Down by one run in the ninth inning, Salvador Perez led off with a single and Chris Getz pinch ran for him. Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes had already thrown out a couple base runners and Cleveland closer Chris Perez gets the ball to home plate fairly quickly, so a stolen base might not have been the best option. Turned out the Royals didn’t need to steal Getz to put him in scoring position: Chris Perez walked the next hitter, Mike Moustakas, on four pitches.
Pinch runner Pedro Ciriaco replaced Moustakas and you can start second-guessing right about now: David Lough pinch hit for Lorenzo Cain and put down a sacrifice bunt. If a bunt was the right move, you might wonder why David Lough was the guy doing it—he’s left-handed and hitting .283. Jamey Carroll was still on the bench, although Carroll has one sacrifice bunt this season and Lough has three. Getz has eight sac bunts, but he was on second base.
Second guess all you want; Lough got the bunt down and the tying run was on third base, the winning run was on second. Carlos Pena then pinch hit for Jarrod Dyson. You can do some more second-guessing if you like: Dyson had two hits in this game, but was 0 for 2 off Perez in the past. Pena was 1 for 5 off Perez, Lough (had he not been used to bunt the runners over) was 0 for 2 and Getz (had he not been used to pinch run) was 2 for 5. Jamey Carroll was 1 for 3 off Cleveland’s closer, but to be fair, nobody on the bench had a huge number of at-bats against Chris Perez and nobody had put up incredible numbers—so Pena it was.
The Indians set up their infield defense and pretty much conceded the tying run—if Pena could hit a groundball up the middle or to the left side of the field. Third base was even with the bag, first was back a bit and the two middle infielders were playing back and swung around to the pull side of the field; there was a hole on the left side. The situation was screaming for a contact hitter, but if a different hitter had been at the plate the Indians would have set up a different defense. With Pena at the plate they conceded a run if
he could hit a groundball up the middle—turned out, he couldn’t.
The sacrifice bunt opened up first base, so Chris Perez really didn’t have to give Carlos Pena anything to hit—a walk meant nothing—or at least next to nothing. Perez appeared to be staying away from Pena’s power and pitching him on the outside part of the plate. The count moved to 2-0 and that’s when home plate Doug Eddings started giving Perez pitches down and away and off the plate. After a fastball and a slider were called a strike (the slider probably was), Perez missed and the count went to 3-2. Remember, Perez had first base open so he could continue to pitch Pena tough—a walk would not be the end of the world.
That’s when Chris Perez threw the pitch of the night: a backdoor slider that locked up Carlos Pena for a called strike three. A backdoor slider is thrown from a right-handed pitcher to a left-handed batter or vice versa. The pitch starts in the other batter’s box, the hitter gives up on a pitch that appears to be well outside and the slider’s movement brings the pitch into the zone, through the backdoor.
Carlos Pena needed to get the ball in play and didn’t. The Indians were conceding a run and the Royals couldn’t take advantage. Once there were two down, the Royals would probably need an actual hit to score the tying run; bringing Chris Getz home on a groundout or sac fly was no longer an option. George Kottaras pinch hit for Alcides Escobar and walked after a 10-pitch plate appearance, but with the bases loaded, Alex Gordon hit a fly ball to end the game. With Pena at the plate the Royals had a golden opportunity to at least tie the game, but couldn’t get it done—because Chris Perez threw the biggest pitch of the game.
Indians 4, Royals 3.
Here’s a baseball joke:
"You know why people second guess?"
"Because their first guess wasn’t worth a damn."
Big league managers know that anytime things don’t work out, they’ll get second-guessed. After the battle is over and the smoke has cleared, we all have a better idea of whatshould
have been done. But having spent a lot of time around these guys, I’m a reluctant second-guesser. When you get to talk to them later, they almost always knew something about the situation you didn’t.
As the ninth inning unfolded I had some questions about the way it played out, but I generally figure Ned Yost knows more about managing a big-league ball club than I do. He’s not crazy about going back over games that happened a week earlier—Ned’s pretty locked in to whatever game is being played that night—but if I get a chance I’ll ask him about this one, and if I hear something interesting I’ll bring it back here to the web site.
