Eight walks come back to haunt Royals

07/08/2013 4:14 PM

07/08/2013 4:14 PM

Anytime you walk eight batters and hit one, you’re going to have a hard time winning a ballgame. Tuesday night was no exception: the Royals lost 6-5 and three of those eight walks scored. The Royals didn’t quite

beat themselves, but they gave the Cleveland Indians plenty of help.

It started with the very first batter of the game: Luis Mendoza walked Michael Brantley. Asdrubal Cabrera popped up to Johnny Giavotella—who made a difficult over-the-shoulder catch in shallow right—then Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher singled. With the bases loaded and no room for error, Mendoza walked Carlos Santana and hit Mark Reynolds with a pitch. The Indians were up 2-0.

They scored again in the fourth: after singles by Jason Giambi and Lonnie Chisenhall, Mendoza got an out and then walked Brantley again. That pushed Giambi to third and Chisenhall to second, so when Asdrubal Cabrera singled, two runs scored, not one.

Cut to the seventh and with the score tied 4-4—more on Alex Gordon’s grand slam shortly—Tim Collins came in and walked the first two batters he faced, Aaron Crow replaced him and walked one more. Carlos Santana drove in one of those walks with a sacrifice fly and Jason Giambi drove in another with a double.

When Kelvin Herrera was dealing, the back end of the Royals bullpen was dominating. Collins and Crow are now pitching in the later innings and Tim’s ERA is up to 4.05 and Aaron’s is 3.55. Figuring out how to get the ball from the starter to closer Greg Holland has gotten a bit more complicated these days and walking people ain’t helping.

Game notes

*Tough night for Luis Mendoza: afterwards he said he had a hard time commanding the ball. He pitched four innings, walked four, hit one, struck out two and gave up four earned runs.

*Luis threw 26 pitches in the first inning which meant he needed a chance to sit for a while before heading back out to the mound. Alex Gordon took two called strikes, Alcides Escobar took one and Eric Hosmer took none. When the opposition pitcher sees his opponent have a long inning, he should pound the strike zone in the next half inning—hitters

should

be taking pitches in order to let their pitcher rest. Smart pitchers should take advantage of that and Corey Kluber did—the Royals were back on defense in 13 pitches.

*In the bottom of the second inning Salvador Perez doubled and came in hobbling to second base. Ned Yost said there was nothing to worry about: Salvy fouled a ball off his leg in a previous game and managed to have another ball—a pitch in the dirt—hit him in the same spot. If I counted right, the Royals were 2-7 during Salvador’s bereavement leave, so they probably think it’s pretty important to keep him on the field.

*Before the game Rusty Kuntz talked about that very thing and said what he’s said before: guys like Salvy—who the Royals hope will play in as many games as possible—need to give it about 80% coming down the line and then turn the dial to 100% when it’s needed. Guys like Elliot Johnson—who won’t play every day—can go 100% all the time.

*Johnny Giavotella made that nice catch on a pop up and turned four double plays, but also had an Alex Gordon throw glance off his glove. It didn’t look like they were going to get Nick Swisher (who was stretching a single into a double), but people will be watching Gio’s defense closely. If he struggles with the glove, Johnny will need to hit enough to make up for that.

*Back to that Alex Gordon grand slam: with the bases loaded Alex got a 3-0 green light. He pulled the ball to right field, but said the pitch was slightly away from him. Gordon figured they wouldn’t come right down the middle 3-0 and "dove" toward the outside half and that made the pitch pull-able. Look for 3-0 green lights with power hitters at the plate or contact hitters who have runners in scoring position.

*On a night where the overall pitching was not so hot, don’t miss the fact that Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar threw two scoreless innings each. Luke struck out four of the six batters he faced.

*Back to the fifth inning

before

Alex Gordon hit that grand slam: base-running coach Rusty Kuntz says that when the bases are loaded and there are no outs, the Royals base-running policy is to take no secondary leads. They don’t want anyone to get doubled off and screw up a potentially big inning. But Rusty also said guys have a hard time not taking some kind of secondary lead—it’s just not in their nature to stand there. He was right: with the bases loaded and nobody out, guys were still taking a coupe shuffle steps as the pitcher delivered the ball to home plate.

*The eighth inning turned out to be the Royals last chance: down by two Eric Hosmer led off with a single and Billy Butler drove him in with a double down the left-field line. Elliot Johnson came out to run for Billy and—with nobody out—Salvador Perez needed to move Johnson over to third base. Sal got the job done with a grounder to first and with Elliot on third and one down, Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano appeared to work around Mike Moustakas. Moose stayed patient, walked and that set up a double play.

With the count 1-2 David Lough smoked a ball to second baseman Jason Kipnis and the Indians turned two to end the inning. Hit the ball off to one side or the other, or hit it more softly and the run scores—but none of that happened and the Royals never got the tying run they needed.

No-doubles defense, the outfield

Regular readers know there’s a team in Switzerland that follows this website to get tips about playing baseball and every once in a while their coach, Chris Byrnes, emails me to ask a question. His latest question had to do with the "no-doubles" defense. The information that follows will not only help the Embrach Mustangs dominate Swiss baseball, but should make the game more interesting to Kansas City Royals fans:

First, let’s explain the no-doubles defense: if you see a coach wave his hand behind his head, he’s calling for no doubles. In the Royals case, that coach would be Rusty Kuntz and he’ll be standing on the top step of the dugout at the end closest to the outfield.

Once the outfielders see the no doubles sign, they back up until they feel like a ball can't get past them or be hit over their heads. Corner outfielders might be five steps from the warning track, the centerfielder might be ten steps away. Center can play shallower because he has more time to get back on the ball—he’s further from home plate. Rusty said the outfielders need to be able to get to the wall and make a catch standing flat-footed, not running and leaping.

The object of no doubles is to hold the batter to a single, so no diving attempts on sinking line drives. If the outfielder isn’t sure of the catch, he has to pull up, play it on the hop and keep the batter at first base. Holding the batter to a single means the other team is still two hits away from scoring—assuming they’re singles. If

another batter hits another

single, then the outfielders have to stop playing no doubles and move back to their normal positioning; now a single scores a run.

When a team is in no doubles, the throw always goes to second base. Say the Royals are up 6-4 in the ninth, there’s a runner on second and Rusty signals for no doubles. If the batter hits a single the Royals don’t want a throw to the plate; that run is meaningless. The run that matters is the tying run and that’s the guy who hit the single—keep him out of scoring position.

OK, so when do you use no doubles? Rusty said you can do it anytime there are two outs, even in the first inning. There should be nobody on or—at worst—a runner on first base, but no runner in scoring position. A single would not turn into a run with no runner in scoring position. But say there’s nobody on and the batter is a singles hitter

and

a base stealer—someone like Jarrod Dyson—Rusty would avoid playing no doubles. Play back and let a ball drop in for a single and a guy like Dyson will make it a double by stealing second base. If a fast guy without a lot of pop is at the plate, the Royals are going to make that guy beat them by hitting the ball over an outfielder’s head.

I asked Rusty if playing no doubles in the outfield always meant guarding the lines in the infield and that’s about the time Mike Moustakas walked by. I’ll tell you what Mike had to say about preventing doubles tomorrow, in "No doubles, Part II—the Infield."

(Hey, if Hollywood can have sequels, why can’t I?)

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