The Royals bullpen currently consists of seven pitchers: Louis Coleman, Aaron Crow, Wade Davis, Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland and Michael Mariot. Monday was an off day, but on Tuesday Herrera, Crow and Coleman pitched in relief. Wednesday night it was Duffy, Crow, Herrera, Davis and Holland that threw. If a relief pitcher throws two days in a row it’s common for them to need a day off—so Herrera and Crow were not going to be used in Thursday night’s game.
The Royals were down to Coleman, Davis, Duffy, Holland and Mariot.
It looks like Duffy is going to get a start this weekend—replacing Bruce Chen—so the list of available relievers Thursday night was one name shorter and down to Coleman, Davis, Holland and Mariot.
When Jeremy Guthrie left the game after six innings, the Royals were behind 4-3. Using your two best relievers—set-up man Wade Davis and closer Greg Holland—is not advisable when you’re behind. You don’t want to burn their innings in a losing cause, especially with Detroit coming to town Friday night. Better to save those innings for a game where they can do the most good; a game where you’re ahead or at least tied.
So now the only two relievers left were Coleman and Mariot.
Ned Yost brought Michael Mariot in to pitch the seventh and Mariot got three outs in eight pitches. Yost sent Mariot back out for the eighth and Mariot got no outs while using 16 pitches. Mariot walked the first batter, gave up two singles and then walked a run in. Louis Coleman—the only other guy available—gave up a double on the first pitch he threw. The Blue Jays went up 7-3 and that’s the way the game ended.
When starting pitchers leave, the manager has to make a decision: if his team is ahead he’ll try to get the ball to his set-up man and closer. If his team is behind, he’ll give the ball to middle relievers and hope for the best.
Thursday night the Royals pen was thin.
* In the sixth inning Guthrie gave up his second home run of the game on a 1-2 slider to Colby Rasmus. The inning ended when Jose Reyes hit a line shot back at the mound and Guthrie caught it. As Guthrie left the field, he threw the ball into the upper deck—a heckuva throw. But in 2009 pitcher Fernando Rodney got suspended for doing the same thing.
* Pitcher Mark Buehrle is known for working quickly so he’s the perfect guy to pitch on a getaway day. There’s a rule—widely ignored—that says without a runner on base, a pitcher has to deliver a pitch within 12 seconds or a ball will be called. I’ve put stopwatches on guys and seen them take over 20 seconds to throw a pitch, but when I timed Buehrle he was under 12. Thursday’s game took two hours and thirty-five minutes. I wish they’d start enforcing that rule.
* As long as we’re talking stopwatches: when Chris Getz and Jose Bautista pulled off a double steal in the first inning, I had Guthrie taking over 1.6 seconds to deliver the ball home. Catcher Salvador Perez went for the trail runner, Bautista. The second guy in a double steal often gets a worse jump than the lead runner because the runner taking off from first base has to make sure the runner taking off from second actually takes off.
* In the fourth inning Guthrie gave up a 421-foot home run to Juan Francisco, but walking Edwin Encarnacion to start the inning made it hurt twice as much.
* Alex Gordon saved a run in the fifth when Jose Bautista hit what looked like a double down the line, but shut it down after rounding first. Gordon’s reputation took 90 feet away from the Blue Jays. Encarnacion then hit a single and Bautista went first to third instead of second to home. The inning ended with Bautista still on third base. The best outfield arms don’t always have the most assists—base runners are sometimes reluctant to challenge the guys who can really throw.
* I got asked why teams will wait until there’s one strike on a hitter and then shift on him, but I didn’t know the answer. Fortunately, Ned Yost did: if the defensive team thinks the batter may bunt against a shift, they’ll wait until the batter has one strike andthen
shift. After strike one a bunt is less likely because the guys who are seeing shifts aren’t great bunters.
Why Dale Sveum sent Jimmy Paredes home Tuesday night
Tuesday night third base coach Dale Sveum waved Jimmy Paredes home with the go ahead run—Paredes scored easily. Wednesday afternoon I asked Sveum what he saw that made him send Paredes. One of the things that made Sveum send the runner was the way Melky Cabrera picked up the ball. Infielders square up to a groundball to make sure it doesn’t get past them. Outfielders run through a groundball to get momentum back toward the infield. If an outfielder squares up, you can run on him; he’s at a dead stop and won’t make a strong throw.
know that. (I ought to get T-shirts made up with that slogan.)
I told Sveum it was a great send (Ned Yost said nine out of 10 base coaches would have put up the stop sign) and Dale said it was a great send if the runner’s safe. Sveum’s right: if Paredes had been out, we’d all be blaming the third base coach. Sveum said there’s one thing he’s learned as a base coach: don’t assume that next guy is going to get the job done. He’s seen way too many strike outs and pop flies with a runner at third. If there’s any chance to score the runner, send him.
(And that thought process is probably what made Sveum send Eric Hosmer in the third inning of Thursday night’s game. Hosmer was thrown out by left fielder Anthony Gose.)
It’s always something
Before Tuesday’s game I visited with John Gibbons, Toronto’s manager and Kansas City’s former bench coach. I asked how things were going and Gibby talked about how one phase of the game might be good while another would be scuffling; you might be getting the pitching you need, but you aren’t hitting. A week later, things might be reversed.
I asked John how long a team could be hitting on all cylinders; everything working—pitching, hitting, base running and defense. Gibby said the Blue Jays had 11 pretty good days last year, but getting nine guys to hit at the same time doesn’t happen very much. If you’re lucky all your big guys are hitting at the same time.
But if you want to complain, you can—it’s always something.