Judging the Royals

A lot happened in this one

Updated: 2013-05-06T00:49:08Z

By LEE JUDGE

The Kansas City Star

The Royals won this one 6-5 in 10 innings. I made so many notes I don’t know where to start, so I’ll start at the beginning.

Game notes

First inning: Wade Davis looked good. He locked up Alejandro De Aza on a curveball for strike three and got a weak swing out of Alex Rios by throwing another curve to him. Bad swings often mean good movement and vice versa. After the first inning, based on De Aza and Rios’ at-bats, I thought Davis might have good stuff and that often leads to a good outing. After the game Ned Yost said Wade had a nice bounce-back performance and was keeping the ball down in the zone.

Second inning: Alexei Ramirez came to the plate for the first time and tapped both the umpire and Salvador Perez’ shin guards. That’s a baseball way of saying hello and you’ll often see guys do it on their first trip to the plate. Old school guys don’t like it; if you weren’t a buddy and you tapped Jason Kendall’s shin guard, he might have told you to go screw yourself—but these days, you see it all the time. Now when you see it, you’ll know what it is.

Third inning: Dewayne Wise hit a ball down the left-field line and was thinking double—most balls right down the line go for extra bases. Credit Alex Gordon for hustle and a good route because that’s what held Wise to a single. Gordo came around the ball on the foul territory side and fielded it while moving toward second base. Doing it that way means a strong throw (you’re heading in the direction you’re going throwing the ball) and Wise wisely shut it down at first.

There’s a reason Alex Gordon has a bunch of assists and two Gold Gloves.

There was an 0-2 mound meeting with Jeff Keppinger at the plate and while Wade talked to Salvy, he kept his mouth covered with his glove. Guys do that to make sure the hitter doesn’t try to lip read.

Later in the inning with the bases loaded, Alex Rios hit another shot between Mike Moustakas and the line. Moose caught this one, went to third and tagged the bag, then tried for the inning-ending double play by throwing across the infield to first. Mike wasn’t able to complete the double play and some people might have wondered why Mike didn’t try to cut down the run at the plate.

In the clubhouse afterwards, Mike said it all happened pretty fast and there wasn’t much time to think.

By the time Mike dove, ran to the bag and tagged it, Dewayne Wise—who has got some speed—was almost at home plate.

By tagging third base Mike took the force off at home and the play would then be a tag play—and if you need a fourth reason, Mike was right in line with the runner and home plate, so not only would it be a tag play, but a difficult tag play with a throw that had to be wide of the runner going home.

Fifth inning: White Sox starter Jose Quintana had a no-hitter going into the fifth and that’s just about when people start thinking about the fact that there hasn’t been a hit yet. Moustakas broke it up with a single and it’s amazing how often a pitcher that’s been unhittable will become distracted and very hittable after losing a no-hitter late in a game. It wasn’t exactly late, but after Mike’s hit, Quintana gave up a double, a walk and two more singles before the inning was over. At that point the score was 3-1, Royals.

Seventh inning: You could see everything lining up perfectly for Wade Davis and the Royals. Wade was at 98 pitches and the Sox had switch-hitter Hector Gimenez and two lefties, Wise and De Aza due up. Bring in left-handed reliever Tim Collins, have him face those three hitters and then hand the ball to Kelvin Herrera for the eighth. Good plan except Tim didn’t get any of those hitters and had to hand the ball to Aaron Crow with two runs in and a runner on second. Crow gave up a run on a ground ball to the right side and a wild pitch and then a second run on a homer to Alex Rios.

Instead of Herrera, Luke Hochevar pitched the eighth.

Eighth inning: Don’t miss what Hochevar did in this game: he stopped the White Sox cold for two innings and gave the offense a chance to get back in the game—and they did.

Ninth inning: Two on, two out a 3-2 count and Billy Butler had a huge hit, driving in the tying runs and making it 5-5. Jarrod Dyson pinch-ran for Butler at second and Eric Hosmer almost won it with a line drive to left field. The ball carried and was caught. Afterwards I told Eric he hit it too hard and Hos said next time he’ll work on getting jammed.

Tenth inning: Greg Holland pitched the top of the tenth. Ned Yost will use his closer in a tie game at home because one shutdown inning gives you two shots at winning, the bottom of the tenth and, if you don’t win it there, no matter what the opposition does in the top of the inning, another shot in the bottom of the eleventh.

