Judging the Royals

Did the Angels’ Erick Aybar go crazy against the Royals?

Angels closing pitcher Huston Street (16) shared high-fives with Erick Aybar (2), Johnny Giavotella (12) and David Freese Tuesday after the Angels defeated the Mariners 2-0 in Seattle.
Angels closing pitcher Huston Street (16) shared high-fives with Erick Aybar (2), Johnny Giavotella (12) and David Freese Tuesday after the Angels defeated the Mariners 2-0 in Seattle. AP

Nah, of course not; but it’s just that kind of headline that drives traffic on the internet. You’re lucky I didn’t announce a "Beatles Reunion" or "Politician Found with Porn Star"—and one of those is a lot more likely than the other—but at least I now have your attention.

Here’s what actually happened:

In the bottom of the second inning with two outs, the Angels had Erick Aybar on first base and Johnny Giavotella coming to the plate. Johnny approached the box, started to look to the third base coach for the signs, then turned to look at second base with a confused look on his face.

And I’m pretty sure a lot of people watching the game also had a confused look; Erick Aybar was thrown out at second base when he tried to steal a bag between pitches—not something you see every day—but Aybar had his reasons for trying it.

After Aybar took off from first base, pitcher Jeremy Guthrie turned to second, threw the ball to Omar Infante and Omar tagged out Aybar. The Fox Sports guys doing the game credited Omar for being alert—umm, not really.

If you recorded the game, go back to the moment Aybar took off for second. Omar Infante had his back to the infield and was walking toward the outfield; he was not paying attention and that’s why Aybar thought he could get away with stealing second base while a pitcher was standing on the mound holding a baseball: if Aybar could get a good enough jump, no one would cover second base in time to receive a throw.

Now look around the rest of the infield: third baseman Mike Moustakas was also facing away from second, probably talking to somebody, probably the third base umpire or someone in the Angels dugout. Guthrie had his head down, looking at either the ball or the mound. Shortstop Alcides Escobar was at least turned the right way, but he had his hat off and appeared to be looking into the outfield. Even after Aybar took off for second base, Esky never broke to cover the bag. First baseman Eric Hosmer was looking toward home plate.

After Aybar broke for second, the first person to react seemed to be Infante. Fortunately, Omar turned back toward the infield in time and he did it when Aybar was about a third of the way to second base. When Aybar was about halfway to second, Hosmer and Guthrie reacted.

To his credit, Guthrie stayed cool, threw a strike to Infante (I guess Jeremy doesn’t have the thing) and Aybar was tagged out to end the inning. But if Infante had taken just a bit longer to turn his attention toward home plate, Aybar might have made it. They say all’s well that ends well, but the Royals came very close to being embarrassed.

Erick Aybar is not crazy—but I’d sure like to hear more about that politician found with a porn star.

Look away, adjust in

Here’s a hitting rule of thumb to remember: a hitter can look away and adjust in, but can’t look in and adjust away. I was reminded of that when Mike Moustakas hit an absolute rocket of a home run about halfway up general admission in right centerfield in the fourth inning of Saturday night’s game.

Those of you who have been paying attention know that Moose has been working on going the other way, but as Mike told me in spring training, there are still pitchers and pitches he would try to pull. I guess Jered Weaver—a right-handed pitcher whose fastball is now in the low eighties—is on that list.

So Mike can look away and if he gets something hittable inside—especially something off-speed or an 83-MPH fastball—he can pull his hands in toward his body and still get the bat head to the ball and pull it.

After a hitter crushes a pitch like Moose crushed that one, the trick is to go right back to looking away; don’t get pull happy. In his next two at bats Mike pulled a 74-mph changeup to Albert Pujols at first base, then struck out on an 84-mph changeup. By the ninth inning Mike was back to going the other way and hit a 79-MPH slider to left field for a single.

Pay attention to what Mike Moustakas does today against C.J. Wilson; this is getting kind of interesting.