Anytime your starting pitcher throws 53 pitches in the first inning, its probably not a good signand it sure wasnt a good sign in this game; after one inning the Twins were up 5-0 and never looked back. Wade Davis walked three and all three walks scoredand that was just in the first inning. He walked two more in the second inning before being replaced by reliever Will Smith.
By LEE JUDGE
The Kansas City Star
So what went wrong?
Several things: Davis has said there are times he gets too much movement on his pitches and just doesnt know where theyre goingI wasnt there to ask, but that appeared to be the case Saturday afternoon. The home plate umpireRon Kulpaalso seemed to have a tight zone; in the first inning, several pitches to Brian Dozier appeared close enough to be called strikes if the umpire was so inclined. So a bad combination: questionable control and a tight strike zone.
After walking Dozier and Joe Mauerand Mauer had hit .500 off Davis coming into this gameJustin Morneau doubled, driving in both walks. (Coming into this game, lefties had hit .330 off Davis.) Then, with the score 2-0, one down and Trevor Plouffe at the plate, Davis threw seven straight cutters.
Theres a whole lot I dont understand about big-league pitching and you can put this on the list: Ive been told by big league hitters that if they see 100 miles an hour three times in a row, theyll hit it the third time. Changing speeds is one of the basics of pitching, but there are times Salvador Perez will call the same pitch over and overeither that or pitchers are shaking Perez off and want to throw the same pitch over and overbut most pitchers Ive talked to dont want to think, they want to execute: drop a sign and theyll throw it.
On June 25th Tim Collins gave up a game winner when he threw three curveballs in a row to the Braves Jason Heyward and Heyward hit a home run. On June 23rd Kelvin Herrera almost gave up a game winner to the White Sox Gordon Beckham when he threw seven fastballs in a row and Beckham doubled in two runs. In this game those seven cutters in a row resulted in a Trevor Plouffe home run and a 4-0 Twins lead.
In boxing, if someone gets knocked out in the first round, the fights over. In baseball, you have to keep playing. It didnt make much difference, the Royals lost to the Twins, 6-2.
*More stuff I dont understand: Wade Davis had just thrown 53 pitches. You could read a Stephen King novel in the time it took Davis to get through the first inning. If you read the piece about Wades last outing ("A pitch-by-pitch conversation with Wade Davis") you know what a big deal exertion and rest are for a starting pitcher. Davis had exerted himself and now he needed rest.
But the Royals came out in the top of the second and took exactly one called strike to start an at-bat. Salvador Perez took a strike to lead off the inning and then went to hacking and struck out on three pitches. Mike Moustakas never took a strike, but made up for itslightlyby doubling. Lorenzo Cain swing at the first two pitches and finally took a called strike when he probably should have been swinging the bat. Miguel Tejada never took a strike and lined out on the third pitch he saw. Because of the Royals impatience, Wade Davis was back on the mound after Twins starting pitcher Kyle Gibson had thrown only 13 pitches. Wade didnt get much rest and never got out of the second inning.
*Will Smith replaced Davis and threw five innings. Luke Hochevar backed him up with two more. It may not be impressive when your team is getting beat 6-2, but long relievers saving the rest of the bullpen might make a win possible the next day.
*Alex Gordon had yet another assist in the third inning. Jamey Carroll challenged his arm by trying to stretch a single into a double and lost.
*Salvador Perez chased a couple pitches in off the plate. When you see a guy do that, hes often thinking of hitting a bomb, looking for something in and chases something too far in.
*Mike Moustakas had another multi-hit game. Its going to be hard for Moose to move his numbers after so many at-bats, but he has been hitting the ball much better.
*The Royals last chance may have come in the eighth inning: Eric Hosmer led off with a walk and right-handed reliever Casey Fien replaced left-handed reliever Brian Duensing. Fien threw Billy Butler four sliders and a curve and Butler flew out to right field on the curve. Salvador Perez got three fastballs and singled on the third. Mike Moustakas also got a couple heaters, singled, and the bases were loaded.
All of a sudden the tying run was at the plate and Lorenzo Cain had a chance to put the Royals back into it.
Cain got nothing but sliders until the fifth pitch and that was fastball up out of the zoneLorenzo then struck out on a slider down and away. Miguel Tejada also saw nothing but slidersand one fastball out of the zoneand also struck out on a slider down and away. As weve seen before, when the game is on the line, the Royals arent seeing too many hittable fastballs. The two strikeouts ended the inning and the Royals never had another runner on base.
*The Twins got the ball to their closer, Glen Perkins. He came into the game with an ERA of 2.12 and left with an ERA of 2.05. If you dont take advantage of early opportunities, you might not get any late ones.
Pitch selection and the average pitcher
(This concept comes directly from college baseball coach Ron Polks book, but I found it helpful in understanding pitch selection and the mistakes hitters make.)
Lets say youre facing a pitcher whos considered average. Generally speaking, if this hypothetical pitcher throws five pitches, one will be great, one will be bad and three will be averageafter all, thats why hes considered an average pitcher.
If this pitcher starts an at-bat and manages to throw a great pitch, the hitter should take it. Odds are, the hitter is now going to see one bad pitch and three average ones if he stays at the plate for five pitches. In other words, its a mistake to swing at a pitchers pitch early in the count when the pitcher isnt all that great. Some very good hitters will tell you they didnt make a living hitting good pitchesthey made a living hitting mistakes. Being impatient and not hanging around long enough to see a mistake is a bad approach.
But a hitters approach might change if he was facing a very good pitcherthink top of the line guys, closers or starters like Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish or Felix Hernandezbecause a very good pitcher might throw three excellent pitches, one bad pitch and one average pitch during a five-pitch at-bat. In that case a hitter is more inclined to tee off on the first hittable pitch he sees; dont wait around for the pitcher to make another mistake, this guy probably wont make two mistakes in one at-bat.
So its not just the pitch; who threw it also matters. A fastball on the black away might be the best pitch a hitter is likely to see from an ace, but a bad pitch to go after if the guy on the mound is a mutt.
So when you see a Royals hitter walk to the plate, ask yourself how good the pitcher is. If hes terrific, the hitter may have no choice but to swing at something marginal early in the count. If its a pitcher thats struggling, the hitter can be more selective. But no matter who is on the mound, pitchers still make mistakes: if you get onehit it.