Baseball comes in four parts: pitching, defense, hitting and base-running. Wednesday night, breakdowns in all four phases of the game ended the Royals postseason chances. A 6-0 loss to the Mariners combined with wins by other teams means the Royals will be watching postseason baseball on TV.
Here’s what happened Wednesday night:
After a leadoff double by Dustin Ackley in the seventh, Will Smith replaced Santana and made a throwing error on an attempted bunt and that scored Ackley all the way from second. If Royals fans were thinking a four-run deficit was still not too much to overcome, back-to-back homers by Michael Saunders and Mike Zunino in the eighth inning sealed the deal.
When you throw a baseball, the front shoulder helps guide the throwing arm; if the shoulder flies open too soon, the release point is affected and the throw is likely to miss the target wide on the throwing-arm side. After Ervin spun around, he started to fall off the mound to his glove side and the throw to second missed on the right-field side of second base.
Something similar happed to Smith on an attempted bunt in the seventh: Smith picked the ball up, spun around to throw to first and his front side opened up. The ball missed Eric Hosmer on the fair territory side of first base and Hosmer couldn’t come off the bag in time to catch the throw. Eric gets some praise for his defense further along in this post, but this ball went off the tip of his glove.
When you wonder why position players want to take every play away from pitchers, remember these two throws.
If you stayed up and watched this one, you probably thought the Royals looked lifeless and they did. If you have breakdowns in all four phases of the game, you’re probably not going to win.
They didn’t—Mariners 6, Royals 0.
Fans sitting that close to the game should always play attention, but they should really pay attention once a hitter has two strikes—that’s when he’s more likely to take a late swing while protecting the strike zone. I’ve written thousands and thousands of words since starting this web site and the next words I write are, without a doubt, the most important:
Fans love to sit right behind the dugout, big-league ballplayers don’t want their families in those seats; they want them behind the screen at home plate. If you do bring a child with you, take the seat closer to home plate, put your body between them and the baseball; you can’t expect a kid to be locked in on every pitch—that’s your job.
All season long we’ve been seeing outstanding footwork around first base by Hosmer; he uses the bag to extend his reach. If the ball is being thrown from third base, he’ll have his foot on the home plate side of first. If the ball is coming from deep in the hole at second, he’ll shift over to the outfield side of first base. If the throw is high, he’ll go back over the bag—and has to be careful not to get hit by the runner while he does it—and make the catch with his foot on the foul territory side of the bag. On the throw from Escobar Hosmer used the height of the bag to his advantage. The rest of the infield can attempt difficult plays, knowing Hosmer will take care of them if the throw is off-line.that kind
Ervin Santana threw 17 pitches in the bottom of the fourth inning; Hisashi Iwakuma threw eight pitches in the top of the fifth. Santana was right back out there for the bottom of the fifth and gave up three runs before the inning was over. Once again, I don’t know for sure that’s why Santana had a rough fifth, but short rest didn’t help.slider-speed bat.
Talk to pinch-hitters and relievers about baseball and you’ll hear about a condensed version of the game. Here’s an example:
A position player who starts a game can figure on four or five plate appearances. That means he might take a pitch in certain situations—say it’s a less than crucial at-bat and he wants to see the movement on a pitch—knowing he’s got three or four more plate appearances to make taking that pitch payoff. A pinch-hitter doesn’t have that luxury: he’s got one plate appearance, it will probably be crucial and he’ll probably be facing one of the better relievers that other team has. Take a hittable pitch in that situation and you may be done. That’s why most pinch-hitters are up their hacking; they may get one pitch to hit and nobody’s trying to run up a reliever’s pitch count—the reliever won’t be around that long.
This condensed version of the game also applies to the relievers: starting pitchers can warm up as long as they like. Relievers have a good idea of when they might get the call—one of the reasons teams have defined roles in the bullpen—so they get up, move around and stretch at the appropriate time. Once they get the call they might have time for five or six pitches in the pen and then finishing warming up once they come on the field and get those eight warm-up pitches each pitcher is allowed.
After that, it’s game on.
Like the pinch-hitter who can’t afford to take a pitch, a reliever doesn’t have the time to get the feel of four different pitches. Although there have been exceptions, most relievers concentrate on throwing two or three pitches. They don’t try to set hitters up—they come right at them. Spend time talking to relievers and pinch-hitters and you get the feeling they’re playing a different version of the game in those last few innings.
It’s condensed baseball.