They Royals didn’t need another shot in the eleventh.

In the bottom of the tenth, Lorenzo Cain started things off with a single, Moustakas struck out and with Jeff Francoeur at the plate, Lorenzo stole second base. Frenchy grounded out to third and Cain couldn’t advance. The Sox then intentionally walked Chris Getz to get to on-deck hitter, George Kottaras.

There was some general media amazement that Getz got an intentional pass, but if you think about it for a minute, the move made sense. With Cain on second all the Royals needed was a single. The night before Getz had a single and two lineouts, so right now Chris is swinging the bat well. Remember, overall numbers are important, but what’s happening right now trumps everything else. Plus, Chris has 72 plate appearances; George has 11 and George hadn’t been to the plate since April 29th. Walking Chris Getz and going after the guy who hasn’t been playing wasn’t a bad idea.

But walking George Kottaras was.

Pitchers sometimes have trouble re-finding their release point after an intentional walk. Brian Omogrosso delivered the intentional walk to Getz at 74 to 78 miles an hour and then threw in the low 90s to Kottaras—two totally different release points and motions. Omogrosso couldn’t find the strike zone, Kottaras walked and that brought Alex Gordon to the plate.

I’m guessing you already know what happened next.

Reliever availability

Saturday night Greg Holland got up in the pen, but never came in the game. Sunday morning I asked Hollie how that would affect his availability. Big league managers don’t have all their relievers available every day, the pitching coach will remind him which relievers might need a day off and which relievers are available. They’ll also go over how much each guy can throw that day: "this guy can give you a couple innings; this guy is good for one" kind of stuff.

Greg told me his warm-up (known as a "dry-hump" in baseball slang—sorry, I don’t make up the slang, I just report it) wouldn’t change much: he got loose and warm, but was still six-to-eight pitches from being fully warmed up. Had Jeremy Guthrie given up a single in the ninth, Holland would have thrown those six-to-eight pitches and been ready by the time Ned Yost made the call. Before he learned how to warm-up, Greg said he’d just throw and throw; wearing himself out even if he didn’t get in the game.

Pitching coach Dave Eiland said the guys in the Royals pen have been around a while now and understand how to get ready in the right way. Dave also confirmed that if a guy pitched in two games in a row, it would be rare for him to throw in three consecutive games. Maybe a closer would, but it doesn’t happen often. Dave also said a pitcher who gets up three times without coming in a game is probably cooked for the next day, but apparently Ned is pretty good about using guys once he gets them up. If you see a manager constantly warming up relievers and then not using them, he’s wearing out his pen and getting nothing out of it.

Also pay attention to relief outings with an "up-down." That’s when a guy throws, sits while the other team hits and then comes out and throws again—apparently an up-down means the pitcher will have more soreness the next day and can affect his ability to throw the next day.

That’s another thing a complete game from your starter does for your pen: because Guthrie threw a complete game Saturday night, Ned had a completely rested pen Sunday morning. Keep track of when and how much a reliever is used and you can probably figure out if he’s available for the game you’re watching.

Pitching to a hitter in swing mode

Saturday night Chris Getz had an 11-pitch at-bat, eventually lining out to left field. Chris went 0-2, saw a ball and then fouled off five pitches in a row. At that point, many hitters are in "swing mode" which means they’re swinging at just about anything. Pitchers can get a hitter in swing mode out by throwing a pitch out of the zone and letting the hitter chase it.

That’s just what Chicago White Sox reliever Matt Thornton tried to do on the ninth pitch, throwing a fastball down. Getz didn’t chase and the count moved to 2-2. Thornton still had a pitch to waste, threw a slider out of the zone and once again, Getz didn’t chase. By that time Chris had demonstrated he wasn’t in swing mode and was still being selective. 3-2 Thornton had to throw a strike and Getz lined the ball to left.

It was one of those at-bats that’s fairly meaningless in terms of changing the game, but the battle within that at-bat still holds interest. If the only thing fans react to are the big plays—home runs and strike outs—it seems like they’re missing much of the game. Even in a blowout, a single at-bat has drama.

On the other hand, I’ve got to watch 162 Royals games this summer—I have to look at it that way or I’m not going to make it.

 

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