Judging the Royals

Three moments that changed Friday’s game

Updated: 2013-04-13T12:35:51Z

By LEE JUDGE

The Kansas City Star

The Royals lost to the Blue Jays Friday night by the score of 8-4. There were 297 pitches thrown, 13 hits and seven walks, but here are three moments that changed the game.

Emilio Bonifacio’s double

In the second inning with the Royals up 3-2, the Blue Jays second baseman, Emilio Bonifacio, came to the plate with nobody down and Colby Rasmus on second base. Bonifacio, with a career average of .266 and seven home runs in his seven years in the big leagues, was hitting .219 when he stepped in the batter’s box. When you’re hitting .219 in the nine-hole, it’s a good bet your job is to move the tying run over to third.

Emilio tried: he bunted two balls foul, Rasmus was still on second and now Bonifacio faced an 0-2 count. When hitters are 0-2 they often try to go to the opposite field. When a hitter is trying to go to the opposite field, that can be a good time to jam them with a fastball. Plus, Bonifacio — a switch hitter — was batting left-handed, so an off-speed pitch would actually help him do his job: hit the ball to the right side of the field and move Rasmus to third.

Luis Mendoza threw a breaking pitch.

If he was trying to bounce it, Luis didn’t get it there. The ball stayed up and Bonifacio hammered it over Jeff Francoeur’s head. Francoeur, seeing that Bonifacio was simply trying to move the runner was playing in. Bonifacio hasn’t shown much power, but he hit this hanging breaking pitch off the fence. Francoeur picked the ball up and launched it toward the infield. Now things went from bad to worse.

Jeff overthrew the cutoff man, but I’m not sure the cutoff man was in the right place. Miguel Tejada was playing first base and — if I’ve got this right — should have been stationed somewhere around the pitching mound. Tejada was standing in the first base area when the ball went over his head. Had Miguel been near the mound, the throw would have reached him on one hop. Since nobody was there, the ball dribbled across the infield and Bonifacio — now standing on second — saw the ball was loose on the infield and took off for third.

Salvador Perez saw what was happening, grabbed the ball and threw off balance to try to nail Bonifacio at third base. The throw was off-line and Bonifacio scored. The way the inning played out, Bonifacio might have scored anyway, but a hung breaking pitch, an outfielder playing in and a missed cutoff man made sure of it.

P.S.

I’m not absolutely sure Tejada was out of position, but it looked like it on the replays. I’ll ask around and see if I got that one right. Secondly, if throwing a light-hitting second baseman a breaking pitch with two strikes was a mistake — and if you’re hitting at the bottom of the order, you might not have the best bat speed — Mendoza made the mistake again in the sixth. Bonifacio hit another RBI double off another breaking pitch.

Jose Reyes’ single

With the Royals down 6-4, two runners in scoring position, Jose Reyes at the plate and the count 1-1, reliever Luke Hochevar threw Reyes a curveball. It appeared to catch the zone, but Luke didn’t get the call. The 1-1 count is a big deal: the pitcher is about to go 1-2 (which mean he can throw about any pitch he likes) or 2-1 (which means he might have to throw a fastball for a strike). Hochevar went 2-1 and threw a fastball for a strike.

Reyes hit a 2-run single.

After the game, Luke was not using the 1-1 call as an excuse. He said he had first open, a right-handed hitter on deck and pitches with which to work — if he wanted to work around Reyes he could have done so. Even so, I’m guessing if the count had been 1-2 we’d have seen a different pitch than the one Reyes smoked for two runs.

P.S.

The single was costly: Reyes stole second base, but injured his ankle on the slide. The Royals have asked their players to slide feet first more often in an attempt to avoid injury. Reyes went in feet first, but the slide looked awkward. I’ll ask Blue Jays manager John Gibbons about their policy on slides and whether Reyes normally goes in head first.

Mike Moustakas’ error

The Royals lost 8-4 and two of the runs got on by walk, another run — Bonifacio’s — scored because of an error and a fourth run got on base when Mike Moustakas threw the ball over Miguel Tejada’s head — barely. If Eric Hosmer had been at first base, I doubt that would have been an error. Hosmer has to take days off sometime and Tejada is the utility man. But when he’s over there, the rest of the infielders need to aim lower.

The good stuff

The bottom line looks ugly — three errors — but the Royals also had some outstanding defensive plays: Alcides Escobar saved a couple runs in the first when he went behind second base to field a ball hit by Mark DeRosa. Esky also robbed Melky Cabrera of a hit in the second inning. Mike Moustakas made a diving stop of a screaming line drive off Jose Bautista’s bat and Lorenzo Cain, Escobar and Salvador Perez combined on an 8-6-2 relay to save another run when they cut down Adam Lind at the plate.

Luke Hochevar gave up that hit to Jose Reyes, but also struck out five in two and a third innings.

Miggy and the short hop

I’m sitting in the Royals dugout at three in the afternoon; watching Miguel Tejada work on catching short hops at first base. Infield coach Eddie Rodriguez comes over, makes a mark in the dirt with his foot and asks Miguel to make some kind of adjustment. When they finish, I ask Eddie what adjustment he wanted Miguel to make.

Turns out all those exaggerated stretches at first base aren’t that efficient.

The way you handle a short hop is to get the glove as close as possible to the spot where the ball will bounce — make the hop as short as possible. Smother the ball; don’t give it a chance to eat you up. When a first baseman gets his lead foot way off the base — some guys actually do the splits — it actually limits how far he can stretch the glove toward the ball. Keep the lead foot closer to first base and a first baseman can lean out and stretch the glove closer to the bounce.

One of my favorite things is to show up early, sit in an empty stadium and watch big league ballplayers work on the small parts of the game that then show up five hours later when the stadium is full and it’s do-or-die time. Pretty much none of the stuff we take for granted just happens: someone had to work on it.

Friday afternoon, it was Miguel Tejada and short hops.

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