Judging the Royals

The Royals’ Eric Hosmer knows how to stay cool

Eric Hosmer reacted to striking out in the 10th inning of Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium.
Eric Hosmer reacted to striking out in the 10th inning of Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Eric Hosmer made his big-league debut on May, 6, 2011. The Royals were playing the Oakland A’s at home. In his first plate appearance Hosmer found himself in a 1-2 count against pitcher Gio Gonzalez; Eric then took two curves and a fastball off the plate for a walk.

In Hosmer’s next plate appearance he once again found himself in two-strike count and this time took a curve and a fastball for another walk.

Eric did not get his first major-league hit that night — he didn’t have to wait long, he got it in the next game — but even so, Jason Kendall called it one of the most impressive big-league debuts he’d ever seen.

Jason is not one to gush about another player, and I didn’t understand why a guy taking two walks was so impressive.

Jason was impressed that a kid making his big-league debut — a night when most players are a nervous wreck — was calm enough to take pitches just off the plate and walk twice.

Jason Kendall was impressed because Eric Hosmer stayed cool.

The error in the eighth

Tuesday night in Game 1 of the World Series the Royals were tied with the Mets 3-3 in the eighth inning. With two outs and a runner on second base, Wilmer Flores hit what appeared to be a routine out to Hosmer at first base.

But it wasn’t routine at all.

Hosmer got the dreaded in-between hop. A short hop is one in which the player smothers the ball just as it comes off the ground, a long hop is one in which the player catches the ball at the peak of its bounce or on the way down, an in-between hop is one that is still coming up as the player tries to catch it.

Hosmer tried to play the ball backhand and off to the side, but missed.

Sweet hands

Big-league players have a term for guys who are good with the glove: They say a player has sweet hands. Eric Hosmer’s so good with the glove that it’s a shock when he doesn’t make a play. But when a guy with sweet hands whiffs on a ball, there’s good chance something out of the ordinary happened.

After the game Hosmer was given a couple chances to say he got a bad hop but wouldn’t do it. Eric said he got caught in-between, but it was a play that had to be made and there were no excuses for not making it.

It appeared Hosmer had time to body up (get in front of the ball), but didn’t do it, so Hosmer is right: Even if he got a weird hop that was a play that needed to be made.

Redemption in the 14th

Bottom of the 14th inning, game tied, bases loaded, nobody out. Bartolo Colon on the mound and guess who at the plate. The count was 2-2, and Eric Hosmer needed a pitch up in the zone.

Colon wanted a strikeout, infield pop-up or ground ball at one of his infielders; Hosmer needed a fly ball to the outfield deep enough to allow Alcides Escobar to tag and score from third base.

On the fifth pitch of the at bat Colon left a fastball up in the zone, and Hosmer hit a fly ball to right field. Eric said he knew he hit it deep enough when he saw Curtis Granderson go back to catch it.

Alcides Escobar tagged and scored and Eric Hosmer redeemed himself.

He got the pitch he needed and did his job; the Royals won 5-4 in fourteen innings because despite making a costly error seven innings earlier, Eric Hosmer stayed cool.

A tight zone

The ball/strike umpiring in this postseason has been surprisingly shoddy, and if you believe the strike zone shown by MLB.com, Tuesday night was no exception.

Home plate umpire Bill Welke appeared to be missing borderline strikes — and some that were well within the zone — on a regular basis.

Umpires with a tight zone force pitchers to come to the middle of the plate, and naturally that helps the hitters. Don’t be surprised if you see more questionable ball/strike calling throughout the series.

Chris Young gets the win

Chris Young came on in the 12th inning and threw three scoreless frames. Young — who generally throws his fastball in the upper 80s — hit 91 mph on the gun. No idea if that was part of the plan (throw harder because you won’t be out there as long in relief) or adrenaline just got the better of him.

I didn’t get to ask Chris what was up because the clubhouse afterward was a madhouse. Each player willing to stop and talk was mobbed and sometimes you couldn’t get within 15 feet of them.

Show the players some respect

Speaking of media mob scenes, it’s considered impolite to block a player from his locker and it happens almost nightly to Jarrod Dyson. Jarrod lockers next to Eric Hosmer, and the media love Hos.

It’s kind of like living next to someone who is in the news a lot and every night some reporter parks his car in your driveway and keeps you from getting to your garage.

Tuesday night I was part of the problem, and Dyson walked up wearing nothing but a towel and said the media ought to “show the players some respect.”

Jarrod was right.

After Dyson got some clothes on he talked to reporters and was his usual hilarious self. Asked whether he thought his drive to the wall caught by Curtis Granderson was going to be a triple, Dyson said, “I sure wasn’t thinking single.”

When someone mentioned the game delay because TV was having technical problems, Dyson laughed and suggested: “Fox needs to clean it up.”

Dyson is always worth talking to; he just needs to locker next to someone less popular.

That inside-the-parker

Mets centerfielder Yoenis Cespedes and leftfielder Michael Conforto let an Alcides Escobar fly ball drop between them, it went off Cespedes’ body, shot sideways and Esky wound up with an inside the park home run.

Once again crowd noise and communication appeared to be an issue: Conforto and Cespedes were looking at each other trying to figure out who was going to take charge and make the catch.

When a Ben Zobrist fly ball fell against the Blue Jays because of crowd noise and miscommunication, at least three Royals fans claimed to be the one who yelled “I got it” and caused the ball to drop.

If you were in left center Tuesday night and yelled “I got it,” get your claim in early.

Cain bunted on his own

In the eighth inning Ben Zobrist started things off with a double and Lorenzo Cain wanted to move him over to third base. Cain attempted two bunts, missed the ball on one and fouled the other one off.

As I suspected, Cain was bunting on his own.

Big-league players have a lot of freedom to play the game the way they see fit — this ain’t Little League — and Cain decided he was going to bunt Zobrist over to third instead of trying to hit a ground ball to the right side.

His heart was in the right place but his bat wasn’t.

A long night

The ballgame lasted 5 hours and 9 minutes; just about two short games’ worth. It was after 1 in the morning, and players were still being interviewed when I gave up and headed home.

Lorenzo Cain was asked about being tired, and he said his bed was calling to him, but first, he was going to Taco Bell. He then asked if anybody wanted anything.

Yeah, eight hours sleep before Game 2 — but I don’t think I’m going to get it.