Ballplayers will tell you that when teams are going bad, they can’t get their act together. If the pitcher throws a gem, the offense does nothing. If the offense puts up nine runs, the pitchers give up 10. When a team is going good, it’s just the opposite. If the starting pitcher gives up four runs in 6⅔ innings, the offense scores seven.
By LEE JUDGE
The Kansas City Star
Right now the Royals are going good.
Give Jeremy Guthrie credit. He limited the damage. Guthrie gave up three home runs, but all were solo shots. A lot of the time, a solo shot won’t kill you. It’s walking two guys first and then giving up a home run that buries your team.
On Monday, the Royals’ offense couldn’t score, and starter Ervin Santana picked them up. He gave up one run in eight innings and kept the Royals in the game. On Tuesday night, Guthrie scuffled a bit, and the offense picked him up by outscoring the Twins 7-4.
After Opening Day, manager Ned Yost said his players had confidence in one another. If someone struggles, they believe someone else will pick them up.
It’s what happens when you’re going good.
The decisive pitch
A pitcher gives up a home run, and everyone focuses on that pitch. Where was it? Was it a bad pitch? Should the pitcher have thrown something else?
But sometimes the decisive pitch comes earlier in the at-bat. In the first inning Tuesday night, Guthrie had the Twins’ Joe Mauer in a 2-1 count. Guthrie threw a sinker and did not get the call. If the sinker had been called a strike, Guthrie then could have worked out of the zone. Mauer would have faced a 2-2 count and would have had to protect against any borderline pitch. But because the sinker was called a ball, Guthrie was in a 3-1 count and couldn’t nibble.
The decisive pitch in an at-bat isn’t always the ball that is put in play. Sometimes the at-bat turns on one of the previous pitches.
Holland gets the save
With a 7-4 lead, Greg Holland came in to pitch the ninth inning in a driving rainstorm. He got Minnesota’s Trevor Plouffe on a ball hit to Alex Gordon for the first out, walked Chris Parmelee, struck out pinch-hitter Wilkin Ramirez, gave up a single to Eduardo Escobar and then walked Darin Mastroianni.
If you’ve been counting along, you know that’s three base-runners. The tying run was on first, and the go-ahead run was at the plate.
And the go-ahead run was Joe Mauer.
Holland had walked himself into a mess. Yost pointed out that Holland was pitching in difficult circumstances. Greg was throwing a wet ball, and his spikes were clogged with mud.
After the game, Holland didn’t use that as an excuse, but he said he feels that he’s been so concerned with getting ahead of hitters he hasn’t pitched the way he usually does. In the past, Holland has thrown everything at the hitters. If a 2-0 slider was the right pitch, Greg threw a 2-0 slider. Holland said that lately he’s been throwing too many fastballs in an effort to get ahead of hitters and that hasn’t worked out.
With the bases loaded and the game on the line, Holland started Mauer with two fastballs and moved the count to 1-1. Then Greg threw four consecutive sliders to strike out Mauer. Greg said he needs to get back to his old approach. The sooner, the better.
• Alex Gordon hustles out of the box as well as anyone, and in the second inning, that hustle turned what might have been a double into a triple.
Gordon was leading off the inning. Most of the time when a ball is hit into one of the outfield corners with nobody out, the hitter will settle for a double. He doesn’t want to make the first out of the inning at third base. Instead of assuming double, Alex hustled into third and made it easily.
• By the way, most triples are hit to right field because right field is farthest from third base. Any time you see a ball hit into the right-center gap or the right-field corner and there is one out and the batter can run, think triple.
• Gordon’s hustle brought the Twins’ infield in, and that helped Alcides Escobar shoot a line drive past the third baseman.
• And as long as we’re talking hustle, Eric Hosmer singled to right field but came out of the box and rounded first as if he had hit a double.
Hosmer was almost a third of the way to second base when he put on the brakes. Guys who do that give themselves a chance to advance if there is any momentary bobble in the outfield. Guys who loaf out of the batter’s box assuming they hit a single have no chance to advance if the outfielder screws something up.
• In the fourth inning, Alcides Escobar hit a grounder to Twins shortstop Eduardo Escobar. Eduardo Escobar went to his right and slid to knock down the ball, and the ball went off his glove.
The play originally was ruled an E-6. It seemed to be bad call. E. Escobar had little chance of throwing out A. Escobar even if he fielded the ball cleanly. He was on the outfield grass, moving away from first base, and A. Escobar can run a little bit.
After further review, the call was overturned.
• Just to give you an idea of the difference between Opening Day and the second game of the season, I sit in the second row of the press box, and that row has 25 seats. On Monday, all the seats were filled. On Tuesday night, 23 of them were empty.
The media guys who show once in a while have now left. The media guys who will grind their way through the season now have elbow room.
After Monday’s game, I wanted to point out how Alex Gordon’s reputation as an outfielder saved a run. In the first inning, the Twins did not challenge Gordon’s arm, held up Justin Morneau at third base, and that caused the Ryan Doumit to run up Morneau’s back because Doumit assumed Morneau was going to score.
So far, so good. But then I wrote, “Gordon may not have had an outfield assist on the play, but his reputation made Morneau stop at third, and that set off the chain of events that led to Doumit being tagged out.”
As a reader correctly pointed out, Gordon did get an outfield assist on the play. I got a little carried away with a rhetorical flourish and paid the price. My bad — Opening Day jitters.
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