The Royals had four hits; the Tigers had 14. The bottom third of the Tigers batting order—J.D. Martinez, Alex Avila and Austin Romine—had as many hits as the entire Royals lineup. The Royals had four guys on base all night; the Tigers had more runners than the Boston Marathon.
The Royals threw their ace at the Tigers and the Tigers mauled him. James Shields gave up 12 hits and eight runs, seven of them earned. In the third inning the Tigers had a single and two doubles. In the fourth inning it was a double, a homer and two singles. In the seventh they added four more singles.
It’s not like Detroit’s offense is unbeatable: coming into Friday night’s game, the Royals actually had more hits and had scored more runs than the Tigers. Kansas City also had more total bases, more doubles and more walks. But in this game the Royals offense scuffled and if the Royals offense is going to scuffle, the pitching and defense have to keep the score low.
Friday night James Shields couldn’t do that; Saturday night Danny Duffy gets his chance.
The Royals lose this one, 8-2.
Both Shields and Tigers starter Rick Porcello tend to struggle in the first inning. Shields got out of his with no runs scored, but without Jarrod Dyson’s speed, Ian Kinsler’s F8 would have been a double off the left-center wall. Torii Hunter also hit the ball hard, lining out to centerfield. Miguel Cabrera was the only guy who didn’t smoke the ball—he struck out—but Miggy made up for it later.
Porcello did not get out of his first inning cleanly, giving up a triple to Omar Infante and a sac fly to Eric Hosmer. There wasn’t a whole lot of offense after that.
Victor Martinez doubled to start the inning and Austin Jackson came to the plate with nobody out. In that situation the hitter isn’t always trying to move the runner over; if the guy is a 3-4-5 type hitter, his team may want him to drive the run in—forget moving him over. If the guy is a bottom of the order type; hit a weak grounder to the right side and you’ve done your job.
The Royals—and every other team—have a sign to let the hitter know what they want him to do; move the runner over or drive him in, but the Royals won’t tell me what the sign is.
The Royals were down 2-1 when Omar Infante singled. If you were thinking maybe Infante would steal, think again: Porcello is 1.2 to 1.3 to the plate, varies the time he holds the ball in the set position and throws over to first base a lot—very disruptive to the running game. Controlling the running game can be a distraction for some pitchers; they stop the guy on first from stealing, but then throw a cookie to the hitter. Porcello did not appear to have that problem.
In fact, after Billy Butler’s leadoff home run in the fourth, the Royals never had another base runner for Porcello to worry about.
After a leadoff double and a home run, the Tigers shortstop—Austin Romine—singled. Ian Kinsler hit a ball down the third base line and Mike Moustakas went into foul territory to catch it. Moose had no play at first, so he went for the lead runner at second base. Mike bounced the throw, it got by Omar Infante and Romine advanced to third. Moustakas got tagged with the error, but Infante did not body up the ball—he played it off to the side and tried to pick it and failed.
That cost the Royals a run when Romine scored on a Torii Hunter double play. If Infante had knocked the ball down, Romine would have stayed at second, advanced to third on the double play and been stranded when Miguel Cabrera made the third out if the inning.
That third out demonstrated the difficulty of pitching to Miguel Cabrera. In his second at-bat he pulled a changeup deep in the left field corner for a double; in his third at-bat he lined a fastball deep into the right field corner. Which is probably why I saw the Royals outfield play Cabrera straight up; he uses the whole field.
Eight and ninth innings:
The Royals hitters saw four pitches in the eighth and six pitches in the ninth. Swinging early in the count didn’t help, but the game’s not the same once you get into the bullpens. Hitters are not taking pitches in order to get the starters pitch count up and they don’t take pitches to let their starter rest. If a reliever throws you a cookie—hack.
How pitchers use a hitter’s aggression against them
Billy Butler said Toronto’s Mark Buehrle used the Royals hitters’ aggression against them and here’s what that means; when hitters think they’re getting a fastball for a strike, they tend to getbig.
That means they load up and try to do damage—their swings literally get big. But if a pitcher throws soft in those fastball counts the pitcher can use the hitter’s over-aggressiveness. The hitter will be out on his front foot and swing too soon. If that happens the result will be swings-and-misses, pop-ups and rollover grounders.
Pay attention to fastball counts—2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 3-1 and sometimes 3-2—and if you see a pitcher go soft in those counts he’s trying to use the hitter’s aggression against him.
When you’re not hitting, be aggressive on the base paths
Thursday night Dale Sveum sent Eric Hosmer home and the Blue Jays left fielder threw Hosmer out. There were no outs in the inning; should Sveum have been more conservative?
The answer might depend on whether the team is hitting.
With nobody out and a runner on third, you’d think the odds would be in your favor. Depending on the defensive alignment, pretty much all a hitter has to do is get a ball in play. But if you’re striking out, popping up or hitting a lot of rollover grounders, getting the right kind of ball in play might be harder than you think.
If your team is hitting well you might hold the runner and count on getting another hit. If you’re team is scuffling at the plate, you might send the runner and hope for an off-line throw—it might be your best chance.
Right now the Royals aren’t hitting, so if you see third-base coach Dale Sveum wave a runner home or have a guy try for two, it might be because the Royals aren’t hitting. Playing the game 90 feet at a time requires a lot of hits. When you’re not hitting, you might want to be aggressive on the base paths.