Judging the Royals

Salvador Perez has two at-bats that change the game

Updated: 2013-06-23T02:21:37Z

By LEE JUDGE

The Kansas City Star

In the sixth inning Salvador Perez came to the plate with one out and Alcides Escobar on third base. One out at-bats with a runner on third are huge; it’s the last time a team can score a run without a base hit. Depending on the defensive positioning, the hitter can get the run home with a groundball up the middle or fly ball to the outfield.

The score was tied 2-2 and the White Sox had the infield in. Pitcher Jose Quintana was pounding Salvy inside with fastballs, probably because he wanted Perez to pull the ball to third base—that’s a shorter throw than a ball up the middle would require and would give the Sox a chance to cut Escobar down at the plate if he took off for home.

Perez remained patient, didn’t swing at those inside fastballs, and the count moved to 3-1.Quintana then threw a curveball—another pitch that might be pulled down the line—Perez fouled it off and the count was 3-2. With Billy Butler waiting on deck, Quintana finally got serious about throwing fastballs for strikes and Salvy hit a single through the drawn-in infield.

Now move to the eighth:

This time it was Eric Hosmer on third with one down. The Sox had a miscommunication in the outfield, Hosmer’s fly ball dropped and he wound up on third with a triple. But in the eighth inning Perez showed none of the patience he exhibited in the sixth. Reliever Jesse Crain threw two 95-MPH fastballs at the top of the zone and Perez swung at both; hitting an infield pop-up on the second pitch. Billy Butler followed with a walk, Lorenzo Cain struck out and the Royals best chance to tie the game was gone.

Afterwards Ned Yost said the inconsistency of the Royals offense has been frustrating: Perez has a great at-bat in the sixth inning and pretty much throws one away in the eighth. Until the Royals hitters can slow things down, show some patience and hunt their pitch until they have two strikes, they won’t come together as a team.

The White Sox win this one 3-2.

The top of the ninth

With the score tied 2-2 going into the top of the ninth inning, manager Ned Yost called on reliever Aaron Crow. In a home game, managers will often use their closer when the game is tied in the ninth inning. The figuring goes this way: if the closer does his job and keeps the score tied, you’ll have a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth and the bottom of the tenth. No matter what the other team does in the top of the tenth inning, you’ll still get another whack at winning the game. So closers can buy you two shots at winning a tie game if you use them in the ninth.

But Yost brought in Crow (3.86 ERA at the time of the decision) instead of Greg Holland (2.08 ERA when the inning started). After the game Ned said he wanted Crow to face the bottom of the order. The sample sizes aren’t huge, but in the past Dayan Viciedo was 1-2 off Crow, Jeff Keppinger was 0-4 and Tyler Flowers was also 1-2. Holland’s numbers were a little better: Viciedo 0-8, Keppinger 1-1 and Flowers 0-2.

Viciedo started things against Crow with a single and John Danks came out to pinch run for him. Fast base runners can be a distraction and Crow ended up walking Keppinger on five pitches. Aaron also mixed in several pickoff attempts and any time a pitcher gets his attention divided between what’s happening at first base and what’s happening at the plate, bad things can happen.

With the winning run now in scoring position, Yost went to Holland, but it was too late. Greg got pinch-hitter Gordon Beckham to fly out to Lorenzo Cain, but Danks advanced to third on the play. Next Holland got Alejandro De Aza to line out to right fielder Jeff Francoeur, but Danks was able to tag and score the winning run on De Aza’s sacrifice fly.

Faced with the same situation that Salvador Perez had on his hands in the bottom of the eighth—winning run on third, one down—De Aza showed more patience: he saw four pitches before taking his bat off his shoulder and finally got something he could drive on the seventh pitch of the at-bat.

Game notes

*With Adam Dunn on first base left-handed hitter Conor Gillaspie stepped to the plate and I wondered whether Wade Davis would be willing to throw a lefty a changeup in that situation: if a runner is keeping the first baseman on the bag, there’s a hole on the right side of the infield. A changeup to a left-hander might allow him to take advantage of that hole. I plan on talking to Wade on Sunday and that’s one of the questions on my list.

