Judging the Royals

David Lough’s base-running mistake costs Royals

Updated: 2013-06-24T17:39:54Z

By LEE JUDGE

The Kansas City Star

The top of the ninth inning couldn’t have started much better or ended much worse. Down 4-3 to the Indians, needing a run to tie the game and two runs to win; the Royals got the first two batters on base. David Lough and Mike Moustakas singled. Things started to go wrong when Chris Getz—normally a very good bunter—took the first pitch for a strike, bunted the second pitch foul and struck out on a slider.

With one down and runners still at first and second, Alcides Escobar hit a line-drive single into the right field corner. Cleveland outfielder Drew Stubbs had to move laterally and come around the ball to line up a throw. Stubbs is right-handed: catch the ball on the glove side and his feet would be in the wrong position, so he took an angle that allowed him a better catch and throw, but all that takes time.

David Lough—the tying run—got a good jump off second base and it appeared he would score to tie the game. Afterwards, Lough said he thought he was going to score and didn’t pick up third base coach Eddie Rodriguez’ stop sign as he ran through third base. It appeared Rodriguez got very conservative on the play, but he did have the stop sign up when Lough hit third. Lough had two choices that would have been OK: pick up his base coach and stop at third or run through the stop sign when he got so far down the line and saw the throw home was off-line. (Catcher Carlos Santana was pulled away from home plate and would have been unable to make a tag.)

Either choice would have been acceptable, but Lough did the one thing he couldn’t afford to do: get almost two-thirds of the way down the line and then stop.

Next, Lough did the right thing followed by a wrong thing: he got into a rundown and allowed the trail runners to move up while the Indians were chasing him around. Moustakas wound up on third, Escobar was on second, Lough made it back to the bag and the Royals had two runners on the same base. Pitcher Vinnie Pestano did the right thing: he tagged both runners. The lead runner has the right to the base, so Moustakas was called out. Lough—apparently not knowing the rule—took his hands off the base and had Pestano tagged him, the game would have ended right there on Lough’s second base-running mistake of the inning.

Fortunately, two things prevented that from happening: Mike Moustakas knew the rule and told Lough to get his hand back on the base and Pestano had walked around the umpire; by the time he got back around him, Lough was back in contact with the bag. The game ended when Alex Gordon was walked to load the bases and Eric Hosmer hit a groundball to first baseman, Mark Reynolds.

The Indians—aided by bad Kansas City base running—won, 4-3.

The Royals are now once again, one game under .500. Bottom line: Kansas City has been on a nice run, but they’re not so talented that they can make basic mistakes like missing suicide squeeze signs or running through a base coach’s sign. The three runs they scored in this game were gifts: two of them came on two walks and two wild pitches, the third came when Indians pitcher, Cody Allen, made a three-base error. The pitchers are keeping the scores low, but unless the offense puts up a lot more runs, the defense needs to play clean baseball and the base runners can’t afford mental mistakes like the one that cost them this game.

Game notes

*At the start of the game TV announcer Ryan Lefebvre said that Indians starting pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez, had been averaging five innings a start. Jimenez walks guys, gets his pitch count up and finds himself at 100 pitches by the time he reaches the sixth inning. Jimenez followed form; he walked four guys, threw 114 pitches and left after five and two-thirds innings.

*When the starting pitcher leaves the score is a big deal: if his team is ahead, his manager will usually go to the best relievers available. If the starting pitcher’s team is behind, the manager will often use the other guys. Behind 2-0, Cleveland manager Terry Francona went to Nick Hagadone who came into the game with a 6.16 ERA.

*Mike Moustakas had two hits: one to left and one over the second baseman’s head. George Brett has been preaching hitting the ball gap-to-gap and Mike tends to pull the ball. Guys who can go the other way can handle pitches dead-pull hitters can’t. Dead-pull hitters are often power guys who make up for their low batting average and high strikeout totals with home runs and RBIs. I don’t know if taking the ball more up the middle is part of the plan to fix Moustakas, but if so, those two hits were a good sign.

* In the sixth inning Drew Stubbs stole second base and Chris Getz saved Salvador Perez a throwing error. Salvy bounced the throw and Getz made a nice backhand pick to keep the ball on the infield. Former Royals catcher Brayan Pena once told me he loved Chris Getz because Chris had saved him from making so many throwing errors on plays like the one in the sixth.

*Ervin Santana threw seven innings, gave up three hits and one run. Things seemed to be in line for the Royals bullpen: Kelvin Herrera in the eighth, Greg Holland in the ninth, go have a cold one afterwards. But Kelvin started the eighth by walking the leadoff hitter, Ryan Raburn. Walking the leadoff batter is never a good sign and it sure wasn’t in this game.

Herrera faced four batters, three of them reached base and all three scored. Herrera was throwing hard: the radar gun may be hot in Cleveland, but it was still showing 102 miles an hour. Kelvin threw 16 pitches, 15 were fastballs. Big league hitters will tell you that if they see 100 miles an hour two times, they’ll hit it the third. There’s no point in complaining about tipping pitches if you don’t mix it up—everyone knows what you’re going to throw whether you’re tipping or not.

Herrera took the loss.

The suicide squeeze; pros and cons

Lots of criticism of Ned Yost’s decision to call a suicide squeeze Monday night with one out and the bases loaded. The positives and negatives: bases loaded allows the defense to get a force at home, but calling for it with one out is the right time—with a runner on third and nobody out you have three chances to get him home, with two outs the defense just picks the ball up and throw it to first.

Alcides Escobar was the guy at the plate. Esky had faced the pitcher on the mound, Matt Albers, four times and had one hit. Alcides is currently hitting .248 overall, but has been hot recently—five for his last ten—so there’s another reason to let him hit away. There were good reasons, not to call a suicide squeeze, but it’s still worth noting that if Lorenzo Cain had not missed the sign, the play would have worked.

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