Games » St. Louis CardinalsJun27
How the heck does Bruce Chen throw 64 pitches, walk four and hit one in the first two innings and give up only one run? Houdini would’ve been proud of that escape act. Bruce gave a lot of credit to Jason Kendall for helping him through the rough spots. Sorry, I know I’m on a Jason Kendall jag recently, but I believe a good defensive catcher is worth his weight in Babe Ruth autographed baseballs (Actually, I have no idea what that would be worth, but it sounds like a lot.)
Bruce said Jason talked him through it, got him to throw his off-speed stuff when he didn’t have to so it would be there when he did, changed strategies as the game demanded and generally brought a leaky boat through a storm. (That last part was me, not Bruce.)
Before the game I spent some time with Jason and learned:
*The radar gun at the stadium is probably a couple miles an hour too hot. (You mean Greinke only throws 98?) *Zack IS special: he can pitch his way into a corner and power his way out with great stuff. *The rest of the staff needs to throw strike one, pitch ahead in the count and avoid having to throw a fastball in a fastball count. *The other guys also need to add and subtract (varying the speeds on each pitch by just a few miles an hour) to mess with the hitter’s timing. *Low and away is every pitchers safety zone; if they can get it there, they won’t get hurt too badly. If they miss, up and away is a different story. *He sometimes uses side bets with pitchers (“get us through this inning in 10 pitches or less and I owe you a cold beer”) to get them focused (all these guys are incredibly competitive and even small challenges can bring that out). *Anytime there’s a runner on first, he’s trying to go to the right side and take advantage of the hole caused by holding the runner. *He’d been getting his pitch and just missing it, but felt like he was about to break out…which he did a couple hours later. *And he’s not buying my claim to be responsible for the three-hit, four-RBI game that followed our conversation. (I told him I had a lot of unused hits in me and had obviously transferred a few to him). Like I said, he wasn’t buying, but he did ask me to stop by next time he was scuffling.
Betemit hit a three-run homer that turned the game around. I view home runs like finding $20 bills on the street: you’re happy to have them, but it’s not a financial plan. Fred McGriff was asked how he hit 30 home runs every season. Fred said, “There’s a certain pitch, in a certain location that I’ll hit for a home run. 30 times a year some pitcher’s dumb enough to throw it to me.”
Viewed that way, the pitcher controls when a home run is hit. The hitter can’t force it (unless he knows a really good pharmacist). It happens when it happens. As Ted Williams once said, “The best hitter in the world can’t hit a bad ball good.”
You can plan on being fast and playing good defense and throwing strikes, but you can’t plan on home runs.
The Mitch and Mike Show…
Mitch Maier and Mike Aviles roomed together in the minors and now have side by side lockers in the Royals clubhouse. They bicker like two old ladies (two very funny old ladies). When I walked in, Mitch was dogging Mike about waiting until the last minute to fill out his All-Star ballot, which led to Mike arguing that he beat the deadline and it wasn’t mandatory anyway, to which Mitch responded…OK, you get the idea.
I had a question for Mike and here’s a rough idea of how the conversation went…
Me: “I want to ask you about your bat flip.” Mike: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Me: “You’ve got the best bat flip on the team and I wanted to know if you have different flips for different occasions: a home run flip, a single flip, a flip for when you’re disgusted with what you’ve done.” Mike: (Starting to laugh) “I’m unaware I’m doing that.” Mitch: “You do it all the time.” Me: “Should we go to the videotape?” Mike: “People SAY I do it all the time. Ask Mitch about HIS bat flip.” Mitch: “I flip the bat if I’m disgusted by a pop-up. Mike flips the bat on hits.” Me: “So Mike’s into style. Did you see the pre-game show piece on his batting gloves?” Mitch: “What’s he done now?” Me: “His batting gloves have to be just right or he won’t wear them and if they don’t produce, they don’t get to play in games.” Mitch: “He’s right: gloves AND bats. See that bat over there?” (Indicating a bat between their lockers.) “That bat’s in time-out. It’s a good bat, but it needs to think about what it did.” (At this point, Mike comes by and takes a swipe at knocking the glove off Mitch’s hand. Mitch jerks it out of the way.) Mitch: “I saw that coming a mile away.” Mike: (Looking back, laughing.) “He knows all my tricks.”
At that point, Mitch and Mike left for BP… and they were arguing.