the season, Luis Mendoza threw very well and gave the Royals a chance to win. Going 0-5 with runners in scoring position meant they didn’t.
(Here’s one last look at some of the stats hitting coach Kevin Seitzer keeps. The last two games aren’t included.)
The 2012 Royals had 265 hard-hit outs. Billy Butler led the way with 40 (and I think he had another one Tuesday night), Eric Hosmer was second with 32 and Jeff Francoeur was third with 31 (he definitely had one Wednesday night).
Kevin also keeps track of Quality Plate Appearances (hits, walks, plate appearances of eight or more pitches and hard-hit outs), and anything above .400 is considered excellent. As a team, the Royals put up Quality Plate Appearances at a rate of .399, and the players over .400 were Butler (.468), Chris Getz (.443), Alex Gordon (.433), Salvador Perez (.429) and Jarrod Dyson (.412).
The top three in plate appearances of eight or more pitches were Gordon (21), Francoeur (20) and Butler (18).
It all comes down to this
The guys in the clubhouse were watching the Oakland-Texas game with great interest. They all loved the idea of it coming down to one game on the last day of the season. That is part of what is cool about baseball. Throw a ball away in July, and it might have an effect months later. Blow a lead in the spring, and you might regret it in the fall.
That makes every play important. That means you have to hustle and stay focused game after game. The teams that can do that, that can grind it out day after day and play after play are the ones most likely to be in the playoffs. If you want to play on Oct. 5, the game has to be played the right way all the time.
Professional ballplayers are not big on goodbyes. They just have too many of them in their profession to make a big deal out of each and every one. Wednesday night, guys were packing up, shaking hands and saying have a nice winter. Guys who are especially tight might make plans to get together in the off-season, but for the most part it’s “see you in Arizona.”
Except you might not.
A whole lot can happen in the world of professional sports. That means a guy who just walked out the door will never walk back in. Some guys may get traded, some may have had their “cup of coffee” in the big leagues and, even though they don’t realize it now, will never be back.
I guess the same goes for baseball writers. I think I’ll be back, but until then, have a nice winter.
Since starting this website, I’ve been praised for my great insight into baseball and told I know nothing about the sport. Neither assessment is totally accurate. Whenever someone praises me, I credit the players and coaches who have taken the time to explain what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. That response has the twin virtues of being both modest and accurate.
Whatever I’ve written, whether you loved it or hated it, has originated with the people who actually play the game. That’s been my goal from the beginning: to share the information that the game’s participants have shared with me.
The credit for anything positive this site has accomplished goes to the guys on the dirt. First, the coaches for the Kansas City Royals have been incredibly helpful. They are the first ones on the field every day, and they often spent part of that day explaining some intricacy of baseball to me. The players also bent over backward to answer my questions and explain what was happening on the field. Ned Yost spent a lot of time explaining the moves he made as manager and the logic behind those moves.
These guys want us to understand.
If you demonstrate that you’re really interested in what they’re doing, that you don’t have an axe to grind, that you don’t think you already know all there is to know, they will explain. And that makes the game more interesting for those of us watching from the stands.
I also want to thank the Royals’ front-office people who spent time with me, the guys with Fox Sports Kansas City who gave me airtime on the pregame show and the people back at The Kansas City Star who make the website work, especially the Web editors who get the game notes posted every night, Nicole Poell, who oversees this circus, and John Sleezer, who shoots the videos. (I get a lot of credit for the work that other people do, which, as far as I’m concerned, is damn fine arrangement.)
I’m now ready to take some time off. I’ve been grinding away at this since mid-March, and I’m ready for some downtime. My intention — at this point — is to write something once in a while during the playoffs and over the winter and provide a chat room of sorts for people who want to continue to talk about baseball while the snow flies. Just pop in and leave a comment and see who responds.
It may be me.
My final thanks goes to you, the readers. Without you, there’s no point in doing this. So to all the people who cared enough to check in, thanks.
Lee Judge chats with Royals Alex Gordon about the 2012 season
Kansas City Royals Alex Gordon talks with Lee Judge at the end of the 2012 baseball season. 10/3/12 (Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)