Games » Chicago White SoxJul9
Even in a blowout, every baseball game has interesting plays. Let’s see if we can find a few. I’m looking … I’m looking … I’m looking. OK, here we go: Bruce Chen lost points for a mental error when he picked up a sacrifice bunt and threw to first for the out.
Bruce could’ve gone to third to force Paul Konerko. Konerko apparently runs like he’s dragging a sofa behind him and Chen had plenty of time. Jason Kendall was calling for the play to go to third (the pitcher has his head down, picking up the ball, so the catcher lets him know where the throw’s going). Ned Yost said Chen didn’t hear Kendall, but after the game Chen admitted he didn’t even think of third and he should’ve. The decision cost him a run.
(Ever notice how often Bruce Chen thanks his teammates and the Royals organization in postgame interviews? It’s one of the reasons he’s popular. Bruce once again proved to be a stand-up guy when he refused to blame feeling poorly … strep throat … for his performance.)
Bruce gets the points back…
Chen picked off two runners at first. It’s one of the reasons managers like having lefties in the bullpen. They can not only match up against left-handed hitters, but if they’ve got a good move to first, they can shut down a running game.
Mike Aviles picked up points for hustling down and breaking up any chance at a White Sox double play. The correct technique is a hard slide at the pivot man’s feet. The runner throws his hands up to protect his head (and if one of those hands happens to catch a foot of the leaping pivot man and flip him, so much the better). What isn’t acceptable is a pop-up slide into the pivot man’s midsection. This can trap the defender’s foot under the runner and result in a blown-out knee when the pop-up slide occurs.
If this happens, it’s not unusual to see punches thrown afterward. It’s one of those unwritten rules of baseball … but didn’t I just write it? So I guess it’s not unwritten anymore.
Twice Jason Kendall blocked a ball in the dirt with a runner on third. Just another day at the office.
A step back…
I’ve written about the importance of pitchers like Bruce Chen pitching ahead. If Bruce gets into a count where the hitter knows he has to throw a fastball to throw a strike, Chen doesn’t have enough fastball to get away with it.
Victor Marte wasn’t in the zone often enough and walked two in the eighth. Both scored. More strikes from Victor, a better decision by Bruce on the bunt and the Royals give up three fewer runs. Not significant in this game, but it will be in others.
Jason wins the battle and loses the war…
With a runner on first Jason Kendall is almost always trying to shoot the ball to the right side, through the hole created by the first baseman holding the runner. If I know this, Mark Buehrle does and that’s why he kept trying to jam Jason with fastballs in the first inning. (Scott Podsednik was on first.)
The hitter wants to use the open side of the field; the pitcher wants a groundball to the left side to start a double play.
The only pitch from Buehrle that wasn’t a fastball in, was a change-up, designed to make Kendall pull the ball. Jason recognized it and laid off. Buehrle eventually left one a little too far out over the plate and Kendall hit it hard, but too hard, and lined out to right field.
No matter the score, it’s small but important situations like these that are the heart of baseball. Too many observers focus on the outcome (Oooooh an F9!…How thrilling!) and miss the effort.
Now you can watch for the same thing when Kendall comes to the plate with a runner on first. Everybody knows Kendall goes the other way well and that’s why people are pitching him in. That’s also why Jason has made an adjustment and started pulling the ball (when the situation allows it) during his current hot streak.
Really, if you don’t watch for this stuff, you’re missing the ballgame. There’s an old saying, “Baseball is like church…many attend, but few understand.”
Be one of the few.