Sunday’s game took two hours and 49 minutes—a game that short means pitchers are dealing. They’re getting it and throwing it and when they throw it, they’re generally throwing strikes. Hitters are not waiting around to get a good pitch to hit. With two of the best pitchers in the American League throwing, a marginal pitch to hit will have to do.
Chris Sale threw eight innings, walked one, struck out six and gave up four hits, but didn’t give up a single run. James Shield was almost as good: he threw seven innings, walked none, struck out six, gave up five hits and just one run. Afterwards Ned Yost said it was two number ones at the top of their game. If you came to see a great pitching matchup, you got your money’s worth.
After eight innings, the score was 1-0, White Sox.
How the score wound up 5-1
Down by one in the bottom of the ninth inning, you’re still breathing. Down by five in the bottom of the ninth you may still be breathing, but an elephant’s sitting on your chest.
Shield’s pitch limit in this game was 110—he’d thrown 102 after seven innings. Ned Yost thought about sending Shields out for the eighth, but also thought it unlikely Shield would get through the top of the order for the fourth time in just eight pitches.
Yost wanted to give a reliever a clean inning to work with. Wade Davis and Aaron Crow were unavailable, so Yost handed the ball to Kelvin Herrera and Kelvin got the Sox 1-2-3 in the eighth.
Lefty Tim Collins came in to pitch the ninth and gave up a lead-off single to Adam Dunn, walked Dayan Viciedo and then got Conor Gillaspie to pop up a sacrifice bunt attempt for the first out of the inning. With Avisail Garcia at the plate, Leury Garcia—who was pinch running for Adam Dunn—took off for third base. Left-handed pitchers have their backs to a runner on second base so they have a harder time checking a runner’s lead. Garcia—Leury, not Avisail—got a great jump. Collins has trouble throwing out of a slide step so that meant a slower delivery to home plate.
Catcher Salvador Perez tried to make up for the slower delivery by throwing the ball down to third base sidearm. It takes less time because you don’t have to lift your arm as far, but a sidearm motion can make the ball move laterally and Sal threw this one into left field. The White Sox got an insurance run when Garcia scored on Sal’s error. (Yost thought Sal should probably have held the ball on this one—the runner’s jump was just too big.)
Collins then walked Garcia—Avisail, not Leury—and his day was done. Collins was replaced by Francisley Bueno who gave up a double and a single. Before the inning was over the Royals were down by five.
The importance of an insurance run
If you’re up by one run in the ninth innings you have a lot to worry about: let a runner get on and you need to start thinking about a steal, a sacrifice bunt and guarding the lines. Tack on an insurance run and you don’t have to hold a runner, slide step or change the way you pitch to stop the running game. The Royals scored one in the bottom of the ninth, but the bullpen giving up four extra runs made sure it didn’t matter.
Royals lose, 5-1.
Was James Shields throwing at Jose Abreu?
In the second inning James Shields hit Avisail Garcia with a pitch. The radar gun told you it was unintentional—Garcia got hit with an 86-MPH changeup. If a pitcher is going to drill a batter on purpose, he does it with a fastball.
So how about the pitch that hit Jose Abreu?
It was a 92-MPH two-seamer and Abreu had stepped on Eric Hosmer’s ankle during a play at first base earlier in the game. Shields said it was unintentional and he wasn’t going to hitanybody
in a nothing-nothing ballgame. (If a guy needs to be hit, you might find a better time to do it later in the season.)
And it didn’t look like Abreu had done anything wrong. The throw from Alcides Escobar had pulled Hosmer up the line toward home plate. When Abreu saw that, he turned his head to avoid taking Esky’s throw in the face. When Abreu turned his head he was no longer looking down and never saw Hosmer’s foot.
According to Shields, hitting Abreu in his next at-bat was a coincidence. Chris Sale did not appear to buy that and, in the next half inning, came waaay inside on Omar Infante. It was obvious enough that home plate umpire told issued a warning and told everyone to knock it off.
The Royals won an instant replay challenge on Sunday. After the game Ned Yost ran through the procedure his team is using and here’s how it works:
If Yost thinks he’s got a chance at getting a call overturned he waits as long as possible before leaving the dugout. The delay gives Bill Duplissea—the Royals replay guy who is sitting in their video room—time to look at the play in question. Yost talks to the umpire and stalls as long as possible while keeping an eye on bench coach Don Wakamatsu. Duplissea makes a decision, then calls Wakamatsu and tells him whether or not the Royals should use their challenge. Wakamatsu then signals Yost thumbs up—go ahead and challenge—or forget it, we won’t win.
It’s a new system and everyone hopes that with practice, the process will get faster.