Judging the Royals

The Royals lose to the Yankees; why pitch to Gregorius?

The Yankees’ Didi Gregorius hit a two-run home run during the fourth inning of Monday’s game.
The Yankees’ Didi Gregorius hit a two-run home run during the fourth inning of Monday’s game. The Associated Press

Look up Didi Gregorius’ numbers and he’s currently hitting .333; over the last seven days it’s .391, and over the last 14 days it’s .357. And despite batting left-handed, this season Gregorius has hit .385 against lefties.

Safe to say Gregorius is on a hot streak.

Now look up Chase Headley’s numbers:

The Yankee third baseman is currently hitting .236; over the last seven days it’s .100, and over the last 14 days it’s .139. And despite being a switch hitter, this season Headley has hit .182 against lefties.

Safe to say Headley is not on a hot streak.

Now look up match-up numbers:

Coming into the fourth inning of Monday night’s game, Gregorius was 2 for 6 off Jason Vargas and Vargas had never struck him out.

Coming into the fourth inning of Monday night’s game, Headley was 3 for 12 off Vargas and Vargas had struck him out four times.

And in their first at-bats of the evening, Gregorius had singled and Headley had struck out.

OK, I think we’ve spent enough time setting the stage.

In the fourth inning of Monday night’s game against the Yankees, Gregorius came to the plate with the score 2-1 Royals, two outs, the tying run on second base and first base open; Headley was on deck.

But instead of intentionally walking Gregorius — or at least pitching around him — Vargas pitched to him and Gregorius homered, giving the Yankees a lead they’d never give back.

And to make it sting just a bit more, when Headley came to the plate he struck out.

Of course, if Vargas had put Gregorius on base, the Yankees could have pinch hit for Headley, but the fourth inning is pretty early for that move and the Yanks’ possible pinch hitters were better matchups for Vargas than Gregorius.

So why pitch to Didi Gregorius?

I don’t have an answer to that, but if I hear one that makes sense I’ll let you know.

Runners in scoring position

According to FanGraphs, this season Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda has thrown his fastball a little over 50 percent of the time.

But on Monday night, when Pineda had a runner in scoring position, he threw sliders and change-ups almost exclusively. With Eric Hosmer on second base in the fourth inning, Salvador Perez saw a couple fastballs during a 12-pitch at-bat, but neither fastball was thrown for a strike … which didn’t stop Salvy from swinging at them.

Brandon Moss saw one fastball away, which looked like a ball, but got called a strike anyway.

In the big leagues, hittable fastballs are called cookies, but Royals coach Rusty Kuntz says with a runner in scoring position hitters better look off-speed, because the cookie store is closed.

Left-handed hitters in Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium and left-handed hitters were pretty much made for each other.

According to the Internet, it’s 314 feet down both lines in New Yankee Stadium, but in left field the wall drops away rapidly and in right field the wall stays close to home plate for a while.

And because a routine fly ball in Kansas City is a home run in New York, lefties like to aim for that short, right-field porch and pitchers have to find a way to keep that from happening.

Three of the four Yankee runs were put on the board when left-handed hitters — Brett Gardner and Gregorius — got pitches to pull and homered.

On Monday night, the Royals had three left-handed hitters in their lineup — Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Brandon Moss — but they weren’t able to do the same kind of damage; they were a combined 1 for 12.

When you watch Tuesday night’s game, keep an eye on left-handed hitters and how pitchers attack them.

Some lefties like to stand on top of the plate and make the away pitch look like it’s down the middle. Pitchers often respond to that by pitching inside, but come too far inside and you hit the batter, fail to come inside enough and you just served up a home-run ball.

And look for lefties who stand on top of the plate, but take a stride toward first base that opens them up; it might look like a pitcher can sneak an inside fastball past the hitter, but if the hitter strides open, he can still handle that heater inside.

Enjoy Tuesday’s game.

  Comments