If a pitcher gets out of a bases loaded jam, is that good pitching or bad hitting?
It probably depends on which team you’re rooting for. The Royals had the bases loaded in third, sixth and eighth innings and never scored a run. Manager Ned Yost saw that as good pitching by the Tampa Bay Rays starter, Chris Archer. Frustrated Royals fans might take a more negative point of view.
In the third inning the Royals had the bases loaded with one out—all they needed was a fly ball to the outfield to score a run, but Eric Hosmer hit a groundball to start a 6-4-3 double play. In the sixth inning the Royals once again had the bases loaded with one out, once again they needed a fly ball to the outfield to score a run, but Alex Gordon popped up to short. The next batter—Danny Valencia—hit the ball on the screws, but Rays third baseman Evan Longoria knocked the ball down and got a force out at second base. In the final bases loaded situation Valencia made the final out when he took a called third strike.
The Royals pitching staff gave up one run in nine innings, but the offense couldn’t take advantage. Three bases-loaded situations—zero runs.
Holding the runner in the sixth
In the sixth inning with one down and runners on first and second, Billy Butler hit a bullet to left field. The runner on second was Eric Hosmer and third base coach Dale Sveum put up the stop sign as Hosmer approached third. Here’s why:
The ball was hit so hard it didn’t take much time to get to the Rays left fielder, ex-Royal, David DeJesus. It was also hit almost directly at DeJesus. That meant he had the ball quickly and was moving forward toward home plate—which makes for a stronger throw. If the ball had been hit with less force or made DeJesus move laterally, sending the runner might be a better option.
But with one down and two shots to score Hosmer, holding the runner made sense. Hindsight is 20-20, but Sveum had to make the call before he knew Alex Gordon would pop up and Danny Valencia would ground out.
A wild pitch changes the ballgame
Wil Myers struck out three times before coming to the plate in the top of the ninth inning. By that time closer Greg Holland was in the game. Myers hit a weak grounder between third and short and Mike Moustakas stepped in front of Alcides Escobar to make the play—and that’s the right move.
If a ball is between third and short that means the third baseman is movingtoward first base and the shortstop is moving away
from first base. The third baseman takes every play he can get to. Unfortunately, Mike could not get the ball out of his glove cleanly and—since the ball was hit so softly—the delay meant there was no play at first.
Holland got two outs and then, with James Loney at the plate, threw a pitch in the dirt. Hard to tell from the replay, but it looked like it might have hit the edge of home plate. Catcher Salvador Perez moved into blocking position, but the ball went off at a weird angle and got past him. That allowed Myers to move into scoring position andthat
allowed James Loney to drive him in with a single. No wild pitch, no RBI and we might still be playing baseball.
At some point it might be worth noting that Yordano Ventura threw a heck of a ballgame. Six innings, two hits, no walks, no runs. Ventura also had six strikeouts. Fans love the strikeout, but keep in mind it takes at least three pitches to fan a hitter. Strikeout pitchers tend to run higher pitch counts. Ventura was at 95 pitches after six, so a guy with his stuff is going to need help from the bullpen. Ventura can pitch his butt off and still not get a win if the pen can’t close the deal.
A couple of game notes
*Nori Aoki can hit an inside pitch the other way with the best of them. He picked up three more hits Tuesday night. But Nori does not have the strongest arm for a right fielder. I’ve heard his arm is supposed to better than what I’ve seen so far, but the Rays challenged it when they sent Wil Myers home in the ninth. Don’t be surprised if teams keep challenging Aoki.
*Alex Gordon slammed into the left field wall making a catch of pop fly in foul territory. After an MRI they’ve determined the wall is OK.
Why the Rays sent Logan Forsythe in the ninth inning of Monday night’s game
I wanted to go back to a moment in Monday night’s game: with two outs in the top of the ninth inning Logan Forsythe was on second base and Matt Joyce was at the plate. Joyce singled to right and the Rays third base coach never hesitated, he sent Forsythe to home plate. Why risk getting a runner thrown out at the plate when you only have one out left and you’re down by three runs?
Because the Rays knew the Royals were not going to throw the ball to home plate. Forsythe’s run meant nothing in terms of winning or losing. The Royals didn’t care if they won 4-1 or 4-2, they just wanted to win. So it was better to throw the ball into second base and make sure Joyce stopped at first base. That kept the third run out of scoring position and gave the Royals a force out at two bases instead of one.
The other reason the Rays could send the runner was Royals outfield coach Rusty Kuntz; he was standing on the top steptelling
everyone not to throw the ball home. Rusty was doing that by patting the top of his head; the universal baseball sign telling the outfielder to "hit the cutoff man". Throw the ball to second base; don’t try some low-percentage throw to home plate. Rusty said each dugout keeps an eye on the one across the diamond. There are universal signs that every team uses and it’s helpful to know what the other guys are doing.
So why not come up with another set of secret signs to keep the other guys confused?
First, baseball logic tells you when the other side will keep the double play in order or try for a play at the plate—secret signs would not really keeping anything from the other side. Second, player already have enough signs to learn and adding a whole new set to simply remind players of what they should already know isn’t very cost effective. Nobody’s trying to keep this stuff secret; the other team knows where the ball is going. And if you pay attention to the outfield coach, you will, too.
(Right now the plan is for Rusty to make a video showing fans the signs he uses to communicate with his outfielders—stay tuned.)
"Throwback: A Big League Catcher Tells How the Game Is Really Played" is an inside look at our national pastime, co-authored by Jason Kendall and Lee Judge. The book will be in stores on May 13th, but can be pre-ordered right now.