Judging the Royals

Blue Jays hitters gave Royals pitchers no choice: They had to pitch inside

Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin hit a solo home run against the Kansas City Royals during the third inning of Thursday’s game in Toronto.
Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin hit a solo home run against the Kansas City Royals during the third inning of Thursday’s game in Toronto. The Associated Press

Toronto’s power hitters tend to stand on top of the plate. If a pitcher lets a hitter do that, the outside corner becomes the middle of the plate and the pitcher has nowhere to go but inside. Hitters who crowd the plate often wear elbow pads; they know they’re taking away the outside corner and know the pitcher has to throw inside.

But it doesn’t stop them from complaining about it.

If the hitter can intimidate the umpire into issuing a warning, it makes pitching inside less likely — the pitcher might get ejected. And if the pitcher has to constantly pitch away because he’s afraid of pitching in, he’ll get clobbered; when a hitter is crowding the dish, the pitch away is in their sweet spot.

In the first three games of the series, Toronto hitters had been crowding the plate. Wade Davis gave up his first home run since the invention of the light bulb on a pitch well away from Jose Bautista. Yordano Ventura gave up another homer to Bautista on a pitch away. Ryan Madson got whacked around on Friday and felt it was because he didn’t pitch to both sides of the plate.

So on Sunday, it looked like the Royals pitchers had enough and decided to pitch inside.

Did Edinson Volquez hit Josh Donaldson on purpose?

After Sunday’s game Edinson Volquez said he thought Josh Donaldson had been “pimping” home runs. Pimping a home run is baseball slang for showing off. It can include standing too long at the plate while you admire your handiwork, too big a bat flip or too slow a trip around the bases.

On Sunday, in the bottom of the first inning, Volquez drilled Donaldson with the first pitch he threw him; a fastball that caught Donaldson up around the shoulder. In hindsight — knowing how Volquez felt about Donaldson pimping — it seems entirely possible that the hit by pitch was intentional.

Cut to the third inning and Volquez came up and in with a pitch that drove Donaldson out of the box. But this pitch was a change-up; you don’t intentionally hit batters with change-ups — if you’re going to send a message you want it to hurt. But after already getting smoked once, Donaldson wasn’t happy and got vocal about it.

Somewhere along the way a warning was issued and the game continued.

Tulowitzki wears one in the seventh and nobody gets ejected

In the bottom of the seventh Ryan Madson was in the game facing Troy Tulowitzki. Determined to avoid the mistake he made on Friday, Madson threw a pitch inside and hit Tulowitzki.

So why no ejection?

Because home plate umpire Jim Wolf looked at the situation and thought it wasn’t intentional. The Jays were up 2-0, there was a runner on second, the count was 2-2, hitting Tulowitzki would bring Josh Donaldson to the plate and Tulowitzki was hit by the seventh pitch Madson threw him. If a pitcher wants to drill a guy, he’s not going to waste six pitches before getting around to doing it.

Alcides Escobar gets hit and Aaron Sanchez is ejected

When Madson hit Tulowitzki the Royals were down by two runs and trying to get back in the game. When Aaron Sanchez hit Alcides Escobar, the Jays were up 3-0 and had two outs in the inning — a favorite time for pitchers to hit a guy. If you want to retaliate it’s much better to hit a batter with two outs than hitting him to start an inning. And it looked like Sanchez tried to hit Escobar with at least one of his previous pitches.

Apparently Jim Wolfe didn’t think Madson hit Tulowitzki on purpose, but did think the plunking of Escobar was intentional.

That’s why Ned Yost had nothing but praise for Wolf after the game; Ned thought the home plate umpire correctly interpreted what was going on — Toronto fans weren’t convinced.

What to do if the benches clear, but you don’t want to fight

After Escobar got drilled, both benches cleared. If your team goes out on the field, baseball etiquette demands that you go with them. Stay in the bullpen or on the bench and you’re going to be a social pariah. If they go, you go.

But these bench-clearings usually feature two or three guys who are actually mad enough to fight and a bunch of other guys who are only out there because they have to be.

I once asked Clint Hurdle what you do if you don’t really want to fight and he said you find your best friend on the other team, grab each other’s jerseys and make dinner plans. It looks like you’re doing something, but unless you get stuck with the check, you probably won’t get hurt.

Edinson Volquez: good guy, bad example

Edinson Volquez was one of the guys who looked mad enough to fight on Sunday and teammates and coaches were having a hard time getting him calmed down.

Volquez is one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet, but I thought he was supposed to be an example for another emotional pitcher — Yordano Ventura. Volquez was one of the guys who threw a punch in Chicago and if he’d gotten close enough to the right Blue Jay, it looked like he wanted to throw another punch in Toronto.

Two Royals get hit without all the drama

As an alert reader reminded me this morning, two Royals — Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas — got hit by pitches in Saturday’s game and took their bases without a bunch of hysterics.

When I worked on the book “Throwback” with Jason Kendall — a guy that got hit by pitches 254 times — he said when a batter gets hit by a pitch he has two choices: If he thinks there was something wrong with what the pitcher did, go to the mound — otherwise, shut up and go to first base. Kendall had no patience for the drama queens who stand and point and complain; either fight someone or shut up.

On Sunday, the Blue Jays did neither.

If you’re going to put on an elbow pad and crowd the plate, don’t be surprised if someone throws a pitch in your vicinity.

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

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