Judging the Royals

The Royals win: why pitchers don’t want to pitch inside in extra innings

Tampa Bay Rays reliever Diego Moreno walked back to the mound after giving up a solo home run to Royals’ third baseman Mike Moustakas on Tuesday.
Tampa Bay Rays reliever Diego Moreno walked back to the mound after giving up a solo home run to Royals’ third baseman Mike Moustakas on Tuesday. The Associated Press

When a game goes 12 innings, it’s pretty hard to write about everything that happened. On Tuesday night, the Royals and Rays combined to score 13 runs on 24 hits, there were 88 at-bats, 13 walks and one manager was ejected.

To accurately describe everything that happened, I’d have to write “War and Peace,” but since you probably don’t have time to read that and I definitely don’t have to write that, let’s look at one pitch instead.

Why you don’t pitch inside in extra innings

One of the pitching rules of thumb is you don’t pitch inside in extra innings and the reasoning is pretty simple.

In extra innings, it’s not uncommon for hitters to look for a pitch on the inside part of the plate because they want to pull the ball and win the game with a home run.

That being the case, if a pitcher goes inside he needs to go way inside; he can knock the hitter off the plate and then go right back to pitching on the outer half.

And if everyone is trying to pull the ball, the hitters will either have a hard time making contact on those outside pitches or make weak contact if they put the ball in play. That’s one of the reasons extra-innings games can go so long; everybody’s trying to hit the long ball, nobody’s trying to put a rally together.

That’s how it works in theory.

So Tuesday night from the 10th inning on I was watching for a pitcher to make a mistake and allow a hitter to pull and elevate the ball, and in the t12th inning — with Mike Moustakas at the plate — Diego Moreno made one.

Diego Moreno’s mistake

Keep in mind the goal of the pitcher is to avoid giving the hitter anything he can pull and elevate, and in the 10th and 11th innings all the pitchers managed to do that. The only balls that were pulled were grounders; but in the 12th inning, that changed.

Diego Moreno came in to pitch the 12th and Alcides Escobar led off with a fly ball to left, but Esky didn’t have enough on it to get the ball out of the park.

Now let’s look at the Moustakas at-bat.

Moreno throws his fastball — both four and two seams — around 93-94 mph. His cutter clocks in at around 93, and his slider and change-up are about 88. (I look at MLB’s Gameday when the Royals play, but don’t trust their pitch identification — they’ve been wrong all too often — so let’s just look at velocities.)

With the count 1-2 Moreno threw Moustakas a pitch on the outside corner that clocked in at 96.6 mph and Moose fouled that pitch off.

Whether the next pitch was a two-seam fastball or a change-up (MLB identified it as a two-seam fastball, but since the previous pitch was 96.6 mph, I suspect it was a change-up), it came in at 89.1 mph and it was up in the zone.

The pitch sequence — 96.6 mph followed by 89.1 mph — put Moustakas in pull mode and, since the pitch was up in the zone, it allowed Moose to elevate.

Even though it was middle-away, Moreno gave Mike Moustakas a pitch he could pull and elevate.

Moose homered, gave the Royals a 7-6 lead and since Kelvin Herrera never made the same kind of mistake Moreno did, the Royals won their second game in a row.

How Hosmer got picked off in the seventh inning

One more thing before I go…

In the seventh inning with runners on first and second base and Salvador Perez at the plate, the runner on first base — Eric Hosmer — got picked off.

So how the heck did that happen?

For starters, it wasn’t random; the Rays ran a pickoff play.

They had their first baseman, Logan Morrison, play behind Hosmer and since he wasn’t being held close to first base, Hosmer was tempted to expand his lead — he wanted to be able to score on a double, so he took the bait.

Stop the video when the Rays pitcher starts his delivery to home plate and you can see Morrison break for first base.

Since everyone’s attention turns to home plate as the pitcher delivers the ball, Morrison’s move wasn’t noticed — but it should have been. That would seem to be first base coach Rusty Kuntz’s responsibility.

Official attendance was only 9,921, so in a stadium that empty communication between Rusty and Hoz shouldn’t have been a problem.

After the game Hosmer did what good teammates do; he said it was his fault. No matter what you think privately, publicly you don’t throw a teammate or coach under the bus.

If it turns out Rusty wasn’t the one responsible for letting Hos know the first baseman was coming in behind him, I’ll revisit the subject and let you know.