Eric Hosmer went 3 for 5, scored twice, drove in five runs and hit a ball over 400 feet, so after the game there was quite a crowd around his lockereverybody wanted to talk to him. I waited off to the side until everyone was done and Eric was alone, then said: "Good for you, Im happy for you."
By LEE JUDGE
The Kansas City Star
The press is supposed to be neutral, but were really not. In fact, being negative and getting off a good quip at a team or players expense is highly appreciated press-box humor. But even if youre totally self-interested, I dont see how you wouldnt want the team you cover to do well. The stories are more interesting, the players are more talkative and there are more fans paying attention. Doing well is good for everyonemedia included.
But theres another side to this.
You get to know the players. Theyre like co-workers in another division of the same industry: baseball. Some of them are very likeable and you naturallyat least in my mindpull for them. That doesnt mean you ignore a guy missing the cutoff man or failing to run out a grounder; weve got a job to do and writing about mistakes is part of it. But when you see guys who have struggled come back and do well, Im happy for them. Eric Hosmer struggled last season and some fans turned on him. To see the guy persevere and have his current success makes me feel good.
When I told Eric I was glad for him and why, he got a big grin, threw me a fist-bump and said: "We gotta keep it going." Heres hoping they do. The Royals are currently five games over .500. Theyve got two more games with Minnesota, followed by what should be a tough series against Boston and finally wind up this home stand against Miamia team thats struggled. You never know how long the good times will last, but the players, fans and the media should enjoy them while they do.
Monday night the Royals beat the Twins, 13-0.
• Jeremy Guthrie threw a nine-inning shutout and is now 12-7. Everyone talks to the pitcher after a performance like thatand they shouldbut if eight reporters are talking to him, that story is getting covered. I went to find catcher George Kottaras. He was sitting by himself and had time to talk, so I asked him what was working for Guthrie Monday night.
Jeremy was getting ahead and forcing the hitters to take the bats off their shoulders. After the Royals scored six runs in the second inning, Guthrie could come right after the hitters; a mistake pitch wasnt going to cost him the ball game. If I counted right, Jeremy had a 10-pitch third inning, an 8-pitch fourth, a 10-pitch fifth and a 6-pitch sixth. The Twins aggressiveness was allowing Jeremy to go deep in the game. I asked George if he was surprised by the Twins coming after Guthrie like that and he said, no; once a pitcher has established that hes throwing strikes and isnt going to walk anybody, you have to hit your way back in the game. And in fact, the three ball put in play in the sixth were all hit on the screws, but at somebody. When a guy hits a ball hard, he got a good pitch to hit and at this level, he might not get two.
Finally I asked George how closely they were able to stick to the game plan; the catcher and starting pitcher come up with a plan of attack for each hitter and each trip through the lineup. The first time through the order they might go after a hitter one way, then depending on how the hitter reacts, go after him a different way in subsequent at-bats. Bottom line; George said there were able to follow the game plan pretty closely, everything was working. But he also said the catcher has to be willing to respond to whats happening that nighta pitcher might lose the feel for his slider for an inning or two and get it back after that. The catcher has to be aware of that and change the plan of attack accordingly.
But when your pitcher throws a complete game shutout, things went pretty welljust dont forget to give some credit to the catcher who caught him.
• When a team explodes for sixteen hits and 13 runs, there always seems to be at least one guy who takes an O-fer. This time there were two starters who did not get a hit; Miguel Tejada (0-3) and Alex Gordon (0-5). Gordon lined out to second base in his last at-bat. We got on the elevator together and told him for a second I thought he had a knock on that last at-bat. Alex grinned and said the lineout ended a "perfect" night.
If youre worried about Gordons hitting I should tell you Rusty Kuntz thought Alex hit four balls that should have been home runs in New York, but none of them left the yard. Apparently Citi Field has some weird air currents that knock balls down and makes it tough to clear the fences. While Rusty was telling me this he was playing catch with Justin Maxwell. Rusty yelled at Justin and asked how many home run balls Gordon hit in New York and Justin held up four fingers. The Rusty asked how many home runs Gordon actually got and Justin made a zero shape with his hand.
Gordon didnt swing the bat well Monday nighttwo strikeouts, two pop ups and a line outbut things would look different if hed hit four home runs over the weekend.
• Even though Alcides Escobar had a 4-1 groundout in the third inning, thats what the Royals want to see; balls hit low and possibly to the right side of the field. Esky also had a bunt single and hit a grounder up the middle for another single in the seventh.
• The Twins decided theyd wasted enough pitching on a lost cause and sent infielder Jamey Carroll out to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning. Predictably enough, Carroll went 1-2-3 by throwing batting practice at 74 to 79 miles an hour. The pitches were so slow MLB.com registered the first two as knuckleballs (they werent) and then started calling them changeups. I asked Elliot Johnson if facing a position player sucked; if you hit him youre supposed to, if you dont its embarrassing. Elliot disagreed: a hits a hit. It only sucks if you dont get a hit and Johnson didnt; although the Twins left fielder, Oswaldo Arcia, fell down while catching Elliots low fly ballit appeared the ball was in the lights, but Arcia stuck with it and made the grab.
After the game Eric Hosmer said he wanted no part of Jamey Carroll because an at-bat like that can screw you up for a week.
The right-field corner at the K
Its about three oclock on Monday afternoon and outfield coach Rusty Kuntz is hitting fungoes. Hes hitting them to the newest Royals outfielder, Justin Maxwell. Justin is learning how to play the right-field corner at the K. The corners in Kauffman Stadium look fairly clean: no weird angles or walls, just a couple of deceptively innocent-looking symmetrical curvescurves that will punish you if you do the wrong thing.
Watch Rusty hit balls off the wall and you begin to get an idea of the wide variety of caroms a corner outfielder can encounter in Kauffman Stadium. For instance: If a right-handed opposite field hitter like Jamey Carroll hits a ball down the right field line, the ball can land fair and then spin off into foul territory and hit the side wall. The same thing can happen when a left-handed hitter like Alex Gordon pulls the ball. Depending on the balls spin and where it hits on a pad, the ball can:
1.) Continue to hug the wall and head down into the right field corner
2.) It can kick out at a right angle into short right or
3.) It can split the difference and ricochet off the wall at a 45-degree angle
And theres no way to tell in advance which carom youll get. A ball that hits the middle of a pad will react differently than a ball that hits a seam.
If the ball gets under the pads it can hit concrete and now you have a whole new set of problems. It can shoot out sideways or it can hug the wall and shoot down into the rounded corner like a pinball. If it reaches the bullpen fence, that sticks out a bit so the ball can hit that, bounce off and reverse course. Rusty was showing Justin how to put his left foot up against the wall to keep the ball from getting past him. If that happens, its a tripleand if the guy can fly you might see an inside-the-park home run while the outfielders chase the ball. Being right-handed, Maxwell can catch the ball and spin counter-clockwise (to his glove side) and make the throw to second or third. A left-handed thrower has a more difficult time with his footwork, which is why a right-handed thrower is preferable in right field.
You dont have to spend a lot of time watching fungoes off the wall to figure out why its hard to play the right-field corner at the K.