*On hot days outfielders will sometimes play deeper than normal because the ball carries better. Deep positioning paid off for Chicago in the second inning when Billy Butler hit a ball to the warning track right in front of the left-center field scoreboard. Because of where he started, Alejandro De Aza was able to get there and make the catch on a ball that looked like a double off the bat.

*Runners take off when the count is 3-2 and there are two outs and there’s a force on. Pitchers know this so they sometimes try pickoffs to see if they can catch a guy leaving too early. White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana tried it in the second inning with Miguel Tejada on first base and Mike Moustakas at the plate, but Tejada’s probably been around too long to be fooled. Once Quintana delivered the ball to the plate, Miggy did take off and Moose doubled him home. Moustakas had another multi-hit game when he singled in the seventh.

*Wade Davis, who threw seven innings and gave up two runs, gave those runs up in the fourth inning. Wade started things off by walking Adam Dunn and leadoff walks are always a bad sign; the other team has all their outs available to move the runner sound the bases—even a large, slow runner.

*Lorenzo Cain caught a fly ball off Dunn in the fifth inning and it was probably a lot harder than it looked because the ball was in the sun; when you see an outfielder hold his glove up, he’s shading his eyes. The trick is to use your glove to block the sun out and wait for the ball to appear above it. If the ball doesn’t appear above it, you’re in real trouble. That’s when you’ll see guys crouch or move off to the side; they’re trying to improve their angle and get some blue sky behind the baseball.

*In the sixth inning Paul Konerko struck out looking and Salvador Perez helped that happen. Salvy has a wide body and anytime a catcher can keep the ball between his knees the pitch will look more like a strike. Reach outside the framework of your body and the pitch is more likely to be called a ball. Smart catchers will subtly shift their bodies as the pitch is on its way to make sure the ball is caught between the shin guards.

*In the eighth inning, after Salvador Perez popped up on the infield, Billy Butler came to the plate with the tying run on third and two down. The first pitch was a 95-MPH fastball, pretty much down the middle—Billy took it. After the game I asked him what he was looking for on that first pitch and Billy said something off-speed. They’d had a meeting on the mound and Billy figured they weren’t going to give him anything to hit—the first pitch caught him by surprise. After that, Billy was right: he didn’t get much to hit and eventually walked.

Getzie’s gone

Saturday morning second baseman Chris Getz was sent down to make room for outfielder Jarrod Dyson. Getz and outfielder David Lough had options remaining so the Royals could make the move without losing a player. Before Saturday’s game Ned Yost said they’d considered several scenarios and went with one that allowed them to retain a right-handed bat. Lose Jeff Francoeur and the only right-hand hitting outfielder would be Lorenzo Cain. On the other hand, they now have five outfielders.

Chris Getz’ demotion puts Elliot Johnson in a position to get the majority of playing time at second, but Yost refused to name him the everyday second baseman. Ned said that if he did that, the minute he decided to give Miguel Tejada a start at second, people would start asking questions. I get what he’s saying: give a player a day off and everyone wants to know what’s up and Ned has to assure the media that it’s just a day off—not a sign of something more sinister.

So I get why Ned isn’t saying Elliot is the everyday guy at second, but, on the other hand, if a player isn’t sure of his status, it can affect the way he plays. If you feel like you have to get a couple hits or you won’t be in there the next day, a player can start pressing. Take the David Lough base-running incident in Cleveland: you might wonder if Lough would have run through third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez stop sign if he were a veteran that felt his status was secure. If you know they’re going to make a move at the end of the week and you’re about to run through a coach’s sign, it might give a young player second thoughts.

When a guy gets sent out one of the things people say is: "He’ll be back." I hope so. One veteran player told me Chris Getz has one of the five best baseball minds he’d ever been around. Over and over I’ve benefited from that mind and so have the readers of this website.

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