After Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the White Sox, a lot of people were talking about two pitches thrown by Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura. In the fourth inning, Ventura left a 1-2 fastball up and out over the plate and Todd Frazier hit it out of the park. One inning later Ventura left an 0-2 fastball up and out over the plate and Melky Cabrera hit a two-run single.
That’s how the White Sox scored their runs; Ventura had both hitters in two-strike counts and missed his spots — no wonder people were talking about those two pitches.
But how about the walk that made the Cabrera single so damaging?
With the score tied 1-1, Alex Avila led off the fifth inning and walked. There are times walking a batter is smart; this wasn’t one of them. Leadoff walks give the other team three outs to move the runner around the bases.
Avila woke up this morning with a .204 average, and to make matters even worse, he has never hit safely off Ventura. In nine at-bats against Ventura, Avila has struck out six times. That’s a matchup that favored Ventura and he didn’t take advantage; Ventura let a guy that has shown no ability to hit him get on base.
Next, Austin Jackson singled and Avila moved into scoring position. Adam Eaton lined out and Jimmy Rollins grounded out, but that moved Avila to third and Jackson to second. Todd Frazier walked on four pitches (the Royals had an open base and didn’t want to mess with him after he homered) and then Ventura threw that 0-2 pitch to Cabrera.
The leadoff walk scored and the White Sox won by one run. If Ventura made Avila swing the bat, odds are Cabrera never makes it to the plate in the fifth inning.
As of Monday morning no pitcher in the American League has walked more batters than Ventura. You could tell him to throw strikes, but pitchers have to do even better than that in the big leagues. They have to be able to hit spots within the strike zone and Ventura was not doing that consistently Sunday afternoon.
Too bad. It was a winnable game that the Royals didn’t win — and that leadoff walk didn’t help.
A back-foot slider and a funky swing
White Sox starter Carlos Rodon got Lorenzo Cain to swing at a slider in the top of the first and Cain took a very funky looking hack — probably because Cain was trying to swing and get his back foot out of the way at the same time.
Rodon is left-handed and he threw the right-handed Cain a “back-foot slider,” which is called that because the pitcher throws it at the back foot of the hitter. Cain bit on the pitch, then appeared to realize the ball was headed for his back foot and tried to get it out of the way.
It was Gordon’s ball
Just in case you were wondering: when an outfielder is coming in on a pop fly and an infielder is going back, the outfielder makes the call. He’s headed forward and has the play in front of him, the infielder is headed back, looking up at the ball and has little idea of where the outfielder might be.
So when Alex Gordon collided with Mike Moustakas, it was Gordon’s ball if he called for it. Unfortunately, crowd noise becomes a problem on exciting plays and there’s a good chance Moustakas couldn’t hear Gordon.
The Kendrys Morales pinch hit
Ned Yost gave Royals DH Kendrys Morales a day off Sunday. Morales’ struggles from the left side of the plate have been well documented, so it was somewhat surprising when Yost called on Morales to pinch hit in the ninth inning against a right-handed pitcher and I got on Twitter and said so.
Monday morning I’m not so sure it was a bad move.
Yost started the game with three players on the bench; Morales, Whit Merrifield and Jarrod Dyson. Merrifield got used when Alex Gordon hurt his wrist, so going into the ninth inning Yost was down to Morales and Dyson.
Down by one run the Royals had Paulo Orlando, Omar Infante and Drew Butera due up; the White Sox had David Robertson on the mound to close the game. If one of the Royals got on base, the obvious pinch runner would be Dyson. (Orlando is fast once he gets going, but does not have Dyson’s first-step explosiveness; which is why Orlando has one steal and Dyson has seven.)
Once Orlando and Infante made outs, Drew Butera was due up and he has yet to hit a home run. So let Butera hit — or pinch hit Dyson for him — and the Royals probably needed a two-out single, a stolen base and another two-out single to tie the game; that’s a lot of things going right with two outs.
Send Morales to the plate and maybe he runs into one and ties the game with one swing. He might be hitting .134 as a lefty, but three of Morales’ five home runs have come from that side of the plate.
Sending Morales to the plate was a long shot, especially because Morales has never had a hit off Robertson, but letting Butera hit was a long shot as well. Unfortunately, all the Royals had left with two outs in the ninth inning were long shots.
Apparently the White Sox also get scouting reports and Robertson never threw Morales a fastball for a strike; the Royals’ final hope went down swinging on curves, but having Morales pinch hit wasn’t as bad a move as I first thought.