What to watch for in Game Six of the World Series
The more you know, the more entertaining baseball becomes. With that in mind here are a few things you can watch for in Game Six of the 2014 World Series.
Jake Peavy and base runners
In his last start against the Royals, pitcher Jake Peavy struggled when he had runners on base. The day before that start Peavy talked about how distracting runners can be; pitchers have to vary the time they hold the ball in the set position, cut down their delivery to home plate to get the ball in the catcher’s hands more quickly and throw more fastballs to give their catcher a chance to throw out a base stealer.
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In Game Two whenever Peavy had a runner in an inning, he’d have more than one runner. In every inning in which Peavy had a runner, he also gave up a run. If the Royals can get a runner on somehow, someway; one runner might lead to two runners and that might lead to runs.
And if the runner is a base stealer, that’s even more distracting.
Two-strike hitting by the Giants
The Giants have had some big two-strike hits in this series and they deserve credit for cutting down on their swings and finding a way to get the ball in play. But in some of those cases Royals pitchers did not have to throw anything near the zone, but did anyway.
In Sunday’s game Hunter Pence hit an 0-2 changeup for a single, Brandon Crawford hit a 2-2 curve and Travis Ishikawa singled on a 1-2 changeup. In each case the pitch could have been bounced or thrown well out of the zone.
But if a pitcher is going to do that he either needs to throw a pitch that starts out looking like a strike and then bounces, otherwise a hitter won’t swing and the pitcher has wasted a pitch. Or the pitcher can throw a pitch out of the zone that sets up the next pitch; if a hitter gets a fastball up around his head he won’t be too eager to lean out and whack a changeup down and away on the next pitch.
Yordano Ventura’s off-speed pitches
Everyone talks about Yordano Ventura’s 100 MPH fastball, but his curve and changeup are just as important. Keep throwing a fastball to big league hitters and they’ll adjust. In his first start against the Giants Ventura threw eight fastballs in a row to Gregor Blanco and the eighth one wound up on the wrong side of the fence in right.
If Ventura can throw his off-speed stuff on the first pitch and in fastball counts, he’ll keep the San Francisco hitters from sitting on that fastball. He doesn’t have to throw it for a strike every time, but he does need to throw it for strikes just often enough for it to be a threat. And doubling up on curves is not a bad idea either; if Ventura throws a fastball after every curve, hitters will notice and wait for that heater.
Why Ventura should not look up
When Luke Hochevar made his rookie debut, Fred Kendall—Jason Kendall’s dad—was the Kansas City Royals bullpen coach. When Hoch left the pen to go throw his first big league pitch Fred said: "Hey, kid…do me a favor and don’t look up."
Luke ran out to the mound thinking: "Don’t look up? Don’t look up? What the hell does that mean?" Then Luke walked up the back of the mound, took his place on the pitching rubber and did exactly what Fred Kendall warned him not to; he looked up—and saw the biggest , most intimidating stadium he’d ever pitched in.
There will be more than 40,000 people inside Kauffman Stadium for Game Six. Yordano Ventura has already pitched in a World Series game, but this is an elimination game; the biggest game he’s ever pitched in his career.
Everything I know about baseball came from listening to people who know more about the game than I do. I’ve never pitched at all, much less in the World Series, but I’m guessing Fred Kendall knew what he was talking about.
Yordano? Don’t look up.