One of the problems with baseball is you don’t always know when a key moment has arrived. That’s why you always hustle and play the game right; you often don’t know what’s important until the game is over. Looking back at this game the key moment may have come in the first inning when Wade Davis threw a 1-1 changeup to Jason Kipnis. Kipnis hit it over the centerfield fence and the Indians had all the runs they were going to need to win this one and split the series, 2-2.
The Royals were shutout, lost the game 9-0 and afterwards were talking about Ubaldo Jimenez and how well he pitched.
Jeff Francoeur said it was like he was a different pitcher; at times Jimenez has struggled to throw strikes, but only walked two in seven innings Monday night. Mike Moustakas said Jimenez was throwing strike one and keeping the hitters on the defensive. Chris Getz said he was throwing harder, topping out at 96 miles an hour. Ned Yost said he had tremendous movement on his fastball—as if 96 wasn’t enough.
The Indians went on to score eight more runs, but after Kipnis hit the ball out of the park, they had all the runs they’d need.
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When we came up with this website we did a few things right and almost all of them were by accident. One happy accident that I benefit from over and over is the fact that I have no deadline and no assigned topic (OK, that’stwo
happy accidents, but you get my point).
So when the Royals had a bad defensive game Sunday night, I didn’t have to rush in the clubhouse and ask questions about what went wrong—I could wait until Monday afternoon. Players have had a chance to get over poor play and a chance to think about what went wrong—and so have the coaches. Infield coach Eddie Rodriguez was out on the field early so I asked what went wrong on the first-inning error Mike Moustakas made in Sunday night’s game. Just a reminder: with one down and a runner on first base, Nick Swisher hit a shot at Moose; it looked like a perfect double play ball until it went through Mike legs.
So what went wrong?
As I suspected, Mike got in a rush. Eddie said you’ve got to consider the runner and the speed of the batted ball. So with a hard shot and Nick Swisher running, didn’t Mike have plenty of time?
Yes, Mike had plenty of time, but Chris Getz didn’t. Michael Brantley was the runner on first base and he was bearing down on the Royals second baseman. If Brantley could take out Getz, no double play. So Moustakas wanted to get his teammate the ball in a hurry—he was trying to help Getz. But as Eddie pointed out, it’s not Mike’s job to turn the double play; Mike’s job is to catch the ball, throw it to Getz and make sure the Royals got one out. It was Getzie’s job to get the second out if possible or eat the ball and get out of the way if it wasn’t.
So Mike’s desire to help a teammate meant he was still moving laterally when the ball arrived: Moose was trying to get the ball to second base in a rush. Eddie pointed out that the ball was hit so hard that Mike didn’t need to do that—he could have gotten in front of the ball, squared up—quit moving—and still made the play. Learning to play at the right speed takes a while; guys get to the big leagues and the game seems so fast that they try to play faster.
I asked Eddie how long it takes a player to figure out what it takes to play in the big leagues and he said three years—on average. Some guys get it faster, some guys take longer, but generally speaking, somewhere in the third year they begin to understand how to play big league baseball. Mistakes like Mike’s are necessary because that’s how you learn: you screw up, adjust and do something different the next time.
And you probably do it slower.Kottaras and the passed ball
George Kottaras had a passed ball in Sunday night’s game and it was a different deal entirely: George called for a curve and got a fastball. Big league pitches come in so fast, catchers have to anticipate the pitches’ movement or they won’t get their glove to the right spot in time. George was starting to move his glove down for a curve and realized he was getting a fastball. The glove didn’t make it back to the right spot before the ball arrived. If you’re going to get crossed up, George said it’s better if you called a fastball and get a breaking pitch—you’ve got more time to react. Call a curve and get a fastball and you might not be able to react in time.
So Mike’s mistake was trying to play the game too quickly, George’s passed ball had to do with miscommunication. They say it’s a game of failure—and they sure are a bunch of ways to fail.