Judging the Royals

How Houston’s Minute Maid Park risks a player’s health

Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel.
Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel. The Associated Press

On Tuesday night, Kansas City center fielder Lorenzo Cain risked injury because a ballpark designer got cute. If you watched the game you know what I mean. Houston designated hitter Evan Gattis hit a baseball lopsided and sent it toward Tal’s Hill; an incline in Minute Maid Park’s center field.

A funny thing happens when you’re running full speed and hit an incline; you fall flat on your face — and that’s what happened to Lorenzo.

Because he’s a better athlete than most, Cain got far enough up the hill to do a face plant into the outfield wall. Had the ball been a little more toward left field, Lorenzo might have hit a flagpole.

The Houston Astros have announced they’re going to remove that hill and it can’t happen soon enough. A feature that can injure a ballplayer is not a good idea, no matter how entertaining fans find it. I’d say why not put trampolines, obstacle courses and land mines out there (now that would be pretty exciting)? But I don’t want to give any ballpark designers ideas.

Ballplayers would prefer to play in a park that plays fair. Hills in center field and angles all over the left-center wall might make a game more entertaining, but it allows chance and ballpark designers to decide games, not athletic skill.

Tal’s Hill should be removed; by 7:10 Wednesday night if possible.

The deciding pitch isn’t always the last one

In the third inning of Tuesday night’s game, Mike Moustakas got a fastball right down the middle, but fouled it off. When hitters get their pitch and miss it, you often seem them show disgust; they got the mistake they were looking for, but didn’t do anything with it. Now they’re still at the plate hoping for a second mistake.

Moose didn’t get one; instead he got a fastball in on the hands and got jammed.

At-bats don’t always turn on the last pitch; sometimes an at bat is decided when a hitter has his chance and misses it. He might still be at the plate, but the odds have turned in the pitcher’s favor.

Hosmer plays off the bag when holding a runner, Morales plays on it

If I were sharper, I would have noticed it sooner, but Eric Hosmer has begun holding runners on first without having a foot on or next to the bag. Eric’s actually positioned away from first base, a couple steps toward the mound.

I asked him about it and Hosmer said they started doing that when James Shields was here. Being closer to the mound gives the pitcher a shorter throw on pickoffs. Then, instead of trying to make tags at the bag like he used to do, Eric turns and tries to tag the runner’s back before he ever gets back to the bag.

So I got my mind around that concept and then noticed Kendrys Morales is doing it the old way: he’s keeping a foot right next to the bag and making the tag on the hand as it reaches for first base. I don’t know if that’s personal preference or Kendrys just has shorter arms than Eric.

Here’s a poorly thought-out idea: maybe Morales could get a longer first baseman’s mitt.

Infante probably should have had an error

Jose Altuve hit a double in the fifth inning and George Springer scored from first base. When a ball is hit all the way to the wall the defense will probably use a “double cut.” That means two infielders go out to receive the ball from the outfielder. They line up between the outfielder and his target — one behind the other — so if the outfielder overthrows the first relay man the second one’s there to catch the ball.

Send one relay man out on a ball to the wall and he’d have to go so far out in the outfield that an overthrow would have too far to go to make it back to the infield; it would just trickle in while runners circled the bases.

In this case Alex Gordon’s throw was caught by Omar Infante, the second man in the double-cut alignment. He turned and threw the ball home to get Springer, but short-hopped catcher Drew Butera. The ball got past Butera and that’s when Altuve took off for third.

The box score says he advanced on the throw, but Altuve had rounded second and slowed down; he hit the gas again when he saw Infante’s bad throw.

He’s not that good

That was a comment posted by a Royals fan during Tuesday’s loss to the Astros. He was referring to pitcher Dallas Keuchel; the fan thought the Royals hitters should be doing better than they were.

Spoken like a guy who’s never faced a big-league pitcher.

The “not that good” Dallas Keuchel leads the American League in ERA and is tied for the league lead in wins — he’s got a shot at 20. The Royals fan might not be all that impressed with Dallas Keuchel, but evidently big league hitters are.

Generally speaking, it’s hard to build your record on really good teams; if the Royals don’t get swept by the Astros in Houston, they did OK. And most of the time you don’t raise your batting average against Cy Young candidates.

But you better beat up on the bad teams and bad pitchers; that’s where you gain ground.

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

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