Five walks, a hit batter and an error—the Royals gave the Red Sox seven extra base runners. Boston beat Kansas City 4-3 and a walk scored: seven extra base runners was one too many. In a game this close, giving the other team extra runners will eventually come back to haunt you and, in the bottom of the eighth inning, it did. Daniel Nava homered, but without a walk to Mike Napoli right before the long ball, the Royals would have tied it up in the ninth.
James Shields gave the Royals another good start—one run in six innings—but walked three. Even though his stuff was good enough to work around those three walks, those walks got Shields’ pitch count up and, by the seventh inning, he was gone. Aaron Crow came in and hit a batter, but worked around it. Tim Collins came in and walked a batter, but worked around it. Kelvin Herrera came in and walked a batter—Mike Napoli—but couldn’t work around it: Daniel Nava hit a three-run home run and the extra run, provided by the walk, was enough to win it.
Control what you can
Herrera probably got squeezed on the 0-1 pitch to Nava. The ball appeared to be in the zone, but Kelvin didn’t get the call. If the count moved to 0-2, Herreramight
have thrown a different pitch to Nava and Nava probably wouldn’t be looking to get the bat head out in front; he’d be a much more defensive hitter in an 0-2 count.
But none of that matters.
The fact is, the count was 1-1 and Kelvin threw a changeup in a bad location. Changeups should generally start low in the zone and then go down; this one stayed in the middle. But like James Shield’s home run to Jose Bautista last week, the real problem was the walk that came before it. If you throw strikes, guys are going to get hits—but you should be able to throw strikes most of the time. Most ball players will tell you that home runs are going to happen, but you need to limit the damage by limiting your walks. The Royals didn’t limit the damage and it cost them.
The 30-Day Rule
When you first start covering a baseball team there’s a natural tendency to get excited about good performances and down on bad ones. At that point, someone with a little more experience will say: not so fast. Early results get blown out of proportion because there’s nothing else to compare them to. Give a player or team some time and they may change your mind.
Regular readers of this site might remember what Tim Bogar told me last season: at that point Tim was bench coach for the Boston Red Sox and he talked about the "30-Day Rule." When Tim was managing in the minors, they didn’t want him to mess with a new player for 30 days. Just let the guy play; watch and evaluate. At the end of 30 days the guy would either be struggling—and open to suggestion—or playing well. Jumping to conclusions—trying to fix something that didn’t really need to be fixed—might be detrimental to the player and the team.
Fans can learn something from this: Greg Holland struggled and some fans wanted Kelvin Herrera to be the new closer. Kelvin gave three home runs in the first game in Atlanta and nobody was suggesting he replace Holland after that. Then Herrera came back the next day and threw well. He pitched poorly in this game, but afterwards, Ned Yost said he wasn’t giving up anybody this early in the season.
When Bogar talked about the 30-day rule he suggested it would be helpful if everybody—fans included—would just watch the team play, let the dust settle and see where things stand in May. We’ve got 10 days to go.
(Tim Bogar is currently managing the Angels Double-A team. Tim and Angels General Manager, Jerry Dipoto, are former teammates and after Terry Francona left, Tim landed in the Angels system.)
Game notes In the fifth inning Lorenzo Cain doubled and Mike Moustakas moved him over to third base with a deep drive to centerfield. The score was 0-0 so moving Cain over brought the infield in. That meant Jeff Francoeur’s grounder between third and short got through the infield and scored the run. Francoeur ended up on second with two outs, but Chris Getz struck out looking. Alex Gordon doubled to lead off the sixth and Alcides Escobar bunted him over to third. If you didn’t like the sac bunt there—Esky is pretty good at hitting the ball to the right side—be aware that some of the players have the option to move the runner anyway they can. In other words: that might have been Esky’s decision. If Alcides didn’t like his chances of moving the runner by hitting the ball the other way or he thought he might be able to bunt for a hit; that might explain why he laid one down. Also be aware that laying one down in that situation can be a selfish move: if a hitter lays one down and gets a hit, his average goes up. If he lays one down and he gets thrown out, but the runner moves up; it goes as a sacrifice. Bottom line: I’m not there and I’ve got no idea who decided on the bunt and what their motivation might be. In the eighth inning with one down and runners at first and third, Eric Hosmer came to the plate needing to do two things: A.) get the ball in play—and 2.) Avoid the double play. Hosmer got the ball in play, but hit into a 4-6-3 double play, so the run didn’t score. I would have thought Eric would look for a ball up in the zone—get the ball in the air to the outfield and it’s a run—but Hosmer swung at two pitches down. The other way to score a run would be to break up a double play, but Billy Butler was on first base. With his wheels he came nowhere near the pivot main.
The Green Monster
Every baseball field changes the way the game is played and Fenway Park is no exception. Everybody knows about the Green Monster: it’s so close to home plate –310 feet—it can turn routine fly balls into home runs or line-drive doubles into singles—but it also changes the way the players run the bases.
The Monster is close enough that a base runner can’t be sure of scoring from second base, even with two outs (it’s easier to score with two outs because a runner does not have to wait to see if the ball drops). Fenway’s dimensions means you might see a runner make the third out at third base and it might not be considered a mistake.
In tomorrow’s double header, also pay attention to the angle in the wall down the left field line: it juts out at close to a 45-degree angle—to my eye—and that means a ball hit over the third base bag that would be a double in most parks, can hit that angle and wind up in short left field. Unless the left fielder is sure the ball is going to hit the wall he has to head for the left-field corner and the shortstop has to run into short left to field a ball that shoots sideways off that wall.
Whenever the Royals get to a new park or get to an old one with a new player, one of the coaches will take a fungo bat and hit balls off various surfaces and angles so everyone knows what where to position themselves defensively.
Knowing a ballpark’s quirks can make the game more entertaining for fans—and in some cases—players.
If I had school-age kids, I might be upset, but all mine have graduated from college, so I thought David Ortiz dropping a profanity in that situation was kind of funny—it freaked everybody out and provided Boston with a new motto.
If they put that on a T-shirt, I’ll buy one.