The left field wall in Minute Maid Park is 315 feet from home plate. The left-field foul pole in Kauffman Stadium is 330 feet from home plate, but the wall is curved there and drops away sharply. There’s no signage to give fans an exact distance, but it’s clear that hitting a ball over the left field wall in Kansas City is much harder than hitting a ball over the left-field wall in Houston—and both teams proved that Wednesday night.
Royals starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie left a changeup up to the Astros Jason Castro. Castro’s left-handed and the pitch was away, but that short left-field wall allowed Castro to reach the cheap seats. Danny Valencia was slightly out in front of another changeup, but kept his hands back and hooked a Dallas Keuchel pitch over that same wall. In the sixth inning Houston’s Marc Krauss hammered a fastball into the same section of seats. In the 11th inning Mike Moustakas hit a home run to right field; a wall that’s 326 feet away—11 feet more than the wall in left, but still well short of what it would take to clear the wall in Kauffman.
Here’s the point:
We sometimes think an offense has come to life or a pitcher has started to scuffle when they’re actually performing at about the same level—they’re just doing it in a different park. When Jeremy Guthrie pitches in Kauffman Stadium hitters have a slugging percentage of .361. When Guthrie pitches in Minute Maid, that slugging percentage goes up to .591. Different park—different results.
The Royals beat the Astros 6-4 in eleven innings—and Minute Maid Park had something to do with it.
*Early in the game the Astros were playing some extreme infield shifts and the Royals were beating them. If your defense is going to leave half the infield open, your pitcher better hit his spots. Omar Infante and Eric Hosmer can handle the bat (they can pull or go the other way) and Houston’s starting pitcher , Dallas Keuchel, left some pitches in spots that allowed Infante and Hosmer to hit the ball through the undefended parts of the infield.
By the fifth inning the Astros were playing a normal infield alignment when Infante came to the plate.That’s
how you beat a shift.
*The Royals made four errors and one of them was an E6 by Alcides Escobar. The Royals shortstop got eaten up when he laid back on a ball hit by Jose Altuve. I’ve heard some very good infielders say that they were asking for trouble whenever they weren’t moving forward. Moving forward gets an infielder on the balls of his feet, brings his head down and allows him to get his glove out in front—away from his body. That allows the infielder’s hands to give with the ball as it arrives. Moveaway
from the ball and the infielder’s is on his heels, his head goes up and his hands get stiff because they have no give in them.
*The Valencia home run will get some attention, but don’t miss what Danny did in his next at-bat. The right side was open and Valencia clearly worked to slap the ball that way, through the open hole for a single. It’s especially impressive after hitting a home run; Valencia didn’t let his ego get in the way and try for a second long ball—Danny took what the defense was giving him.
*George Springer almost got picked off in the third inning after his first hit anddid
get picked off in the fifth inning after his first walk. The call came from the bench: Salvador Perez could be seen looking into the Royals dugout and then making the sign—flipping the thumb sideways—for Jeremy Guthrie to attempt a pick off.
*Home runs are bad, but walking someonebefore
giving up a home run is worse. Guthrie walked Jesus Guzman on four pitches before giving up a long ball to Marc Krauss. Guzman finished the night hitting .233.
*The bullpen—which has taken some criticism—threw five scoreless innings, including two from lefty Danny Duffy. Guys who go to the pen often throw harder—they don’t have to pace themselves—and Duffy had his fastball up to 98 MPH.
*They got away with it, but you didn’t see the best baseball fundamentals on display in the 11th inning. With Jarrod Dyson on second base Alcides Escobar was bunting him over to third. Even though everyone knew he was bunting, Esky was waiting to square around at the last second. When a hitter does that his head is still moving when the ball arrives. If the whole stadium knows your bunting, square early—it’s a hell of a lot easier to bunt when your head’s still and you can see the ball clearly.
Esky got the bunt down, Dyson moved to third and Omar Infante drove Jarrod in with a ground ball fielded by shortstop Marwin Gonzalez. There was a play at the plate and Dyson came in standing. It worked, but a slide would have made a tag at the plate even harder.