Josh Collmenter, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ starting pitcher cruised through the top of the first inning, getting three outs on 10 pitches. In the top of the second inning, Collmenter got two outs on nine pitches, but everything changed after the Royals’ Lorenzo Cain singled.
With a runner on first base, Collmenter had to change his delivery and pitch out of a slide step, barely lifting his front foot in order to get the ball to home plate in a hurry. If Collmenter had lifted his foot high, it would have taken longer to get the ball in his catcher’s hands, and Cain would have had a better chance of stealing second base.
In the slide-step delivery, Collmenter had trouble throwing strikes and fell behind Mike Moustakas 3-1. Collmenter threw a 3-1 cut fastball — a predictable pitch in that count — and Mike hit it over the right-field fence. No runner on first, no slide step, and Collmenter might not have pitched his way into a hitter’s count.
It happened again in the fourth inning. Collmenter walked Alex Gordon, went into a slide step and walked Cain. He continued to slide step, and this time Moustakas singled on a pitch left up in the zone. Some pitchers struggle to throw strikes from a slide-step delivery, and on Wednesday night Josh Collmenter was one of those guys. That was how Lorenzo Cain helped Mike Moustakas hit a home run.
The Royals beat the Diamondbacks 4-3.
The Inciarte triple
Diamondbacks center fielder Ender Inciarte jumped on the first pitch of the third inning and hit a deep fly ball that went off the right-field fence. Nori Aoki went after the ball, but as he approached the warning track, he appeared to be more concerned with the fence than the ball.
In fact, when the ball hit the fence, Aoki was looking at the fence, not the ball. It’s easy to sit on your couch and say Aoki needed to worry less about colliding with the fence, but it appeared to be a makable play.
Ventura gets hurt on fastballs in the third inning
Inciarte’s triple came on a first-pitch fastball. Aaron Hill singled on a 2-0 fastball, the third heater in a row thrown to the Diamondbacks’ second baseman. Mark Trumbo singled on a cut fastball. And David Peralta singled on the fourth straight fastball he saw.
As we’ve seen this season, a pitcher can get away with throwing a lot of fastballs — and Yordano Ventura throws fastball 68 percent of the time — but those fastballs need to be well-located.
According to MLB.com — assuming I didn’t miscount — Ventura threw 12 curveballs. Six were strikes, six were balls. If a pitcher is only going to be able to throw a pitch for a strike 50 percent of the time, a catcher has to be careful when he calls it.
If you read the Kurt Suzuki piece, you know that the Minnesota Twins catcher tries to call breaking pitches early in the game in counts when the pitcher is ahead and doesn’t necessarily have to throw that breaking pitch for a strike.
Call the pitch in an even count — like 1-1 — and missing with a curve might put you in a 2-1 fastball count. The fastball gets whacked, and everyone focuses on that pitch, when the at bat went south on the 1-1 curve that missed.
Wade Davis and the eighth inning
The Royals’ set-up man came into the eighth inning with a 0.95 ERA and left with one of 0.93, but he had a couple runners on base before he got his third out.
The first runner was not Wade’s fault. Miguel Montero wound up with an infield single when he hit a ground ball to Alcides Escobar, and Esky struggled with his footwork and getting the ball out of his glove. The replay showed Alcides standing flat-footed as the pitch was delivered to home plate. Infielders generally try to move forward and be on the balls of their feet as the pitch is delivered. Escobar wasn’t doing either.
I couldn’t tell you if that’s why he had trouble with the grounder, but Escobar’s starting position didn’t help.
Billy Butler jogs to second
In the top of the ninth inning, Billy Butler doubled off the top of the fence in right field, assumed it was a home run and jogged his way to second base. He went in standing and was almost tagged out. Butler later scored when Mike Moustakas made a head-first slide to avoid a double play. The Royals won 4-3, so Billy’s run was huge — and he almost gave the run away by taking his time to get to second base.
When the game is over, check the players’ uniforms
Mike Moustakas gave a good effort on the bases in that ninth inning. Billy Butler didn’t. If you want to know which position players approach the game in the right way, just check their uniforms. Which guys’ uniforms are covered with dirt when the day is over?
Moose’s uniform usually looks as if he had been dragged behind a truck at some point during the day. And you can pretty much count on Alex Gordon to have dirt smeared on his jersey and pants. If a position player plays nine innings and has no dirt or grass stains on his uni, that’s not a good sign.