The Royals struggled for seven innings against Twins starting pitcher, Kevin Correia—six hits and no runs. Sometimes all you can do is wait a guy out and hope to beat up on a reliever. After 118 pitches Correia was done, and in came Minnesota reliever, Jared Burton. He struck out Billy Butler, but gave up a single to Salvador Perez. Next David Lough singled—and Salvador Perez helped break the inning open by going first to third. Perez is not a fast guy, but he got a great read on Lough’s hit and that allowed him to make the turn and take the extra base.
So what did Sal see?
Twins right fielder Chris Herrmann going to his left. If Herrmann—who is right-handed—had been moving forward or to his right, he’d be headed in the general direction of third base and that would mean a stronger throw. Because Herrmann was going to his left—toward the right field line and away from third base, the throw wouldn’t be as strong. Lough hit the ball to right field and that just so happens to be the field furthest from third base. Any time a ball is hit to right field—especially with one down—base runners are thinking about taking the extra base. Perez made the turn, went first-to-third and that changed the inning.
With only one down and runners on first and third in a 0-0 ballgame, Chris Getz didn’t need a base hit, but he did need to stay out of an inning-ending double play. David Lough took care of that by stealing second base. The Twins catcher Ryan Doumit doesn’t throw well, so he didn’t risk throwing the ball down to second base—not with Perez on third. Doumit pump faked and look to third to see if Perez was off base and he wasn’t.
Getz dumped a ball in front of the outfield and because Perez was on third, he scored. If he’d been on second, Sal would have had to wait to see if the ball had been caught and would have only made it 90 feet. The Royals broke the scoreless tie because Sal Perez got a great read and went first-to-third.
The rest of the inning
Lough was on second and moved up to third on the Getz single. Once again the Royals had runners on first and third. Once again the Royals had a runner steal second base—this time it was Getz. Once again the Twins did not throw the ball down to second base, but it appeared to be some kind of cross up on their part. Jared Burton pitched out, Ryan Doumit came out from behind the plate all stoked up to throw out Getz—and neither of Minnesota’s middle infielders moved to cover second. You can’t throw the ball if no one’s there to catch it.
The pitchout got Alcides Escobar one fourth of the way to a walk and Esky got the other three-fourths of a walk on his own. The bases were loaded and Jarrod Dyson came to the plate. There was some speculation about pinch-hitting for Dyson, but there were at least two reasons not to: 1. The Royals already had the lead (although it wouldn’t have led up) and the Royals wanted Dyson’s defense during the next two innings and 2. Jarrod Dyson is very tough to double up.
Dyson stayed out of a double play by bunting for a hit. It was not a suicide squeeze (in that play the runner breaks for home when the pitcher’s front foot comes down,before the ball is bunted) or a safety squeeze (in that play the runner breaks for home after
the ball is bunted, but only if he sees the bunt is a good one). No, this was Dyson bunting for a hit. The Twins had changed pitchers; Caleb Thielbar replaced Jared Burton and while the change was being made, David Lough was informed that Jarrod might try bunting for a hit. If Dyson got the ball in play, Lough would have no choice but to come home. That’s why you saw the slight hesitation from Lough; he took his secondary lead, paused and broke for home plate once he saw Dyson bunt the ball. It was a little too close to the third-base line for comfort—the catcher picked the ball up and tried to tag Lough—but David avoided the tag and scored.
After that Alex Gordon cleared the bases with a double—he tried for a one-out triple and was thrown out—and that was pretty much all she wrote. The Royals win the first game of the Twins series 6-1, but it started with some good base running from Salvador Perez.
• Twins starting pitcher Kevin Correia looked like he had great command all night and home plate umpire Jerry Layne wasn’t hurting him. Several pitches that appeared to be well off the plate were called for strikes.
Giving a pitcher too much leeway on the outside pitch can be dangerous: hitters will be forced to dive to cover that outside pitch and when they guy on the mound sees the hitter diving toward the outside corner, he’ll come up and in.
• Emilio Bonifacio took a called strike three in the third inning with a runner in scoring position. In that situation, you gotta hack if it’s close. There’s no point in complaining about the umpire’s strike zone and then leaving it up to him on a close pitch—if the umpire is missing calls, protect the zone with two strikes.
• Watch Alex Gordon’s front foot and you’ll see he strides toward the plate; that’s why pitchers try to jam him inside and helps explains why Gordon breaks all those bats.
