Judging the Royals

How Alex Gordon hit that home run

The Royals' Eric Hosmer (left) bumped chests with Alex Gordon after Hosmer hit a solo home run during the second inning against the Rangers on Tuesday in Arlington, Texas.
The Royals' Eric Hosmer (left) bumped chests with Alex Gordon after Hosmer hit a solo home run during the second inning against the Rangers on Tuesday in Arlington, Texas. AP

If you stayed up late enough you already know Alex Gordon hit a home run in extra innings to give the Royals a 7-6 lead and a victory. Here’s how he did it:

After the game Gordon said he was looking for one pitch to hit and that one pitch was a fastball. This is why hitters need to study scouting reports or at least listen to someone who has. According to Andy McCullough’s game story, the Royals held a pregame hitters meeting and Texas reliever Stolmy Pimentel was mentioned. The gist of the information?

Pimentel likes his fastball and he throws it a lot.

So leading off the 10th inning in a 6-6 tie, Gordon stepped up to the plate looking for one pitch to hit: a fastball in a hittable location. Old-timers call this keyholing: making your strike zone as big as keyhole, gearing up for that zone, and knocking the hell out of any pitch that’s dumb enough to wander into that spot. If it’s not the pitch you want or it’s not in the right location, you shut it down and hope for something better on the next pitch.

The catcher — Robinson Chirinos — set up for a fastball down and away. Down and away is the safety zone because that’s a hard pitch to do much with; you either roll over and pull a grounder or — if you wait long enough — hit a grounder to the opposite field.

But the pitch didn’t hit the mitt.

Watch the replay and you can see Chirinos’ mitt move from that desired down-and-away location; the mitt drifted up and toward the middle of the plate — the spot where Gordon wanted a fastball.

Talk to pitchers and they’ll tell you most of the time it’s not pitch selection that gets them in trouble; it’s pitch execution — and Alex Gordon executed that fastball.

Royals win 7-6 in ten innings.

It’s always something

Last night on Twitter a fan complained about the Royals starting pitching. After getting over my shock that anyone would use the internet to complain, I was reminded of the time I asked players and coaches the longest stretch of baseball they could remember where everything had gone right.

The answers varied, all the way from two series, to two weeks.

Turns out it’s always something: Either the starting pitching is scuffling, or the bullpen is giving up leads, or the offense isn’t scoring any runs or the defense is making too many errors. And if you hit a stretch where everything is clicking, enjoy it — it ain’t gonna last.

So if you’re the kind of person who likes to get on the internet and complain, rejoice. There will almost always be something to complain about.

How Prince Fielder beat the shift

With the left-handed Prince Fielder at the plate, the Royals put on a shift that had shortstop Alcides Escobar almost behind second base. The point of the shift is to get a left-handed hitter to pull the ball, but Salvador Perez set up for a fastball away. Some guys pull everything, but Fielder is not on that list; when he wants to go the other way, he can. And with a runner in scoring position, Prince wanted to go the other way. Throwing him a fastball outside just made his job easier. The pitch was off the plate, but it was clearly not off the plate enough.

This season we’re seeing more left-handed hitters take what the shift gives them; baseball is changing right before our eyes.

This rule’s messed up

Lorenzo Cain hit a weak grounder and the pitcher picked it up and tried to make a play at first base. The throw hit Cain in the back and Cain was called out because he wasn’t in the runner’s lane.

The runner’s lane is that line in foul territory that parallels the first base line, but focus on the words in foul territory. If the runner’s lane is in foul territory and all of first base is in fair territory, at some point the runner has to veer toward the bag. Smart pitchers know that you can chuck a ball into right field when trying to throw the ball around the runner, so just drill the runner in the back and start yelling “interference.”

This rule is messed up.

Speaking of interference

With runners at first and third and one down in the 8th inning, Omar Infante hit a groundball to third base. Stay out of a double play and the run scores. The runner on first base was Salvador Perez so the odds weren’t good that he was going to get all the way down to second base in time to break up the pivot. But Sal could have at least made the pivot man throw around him; instead Perez veered out of the base path early and second baseman Thomas Field had a clear throwing lane to first base.

Nobody wants a base runner to take one in the head, but stay in the base path as long as possible — don’t make things easier than they have to be.

Choo stayed hot

A .300 hitter does not have a 30 percent chance of getting a hit every time he goes to the plate. Depending on the matchup and the situation, that hitter might have a 20 percent chance in one at-bat and a 40 percent chance in another; 30 percent is the overall average.

As we saw yesterday, Chin-Soo Choo went into Tuesday night’s game with a .194 average, but over the past week he had been hitting .300. Assuming the overall odds stay the same for every situation is a mistake; on Tuesday, Choo went 3-5 with a home run.

Last night Choo was better than his overall average would indicate. Wednesday night he might be worse — he’s 0-3 against Yordano Ventura, and two of those outs were strikeouts.

To reach Lee Judge, call 816-234-4482 or send email to ljudge@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @leejudge8.

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