• In the third inning Jarrod Dyson led off with a double, moved over to third on an Alcides Escobar groundout and then tried to score on an Alex Gordon ground ball to first base. After the game Ned Yost said that ball Gordon hit had to be kept up the middle; the shortstop and second baseman were playing back, conceding a run—first baseman Nick Swisher wasn’t.
Swisher threw the ball home. Catcher Yan Gomes started the play with his left foot on the third-base line. When a catcher does that he’s giving half the plate to the runner. If the catcher straddles the line he’s blocking the entire plate and the runner has nowhere to go; the catcher is inviting a collision. Giving the runner a lane to home plate keeps that from happening. The catcher receives the ball and then turns and tags the runner as he slides toward the back of the dish.
In this case Swisher’s throw was low and Gomes went down on one knee. Dyson’s left foot hit Gome’s left shin guard and that slowed his progress just a bit. It still looked like Dyson may have gotten his foot in before Gomes got the tag on Dyson’s thigh, but the Royals did not get the call.
• The Royals attempted three stolen bases and were caught two times. Yan Gomes showed a strong and accurate arm, but he was getting help from Cleveland’s shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera. On each throw to second base, Cabrera positioned his left foot in the base path, right in front of the bag. That forces a runner to reach around Cabrera’s foot to tag the bag—as long as the runner comes in head first. Come in feet first, spikes high, and Cabrera might quit doing that.
• In the third inning the Royals gave the Indians a run when Jose Ramirez scored from first base on groundball to third. Here’s how that happened: Drew Stubbs was at the plate and the count went to 3-2. Ramirez was running on the pitch. By the time Mike Moustakas caught the chopper from Stubbs, Ramirez was at second base. When Moose threw the ball to Eric Hosmer over at first, Ramirez kept going.
Hosmer, who has a good arm, decided to throw the ball back to third base to try and get Ramirez, but the throw was low and may have hit Ramirez as he slid. As a result, the ball skipped past third. Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar were in pursuit; Esky got to the ball first, but bobbled it as he tried to pick it up. Ramirez scored all the way from first base on a groundball to third—that’s what speed do.
• Speaking of Jarrod Dyson: he was caught stealing in the fifth inning. Three things probably made that possible: Ubaldo Jimenez does not take that long to get the ball to home plate, Yan Gomes has a good arm and Dyson went on the first pitch. Lots of pitchers throw fastballs 0-0 and that’s what happened here; the pitch was 93 miles an hour and up in the zone. If the pitcher and catcher are quick, base runners will often look to run in the breaking-ball counts that come later in an at-bat. An off-speed pitch gives them just a bit more time to cover 90 feet.
• Gomes’ home run in the bottom of the fifth inning probably would have been an out had it been hit here in Kansas City. In Cleveland, the ball just barely went over a wall about 375 feet away from home plate—in KC that same ball would have to clear 387.
• If you’re mad about the Royals giving a run to Cleveland with the Hosmer error, you might feel better if you remember Cleveland gave a run to KC in the sixth. Jose Ramirez made a wild throw on an Alex Gordon groundball and missed first base by a bunch; Gordon wound up at second. Emilio Bonifacio followed the error with a hard grounder to third and, had Alex been on first, the Indians probably would have turned an inning-ending double play. Instead, Alex was still in scoring position and proved it by later scoring on a two-out Eric Hosmer single.
• BTW: it’s September and Eric Hosmer is hitting .303—the dude deserves some credit.
If you’re going to make a mistake, make the right one
(David Lough got his bunt down and that reminded me of this piece from a couple weeks ago.)
The other day the Royals were practicing bunting; Rusty Kuntz was feeding balls into a pitching machine, the players were laying down bunts, aiming at a ball bucket about three feet off the foul line.
Afterwards I asked Rusty if too many bunters tried to be too fine: did they try to make a perfect bunt down the line and then see the ball go foul? Rusty said that was better than getting the ball too close to the mound. If that happens the pitcher is going to have a play. "Better 0 and 1 than 0for
1." Rusty has a point; if you’re going to make a mistake with a bunt, better to make that mistake near the foul line than near the mound. And as Rusty pointed out; it’s easy to make a mistake when the ball is going 92 and moving.
So if you’re going to make a mistake, make the right one.