Veteran ballplayers, sports psychologists and beer vendors who pay attention will tell you there are certain common danger points for starting pitchers: the first inning (they haven’t settled in yet), the fifth inning (pitchers need five complete innings for a win and when they’re on the verge of qualify for a win, it gets to some of them), after two outs (they relax and lose focus) and the third time through the order.
In this case, the Minnesota Twins got to Luis Mendoza the third time through the order.
Everybody knows what a pitcher has before he ever takes the mound; they’ve seen video and scouting reports. But nobody—including the pitcher—knows exactly what he has that night until he throws it. Everyone wants to see the movement on his fastball, how good his off-speed stuff is and whether he can throw it for strikes. By the time a team is going through the order for the third time, they’ve got a pretty good idea of what the pitcher has that evening. If what a pitcher has is overwhelming, it may not help—but often hitters see what adjustment needs to be made and the pitcher has nothing new to show them.
At the start of the fifth inning Luis Mendoza had thrown 81 pitches, used everything he had—fastball, slider, curveball, change—and was about to face the top of the Twins lineup for the third time. Jamey Carroll flew out to centerfield on a 0-1 fastball, Joe Mauer doubled on a 0-0 fastball, Josh Willingham spit on a 1-0 slider and singled on a 2-0 fastball, Justin Morneau ignored a changeup in the dirt and hit a 2-0 fastball and Ryan Doumit saw five fastballs and lined the fifth one into centerfield.
Third time through the order and the Twins had seen everything Luis had to offer. They didn’t chase the off-speed pitches they saw, got fastballs up in the zone and by the time Mendoza came out of the game, the score was 3-0. Going into this game when the Royals score three runs or less they were 8-26.
Make that 8-27—the Twins beat the Royals 3-0.
I also asked Doug if there was a better left fielder than Gordon in the American League and he said if there was, he hasn’t seen him.
In the bottom of the fourth Billy Butler doubled and, with nobody out, Lorenzo Cain needed to move him to third. It appeared Cain tried, but couldn’t get it done and wound up striking out. That might have cost the Royals a run when Mike Moustakas flew out to centerfield. I wouldn’t bet my house on it, but Billy might have tagged up and scored had he been on third.
This week represents another opportunity for Kansas City—a series against the Twins and another against the Astros. A 3-0 loss was not a good start.