On Tuesday night, the Royals were down 2-0 going into the bottom of the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins. Left-handed closer Glen Perkins was on the mound for the Twins, trying to nail down a save for himself and a win for starting pitcher Kyle Gibson.
Perkins fell behind Omar Infante 2-0 and then gave the Royals second baseman a fastball in a fastball count. Infante was ready and doubled down the left-field line. That brought the tying run to the plate, Eric Hosmer. Perkins fell behind Hosmer 1-0 and once again threw a fastball. Hosmer lined it to left, and third-base coach Mike Jirschele waved Infante home.
It probably was an easy decision because there was no way Twins left fielder Josh Willingham was going to throw the ball to home plate. Try to throw the runner out at the plate and fail, and that would allow the tying run to scamper into scoring position. The throw kept Hosmer at first base, and the Royals were in business. The tying run was on first, and the winning run was at the plate.
Perkins fell behind the next hitter, Salvador Perez, and threw a fastball. It got whacked into left field, but the Twins got lucky. The ball was hit at Willingham. Three line drives in a row tell you something is up, and the Twins made a coaching visit to the mound.
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Perkins had thrown nothing but fastballs up to that point — seven of them — and after that coaching visit, he started throwing sliders. Alex Gordon hit a fly ball to center field, and the Royals had two outs and the tying run was still on first base. That was when Jarrod Dyson came out to pinch-run for Hosmer.
If you’re going to have Dyson pinch-run, why not do it right away?
After the game, Ned Yost said it was not a steal situation. Perkins is left-handed, so a runner has a very difficult time getting a jump. And once Perkins does go home, he only takes 1.1 seconds to get the ball there. The average is about 1.4 seconds, so Perkins is very quick to home plate — too quick for Dyson to steal.
Ned was hoping to get the winning run on base and then run Dyson, but that didn’t happen. Once the Royals had two outs, Yost pulled the trigger and sent Dyson out to run — but he still wasn’t stealing. Jarrod was there in case Billy Butler hit a ball in a gap. Ned wanted a runner who could score from first on a double.
That was why Butler wasn’t taking a pitch. His job was to find a ball he could drive — he didn’t — but he wasn’t taking pitches to allow Dyson to steal. Billy swung at the first pitch he saw, an 83-mph slider, and lined out softly to second baseman Brian Dozier.
So if you were wondering why Jarrod Dyson did not pinch-run right away, now you know.
How does a pitcher like Kyle Gibson shut down the Royals?
Minnesota starting pitcher Kyle Gibson came into Tuesday night’s game with an 8-8 record and an ERA of 4.19. You would think a pitcher with those numbers would be vulnerable. So how do you explain Gibson pitching seven innings while giving up two hits and no runs?
Because looking at overall numbers can sometimes be misleading.
Here is what Gibson had done in his nine previous starts: six and a third innings, six earned runs; six innings, zero earned runs; two innings, five earned runs; eight innings, two earned runs; two innings, seven earned runs; seven innings, zero earned runs; seven innings, zero earned runs; seven innings, zero earned runs; and six innings, four earned runs.
The guys been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Royals ran into Mr. Hyde.
What it means when a play 'stands'
In the third inning, Alex Gordon made a great diving catch, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire asked for an instant-replay review. He thought Gordon trapped the ball. When the review didn’t go his way, Gardenhire argued and was ejected.
The ruling from the Wizard of Oz (that is who’s making these calls, isn’t it?) was that the call on the field "stands."
If I understand correctly — and there’s a good chance I don’t — that means there’s not enough evidence to overturn the call. If a play is "confirmed," that means the Wizard saw the play and agrees with the ruling on the field.
The stuff we don’t know
On July 23, the Royals were playing the Chicago White Sox. In the top of the eighth inning, Billy Butler pinch-hit for Eric Hosmer. The guy on the mound at the time was right-handed Ronald Belisario. Hosmer was in a hot streak, Billy Butler wasn’t and the pitcher was right-handed, so why did Ned Yost pinch-hit Billy for Eric?
Hosmer had a check-swing earlier in the game, reaggravated a hand injury and told Ned he couldn’t hit. He had to be replaced in the lineup.
Ned sent Hosmer out on deck, hoping the White Sox would send in a left-handed reliever and then pinch-hitter Butler would have a better matchup. When that didn’t happen, Billy had to hit anyway. The Royals fans in attendance, not knowing Hosmer was hurt, let Yost have it. They thought it was a bonehead move and weren’t shy about expressing their opinions.
There’s a lesson here, and this it: Unless you’re absolutely sure you know everything involved in a managerial decision, you might want to reserve judgment. Managers are paid to know things the rest of us don’t. Over and over again, I’ve found myself in the position of thinking I knew what was going on but later found out there was more to the story.
In a world where everyone has to have an opinion on everything — and express it as quickly as possible on Twitter — asking people to reserve judgment probably won’t work, but at least I tried.
There’s a lot of stuff we don’t know.
Cleveland Indians slugger Carlos Santana came into Kansas City and knocked the heck out of Royals pitching over the weekend, going 9-for-14 with five home runs.
Old-school baseball — which we don’t play anymore — would say throw at him. Make Santana move his feet. Make him uncomfortable. If he’s leaning out and pulling pitches on the outside corner for home runs, he’s way too comfortable. Come up and in and put him on his backside — then see if he wants to keep leaning out over the plate. Throw a fastball at his front ankle and make him skip out of the way — then see how comfortable he is.
But the game is rarely played that way anymore.
Guys stand and watch their home runs, flip their bats and make slow trips around the bases while doing the macarena before they touch a bag. Can you imagine what Bob Gibson would have done the next time a guy who did that came to the plate?
When a hitter goes 9 for 14 with five home runs, he’s way too comfortable. Old-school baseball says you do something to change that.