In Tuesday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians with the score 4-3, Eric Hosmer tripled in the bottom of the eighth inning. His triple scored Alex Gordon from first base and provided the Royals with an “insurance run.”
And being up two runs instead of one is huge.
Being up by two runs meant Wade Davis could pitch the top of the ninth knowing the guy at the plate couldn’t hurt him. If the Indians dug up Babe Ruth and had him pinch hit, the Sultan of Swat could deposit the ball on I-70 and the Royals would still be up by one run.
So when Michael Brantley led off the ninth — I guess the Babe wasn’t available — Wade could go right after him. Wade’s first pitch was a knuckle curve for a strike, Brantley took it (probably because he was looking for a fastball) and then when Davis did throw a fastball, Brantley couldn’t afford to be choosy; you don’t want to be 0-2 against Wade Davis. Brantley swung and hit a fly ball to Alex Gordon.
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Having that insurance run also meant the Royals didn’t have to guard the lines against extra bases; until the Indians got a runner on base, the tying run was still on deck. Having an insurance run also means the defense doesn’t have to worry about a bunt until at least two runners are on base, and those runners need to be on base with nobody out because you’re not going to give up an out to move runners and then count on a two-out RBI.
Having that insurance run also meant that when Brandon Moss singled, Davis could still concentrate on the batter: Moss could steal second, third and home, but the Royals would still be up by one. The insurance run meant Wade did not have to throw out of a slide step, attempt a pickoff or a pitchout. With switch-hitting Nick Swisher at the plate, the insurance run meant Eric Hosmer did not have to hold Moss on first base — Eric could play back and have greater defensive range. Moss eventually took off for second base, but the Royals didn’t care; they didn’t have to because they had that insurance run.
It might only be one run, but insurance runs are huge.
▪ Because Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have shown a willingness to bunt against the shift, the Indians have stopped shifting so dramatically against them. If you see a groundball go through the hole between the first and second baseman, credit the bunts that made sure the Indians couldn’t overload their defense on that side of the field.
▪ Hosmer hit a home run 417 feet to the opposite field, and that’s crazy power. Pitchers go away from hitters to rob them of their power; hitters who can still homer to the opposite field make that tactic less effective.
▪ Before the bottom of the fourth inning, Indians catcher Roberto Perez bounced his throw down to second base. The Indians threw the ball around the infield, and shortstop Mike Aviles and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall checked out the ball. Chisenhall decided the ball was scuffed, held it up and shook it, which is the sign for a new ball and a sign that Indians might want to work on their cheating.
If a ball is accidentally scuffed and you’re on defense, why voluntarily give it up? If none of the umpires noticed the bounced throw, give that scuffed baseball to your pitcher. If the pitcher doesn’t know how to use a scuffed baseball, tell him to get down to the bullpen and practice.
Reed meets Rusty
Wednesday night a high school kid named Reed shadowed Star columnist Vahe Gregorian. Reed asked if there was any chance he could meet first-base coach Rusty Kuntz, and I said if Reed went down to the dugout there was no chance that he wouldn’t meet Rusty because Rusty talks to everyone.
After I introduced them, Rusty had a long conversation with Reed and, as usual, Rusty was in teaching mode.
Rusty asked Reed who was pitching for the Indians that night, what his record was, what his ERA was and what the pitcher had done the last time he faced the Royals. Reed started shuffling through the stat sheet the Royals hand out and Rusty said: “Without looking.”
I don’t know if Reid learned a lesson, but I know I did.
I couldn’t have told Rusty any of that stuff right off the top of my head. Monday was an off-day, I came to the park on Tuesday, threw my stuff down in the press box and headed down to the field without checking the lineup cards or stat sheets.
And that meant I was unprepared.
Unprepared journalists waste coaches’ and players’ time. We make them tell us stuff we should already know if we’d prepared. You see this when NBA sideline reporters ask a coach how they stopped a team that was on a good offensive run: The coach will generally roll his eyes and explain, but a lot of them are thinking that if the reporter had watched the game and knew what he was looking at, the reporter would already know how they stopped that run — it was right there in plain sight.
Same goes for a manager who gets asked about pinch hitting or bringing in a reliever. The manager might say, “Have you seen the matchup numbers?” If we had taken the trouble to look, we’d already know why the manager did what he did.
So the next time I don’t do my homework, I shouldn’t expect a ballplayer or coach to do it for me — dammit.
Rusty’s favorite card
OK, one last thing from yesterday: As you might expect, Rusty was fabulously entertaining and Reid had a wonderful time. At one point Reid told Rusty that he had some of his baseball cards, and Rusty asked Reid if he could guess which card was Rusty’s favorite.
Rusty revealed that 1981 was his favorite because it was one of the few years Rusty had played enough to have an action shot on his card. Rusty explained that he had a whole lot of cards with him in a batting cage or looking pensive leaning against a dugout railing.
I don’t know if they make cards for baseball coaches, but if they don’t, they oughta start.