The key moment came early

04/30/2013 10:48 AM

05/20/2014 10:43 AM

One of the problems with baseball is you don’t always know when a key moment has arrived. That’s why you always hustle and play the game right; you often don’t know what’s important until the game is over. Looking back at this game the key moment may have come in the first inning when Wade Davis threw a 1-1 changeup to Jason Kipnis. Kipnis hit it over the centerfield fence and the Indians had all the runs they were going to need to win this one and split the series, 2-2.

The Royals were shutout, lost the game 9-0 and afterwards were talking about Ubaldo Jimenez and how well he pitched.

Jeff Francoeur said it was like he was a different pitcher; at times Jimenez has struggled to throw strikes, but only walked two in seven innings Monday night. Mike Moustakas said Jimenez was throwing strike one and keeping the hitters on the defensive. Chris Getz said he was throwing harder, topping out at 96 miles an hour. Ned Yost said he had tremendous movement on his fastball—as if 96 wasn’t enough.

The Indians went on to score eight more runs, but after Kipnis hit the ball out of the park, they had all the runs they’d need.

Game notes Wade Davis wasn’t nearly as sharp, giving up eight earned runs in four and two-thirds innings. Ned said the Indian hit some mistakes, but also hit some good pitches. Wade said he was keeping the ball down, but still catching too much of the plate. The Royals defense tried to keep Wade in the game: Lorenzo Cain threw out a runner at home—aided by a catch and tag by Salvador Perez—Chris Getz, Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer turned a nifty double play in the third and Hosmer showed some fancy footwork around the bag on a throw from Mike Moustakas—but none of it helped. Davis was gone before they sang "Friends in Low Places." A chunk of the good defense came in the fourth inning. The scorebook will show that Carlos Santana was caught stealing, but Ryan Raburn swung through a pitch, so it was probably a hit and run that didn’t pan out. Wade Davis said he gets the ball to home plate in 1.1 to 1.3 seconds and Salvador Perez is extremely quick, so a stolen base against those two would not be a good bet. In the fifth inning the home plate umpire punched out Lonnie Chisenhall with one of those dramatic Leslie Neilsen calls, but there’s was one problem—it was only strike two. It confused the heck out of everybody and the Royals started to leave the field. Someone figured it out, everyone came back and Chisenhall then struck out for real. In the top of the fifth inning Luke Hochevar replaced Wade Davis and wound up pitching an inning and a third. Since going to the pen Luke has pitched eight and two-thirds innings, struck out 11 and has an ERA of 1.04. Ned Yost has said he wants Luke to get used to this role and then move him into "high-leverage" situations.

About last night

When we came up with this website we did a few things right and almost all of them were by accident. One happy accident that I benefit from over and over is the fact that I have no deadline and no assigned topic (OK, that’s

two

happy accidents, but you get my point).

So when the Royals had a bad defensive game Sunday night, I didn’t have to rush in the clubhouse and ask questions about what went wrong—I could wait until Monday afternoon. Players have had a chance to get over poor play and a chance to think about what went wrong—and so have the coaches. Infield coach Eddie Rodriguez was out on the field early so I asked what went wrong on the first-inning error Mike Moustakas made in Sunday night’s game. Just a reminder: with one down and a runner on first base, Nick Swisher hit a shot at Moose; it looked like a perfect double play ball until it went through Mike legs.

So what went wrong?

As I suspected, Mike got in a rush. Eddie said you’ve got to consider the runner and the speed of the batted ball. So with a hard shot and Nick Swisher running, didn’t Mike have plenty of time?

Yes, Mike had plenty of time, but Chris Getz didn’t. Michael Brantley was the runner on first base and he was bearing down on the Royals second baseman. If Brantley could take out Getz, no double play. So Moustakas wanted to get his teammate the ball in a hurry—he was trying to help Getz. But as Eddie pointed out, it’s not Mike’s job to turn the double play; Mike’s job is to catch the ball, throw it to Getz and make sure the Royals got one out. It was Getzie’s job to get the second out if possible or eat the ball and get out of the way if it wasn’t.

So Mike’s desire to help a teammate meant he was still moving laterally when the ball arrived: Moose was trying to get the ball to second base in a rush. Eddie pointed out that the ball was hit so hard that Mike didn’t need to do that—he could have gotten in front of the ball, squared up—quit moving—and still made the play. Learning to play at the right speed takes a while; guys get to the big leagues and the game seems so fast that they try to play faster.

I asked Eddie how long it takes a player to figure out what it takes to play in the big leagues and he said three years—on average. Some guys get it faster, some guys take longer, but generally speaking, somewhere in the third year they begin to understand how to play big league baseball. Mistakes like Mike’s are necessary because that’s how you learn: you screw up, adjust and do something different the next time.

And you probably do it slower.

Kottaras and the passed ball

George Kottaras had a passed ball in Sunday night’s game and it was a different deal entirely: George called for a curve and got a fastball. Big league pitches come in so fast, catchers have to anticipate the pitches’ movement or they won’t get their glove to the right spot in time. George was starting to move his glove down for a curve and realized he was getting a fastball. The glove didn’t make it back to the right spot before the ball arrived. If you’re going to get crossed up, George said it’s better if you called a fastball and get a breaking pitch—you’ve got more time to react. Call a curve and get a fastball and you might not be able to react in time.

So Mike’s mistake was trying to play the game too quickly, George’s passed ball had to do with miscommunication. They say it’s a game of failure—and they sure are a bunch of ways to fail.

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