It took 12 innings, but pitching and defense kept the Royals in this game long enough for the offense to score the runs needed to sweep the series. Alex Gordon hit a two-run bomb in extra innings to give the Royals their final lead, but if not for another outstanding start by Bruce Chen, six shutout innings by the bullpen and Jarrod Dyson throwing a runner out at the plate in the tenth inning, Gordon wouldnt have had the chance to be a hero.
By LEE JUDGE
The Kansas City Star
The Royals are now 8-2 since the All-Star break, back to .500 for the first time since June 17th and about to start a nine-game stretch against teams with a losing record. If Kansas City is going to climb back in the race, now would be a good time to do it.
The Royals beat the White Sox, 4-2.
*After the game Jarrod Dyson said outfield coach Rusty Kuntz moved him in toward the infield just before he made his game-saving throw to the plate. When a single will beat you, outfielders have to position themselves according to their arms: wherever you stand, you have to be able to make a throw to the plate that can cut down a runner.
Dysons throw was perfect: it came in on one-hop and hit well out on the infield grass. Throwing the ball on one hop keeps the throw low and makes it easier for the catcher to make the play. If the throw hits the grass, the hop will be a long oneeasier to handleand if the throw hits the dirt around home plate, the throw will be a short hopa tough play for the catcher to make with a runner bearing down on him.
*In three starts Bruce Chen has now pitched 18 innings and given up three earned runs. Check the speeds on Chens fastball and you can see part of the problem: hitters can get into a fastball count, and Bruce might give them one, but Chens a master of adding or subtracting velocity and that disrupts a hitters timing; even when he gets the fastball hes looking for.
*In the bottom of the first inning with Alexei Ramirez on first base, Alex Rios hit a weak groundball to second baseman, Miguel Tejada. Ramirez did not get a good jump off first baseChen had him thinking a pickoff move was coming and Ramirez broke back toward the bagand Rios is not known for busting butt to get down the line. Nevertheless, Escobar made no attempt to turn a double play. The throw from Tejada was low, but Esky just caught the ball as if it were the third out of the inning.
I dont know if that was the problem or there was something else going on that I missed, but not turning two hurtRios eventually came around to score.
*The other White Sox run came on an Adam Dunn homer. Bruce Chen threw him an 87-MPH fastball that drifted back over the plate. Catcher George Kottaras was set up on the outside corner and you could see him move his mitt back over home plate to receive the pitch. You can see why Wade Davis would rather walk Dunn than give him something to hitmake a mistake and it can leave the yard.
*There were several long at-bats against Chen and that sometimes happens when a pitcher doesnt have a nasty, swing-and-miss pitch. The pitcher can get the hitter to two strikes, but then the hitter starts fouling stuff off. On the other hand, Ive seen long at-bats against Greg Holland, so its not an absolute.
*One of the arguments against making Miguel Tejada the starting second baseman is that at 39, if you play Tejada three days in a row, his production will fall off. Miggy played his third game in a row Sunday afternoon and had two hits. On the other hand, Tejada was replaced late in the game by Elliot Johnson for defensive purposes.
*The Royals are now 7-1 in extra-inning games. Ned Yost has said he feels like his team has the advantage whenever a game move to the bullpens and Sundays game provided more evidence that Ned is right.
*As a reliever, Luke Hochevar has simplified things: hes throwing fewer pitches and knowing hes only throwing oneor in this case twoinnings, allows him to gas it up and throw his hardest. Simplifying things seems to have worked for him.
*Gordon Beckham got hit by a pitch and made no attempt to get out of the way; even though the rule says you have to. But you rarely see this rule followed in the big leagues.
*In the eighth inning Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer combined on a nifty defensive play to get Alex Rios. When they think of a first basemans defense, people tend to think of a first basemans glove, but theres a lot of footwork around the bag that can make a difference. Hosmers footwork tends to be excellent and he made this play in foul territory by shifting his foot to the back side of first basethat gave Hosmer extra room to handle the throw.
*in the bottom of the twelfth inning with a 4-2 lead, Greg Holland came on to get the save. He made it interesting by giving up two hits and bringing the winning run to the plate, but still got out of it. Fans might want to pay attention to the pitches that were hit safely: both were fastballs and both were the first fastball Holland threw for a strike.
Some pitchers are so dominant with their off-speed stuff that hitters cant afford to fall behind. It might drive some fans crazy, but hitters might be swinging at the first pitch for a reasonits the best pitch theyll see.
The unhelpful hitting coach
When George Brett resigned as Royals hitting coach he said something interesting and instructive: he would watch a hitter swing, keep silent and then confer with assistant hitting coach, Pedro Grifol. George wanted to make sure that he and Pedro were on the same page before giving the hitter any advice; hearing different advice from two sources might make things worse.
Contrast that with every kids game youve ever been to: parents freely shouting what is probably contradictory advice at the worst possible timewhen the kid is trying to hit. (The main thing they shout is "back elbow up" which theyre shouting at this game because they heard someone else shout it at another gameits also bad advice.) If George Brett knows theres a time to keep your mouth shut, why dont we?
I dont talk hitting with Eric Hosmer. Weve talked about not talking hitting and why we avoid the subject: you can talk a guy into a slump. One of the tactics Ive heard for screwing up a hitter on another team is the destructive compliment. "Man, youre smoking the ball. I love what youre doing with your hand position."
The hitter then thinks: "What the hell am I doing with my hand position?"
You now have him thinking about the wrong thing. A swing that was fluid and natural might become mechanical as he starts to think about his hands. A competitor put the wrong thought into a hitters headand if a hitter is not careful, a well-meaning friend can do the same thing.
When hitters are slumping the advice pours in. Theres maybe one guy the hitter should listen toprobably his hitting coachbut hes getting advice from friends, fans, his old-high school coach and anyone else who thinks they have the answer. All the advice swirls around in the hitters head"maybe my barber is on to something"because the hitters desperate and looking for an answer. But its not just slumping hitters who can be screwed up: you can do the same thing to a guy whos going good. If I say it looks like Hosmer is getting his foot down on time and thats allowing his hands to be on time and thats letting him pull the balland that is what I seeI can make him think about each of those things. And he may not want to think about them.
If Hosmer talks hitting with the mediaand he does on occasion because we keep askinghes generally pretty vague. The other day I asked if he was feeling like he was back to feeling good at the plate and he said yes, but the key was being consistent. He had his batting gloves and bat in hand and was headed for the indoor cages; it was time to work on being consistent. Thats about as deep as the conversation went. He knows that I know a detailed discussion of his mechanics is not in his best interest.
The moral of the story is that if you ever get to meet one of the Kansas City Royals, do not give them hitting advice: it wont help and it might hurt. But if you meet someone on a visiting team, tell them to get their back elbow up.