The Royals beat the Mariners 6-4 on Thursday night and took the first game of their four-game series. There were 271 pitches thrown, 18 hits and 10 runs scored, so a lot of moments mattered, but for now let’s focus on five of those moments and how they changed the game.
Oops … that was a home run
Danny Valencia hit a home run in the fourth inning and the Mariners led 2-0. But replays appeared to show the ball falling short of the right-field foul pole and hitting a railing instead.
When the umpires took forever to review the play and then let the home run stand, Ned Yost was incensed, came out to argue and eventually got ejected. And a certain cartoonist-turned-sportswriter sent out a harshly worded tweet.
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Unfortunately, the person with the best view of the play — Royals right fielder Melky Cabrera — said the ball did hit the foul pole first. So Ned had to admit the umpires got the call right and the cartoonist-turned-sportswriter had to admit he got the call wrong.
It just goes to show that you shouldn’t be too sure of yourself … and I’m 100 percent positive that’s true.
It wasn’t the home run, it was the walk
In the fifth inning with the Mariners leading 2-0, Yovani Gallardo walked Mike Moustakas.
This went against baseball logic and here’s why:
Well-timed walks are good and useful to the pitcher, but some walks don’t make any sense. The Moustakas walk was in the second category. With a two-run lead, Mike Moustakas could hit the ball onto I-70 and the Mariners would still have a one-run lead.
Walk Moustakas and the next batter, Brandon Moss, could hurt you. And he did. Moss hit a two-run homer that tied the score.
Mariners didn’t shift Moustakas and paid the price
In the sixth inning with two outs and the tying run on third base, Moustakas stepped to the plate. In the past, the Mariners have put a shift on for Mike, but in this at-bat they didn’t and that backfired.
The Gods of Baseball — who kinda seem like jerks — got involved, so take a guess where Mike hit the ball.
Just to the right of second base, approximately where the Mariners would have stationed an infielder had they used a shift. Mike’s groundball single tied the game.
So don’t be surprised if the Mariners shift Moustakas every time he comes to the plate Friday night.
How good base running gets you thrown out
In the seventh inning with Whit Merrifield on second base and Lorenzo Cain on first, Melky Cabrera singled to left field.
Mariners outfielder Guillermo Heredia fielded the ball in shallow left and was coming up to throw home just as Merrifield rounded third base. It looked like the Mariners had a good chance of throwing Whit out.
That’s when Lorenzo Cain got involved.
On a single to left with a runner trying to score, the infield cutoff man is the third baseman: in this case, Kyle Seager.
At the lower levels of baseball the catcher decides whether the throw should be allowed to go through to home plate or cut off, and he’ll yell instructions to the third baseman. But in the big leagues there’s too much crowd noise, so the third baseman — with his back to home plate — has to decide whether to cut the ball on his own.
So when Cain rounded second and headed for third, Kyle Seager didn’t know what was happening behind him; but he could see an easy out in front of him.
Seager cut the throw off and the Mariners eventually got their second out after running Cain down between second and third base. Meanwhile, Merrifield scored and the Royals had a two-run lead.
When the lead base runner is trying to score and it looks like he might be thrown out, the Royals encourage the trail runner to draw the throw away from home plate, as long as the guy trying to score represents a tying, winning, go-ahead or add-on run.
Herrera’s underhand flip
It might seem strange, but a lot of big-league pitchers have trouble throwing a ball accurately if they aren’t throwing it from a mound to home plate. That’s why you see pitchers field a ball, run halfway to first base, then flip the ball underhand to complete the play. If they fire the ball overhand they’re not real sure where it’s going.
Thursday night’s game ended when Nelson Cruz hit a soft grounder to Kelvin Herrera, who flipped the ball underhand to Eric Hosmer. But it was an unusually long flip.
This moment really didn’t change Thursday night’s game, but might change a game over the weekend.
If the Mariners suspect that Herrera has trouble with making overhand throws to first base, don’t be surprised if a Seattle batter lays down a bunt to the third-base side with Herrera on the mound.
Jason Hammel (5-8, 4.75 ERA) matches up with James Paxton (11-3, 2.68 ERA). Game starts at 7:15. If you follow me on Twitter, I’ll talk to you then.