Three outs away from a win
05/03/2013 7:33 AM
05/20/2014 10:43 AM
Alex Gordon was chapped, Eric Hosmer thought it was ridiculous and Jeff Francoeur wanted to keep playing. With the Royals up 1-0 the game was stopped after the top of the fourth inning. If it had been the top of the fifth, the game would have counted. Players said the conditions were bad, but if they were going to play in bad conditions for four innings, why not five?
Everyone said the infield was a mess—you could see standing water—but Francoeur thought they should have had the grounds crew come out, do what they could, and gotten the final inning played. The umpires saw it differently and the game will have to be rescheduled.
Other than the weather, there wasn’t a lot to talk about, but here’s what I had written down when they put the tarp on.
It was wet, it was cold and as if those two weren’t enough, it was windy. Ballplayers check the flags when they walk onto the field; they can tell you how to play the game. Wednesday night the wind was blowing in from left and Jeff Francoeur told his teammates that the lefties should pull the ball and the righties should go the other way. In other words: take advantage of the wind.
Thursday afternoon the wind was blowing from left to right and blowing hard enough that Alcides Escobar called for a pop fly at short and wound up catching it where the second baseman usually stands.
Smart pitchers will use the wind, if a batter crushes one—but hits it into the wind—no damage done. Let someone hit a pop fly when the wind is blowing out and a routine fly ball can leave the yard.
With Elliot Johnson on second base, Alex Gordon hit a ball past the Rays second baseman, Ben Zobrist. I knew Eddie Rodriguez was going to send Elliot Johnson home and if you’ve been following this web site for a while, so did you. When the grass is wet a groundball in the outfield will slow down and make the outfielder come and get it. Once he gets there, the outfielder will be picking up a wet ball and a good throw will be difficult, if not impossible. A one-hop shot is a different deal: the ball does not spend as much time on the ground and won’t be as wet.
When you think of a first baseman’s defense, you might think of his hands—and good hands are certainly part of the job. Handling bad throws from teammates is probably the most important thing a first baseman does; a guy that’s good at first base can save his team dozens of errors.
Eric Hosmer not only has good hands, he has good feet. Watch his footwork around the bag and you’ll see how important it is. If a guy makes a high throw, Hosmer might go up on tiptoe and stretch to make the catch. Eric will shift his feet laterally to shorten a throw from a teammate. If a guy launches one in the vicinity of the dugout, Hosmer will go across the bag (being careful not to collide with the runner) and make the catch in foul territory—which is exactly what he did on a high throw from Alcides Escobar to get James Loney. Having Eric Hosmer at first base allows the other infielders to attempt throws that might not make attempt—or make—otherwise.
After the double
Tuesday night James Shields started the game by giving up a check-swing infield single, followed by a home run. He then got a fly out, gave up a walk and then a double. After the double, Shields did not look happy. After the double, Shields struck out Yunel Escobar and Luke Scott. After the double, Shields threw six and two-thirds scoreless innings.
Thursday morning I asked James what changed after the double; was it a mechanical adjustment or something mental?
James said he was mad at himself for making a bad pitch, but then said you can use that anger to make yourself better. You can let anger distract you, get you thinking about the wrong things, or you can use that emotion to help you focus on what’s important—the next pitch. After the double James gave up one legitimate hit and what he called a "Q-tip" infield single, a ball hit off the end of the bat.
Shields said he’s trying to throw a no-hitter every time he gets on the mound, but a pitcher has to accept giving up hits. Big league pitchers play in a "5-A league" the best baseball league in the world—big league hitters are going to get their hits. But you can’t let one bad thing lead to another; you can’t throw the next pitch thinking about the last pitch. Use your emotion to help you make better pitches.
And that’s what James Shields did—after the double.