• James Shields, who has struggled in the first inning, got through the first inning in this game with no damage. Shields has made an adjustment in his pitching motion and it’s paying off. If you missed it the first time here it is again: he was separating his hands up high and that meant his arm was taking longer to extend all the way down and that meant his arm was having a hard time catching up with his body as it moved forward—that’ll make the ball go high in the zone. Shields is now separating his hands from a lower position, that’s getting his arm back on time and that’s keeping the ball low in the zone.
• Shields has now pitched 189 innings with a 3.14 ERA.
• In the second inning Alcides Escobar once again swung at a first pitch—he lined out to short—but as has already been pointed out, pitchers tend to go right after guys hitting .235. Pitchers aren’t afraid of Esky and tend to pound the zone—or at least they should. Jared Burton walked Alcides in the eighth.
• Bonifacio walked in the fifth inning and for the first time all night, Correia had a base-stealing threat on first base with second base open. Earlier in the game, Corriea had runners like Salvador Perez and Billy Butler on, but they’re not going to steal a bag. With Bonifacio over there, Corriea went into a slide step to get the ball to home plate more quickly, but had trouble throwing strikes from that delivery and walked Eric Hosmer. With Bonifacio on second base, Corriea could take a bit more time getting the ball to home plate, so he went back to his regular delivery and struck out Butler, then got Perez to hit into a fielder’s choice.
• It’s always great when your offense has a multi-run inning, but the five-run top of the eighth made Shields wait a long time to come out for the bottom of the inning. When james finally got back on the mound, he scuffled; giving up two singles, a walk and a double before Ned Yost replaced him with Will Smith.
The only out Shields got in the eighth came on a pitch in the dirt: Trevor Plouffe was on second base and Clete Thomas was on first—both tried to advance. Salvador Perez threw out Thomas. When both runners try to advance, the trail runner is often the guy you want to go for. He’s got to wait to make sure the lead runner really does take off for third, so the trail runner gets a lousy jump.
Down by five at that point, it was not a great decision by Thomas to take off for second—you’ve got to be sure you’re going to make it and he didn’t.
• During the game there was some talk about Alex Gordon’s spot in the batting order and what he hit while batting first or third or fourth. They also talked about Jarrod Dyson’s home and road batting average. When you hear stuff like that, remember only one factor is being considered. The pitchers they faced, the guys in front and behind them in the order, the score and dozens of other factors are also be part of the picture. Picking one factor and sayingthis
is why this guy hits well or poorly is almost always a mistake.
• I heard some other announcers talk about another hitter and his ability to hit with runners in scoring position. They concluded the hitter was able to "raise his game to another level", but it might also be the guy is on a team adept at stealing signs.
Watch runners on second base and if they’re tugging at their pants or taking their helmet off or doing anything else out of the ordinary they might be passing the signs along to the hitter. Catchers and pitchers will make the signs more complicated, but guys who have been around a while can usually decode those signs within a few pitches. And if you know if the pitch is a fastball or off-speed and the runner is also signaling location, you’re going to raise your game to another level.
• The Royals were able to get through this game with only an inning and two thirds from the bullpen and that’s good; Danny Duffy is replacing Wade Davis in the rotation—Davis is going to the pen—and Danny can use a boatload of pitches to get through five innings. The Royals may need quite a bit of help from the pen when Danny starts.
You hear at every game: some fan—upset by a call—bellows, "C’mon, Blue!"
It seems likely that most things fans yell at ballgames are yelled for the benefit of those sitting around the yelling fan. Someone thinks they’ve got something witty to say or an insult that needs to be hurled and they want to share it with the other fans.
"C’mon, Blue!" is a favorite because it sounds like the guy yelling it knows what he’s talking about: umpires are called "Blue"—except they’re not. Not in the major leagues. I asked a former umpire if any big-league player ever referred to him as "Blue" and he said only once; after that, they were straightened out.
Umpires have names and big league ballplayers are expected to learn them. After all, as one manager told a player; the umpires are going to be around a lot longer than you are—learn their names. And a player would probably not say, "C’mon, Bob!" They’d be more likely to say: "Bob, I got that pitch outside." Or: "Bob, you kidding me right now?"
"C’mon Blue!" is considered bush league and not tolerated by big-league umpires. So the next time you hear someone knowingly call and umpire "Blue" you now know they really don’t know what they’re talking about.
(The players were not yelling "C’mon, Blue" in Tuesday night’s game, but I did hear Jerry Layne’s name taken in vain a few times.)