Game 1 of 162
by, 04-02-2013 at 02:12 PM (410 Views)
I don't want to give anyone the impression that I'm hung up on one or two solitary moments in what will be a series of moments as the long season marches on.
Some moments will go our way and some moments won't. That's baseball in a nutshell.
With that said... I would like to revisit the 8th inning of the season opener yesterday to make a broader point.
The Twins were in position to win the game. Vance Worley was out dueled by Verlander but the Vanimal did his job, by keeping the Twins within striking distance.
Top of the 8th with Detroit leading 3-2. Duensing dug himself a hole, Fielder led off with a single, followed by a walk of Vmart and the Tigers had two runners on with nobody out. With Dirks coming to the plate, it didn't take a crystal ball to predict a sacrifice bunt in this situation. A quick meeting at the mound was held to discuss how to cover the bunt I assume and the bunt was executed down the third base line.
It is my contention that the defensive call for the bunt was the wrong one. The Twins opted to charge the corners while the SS covered 2nd and the 2B covered first, leaving 3B uncoverered. This was a mistake and here's why... Fielder on second is the most important base runner in this scenerio and he's slow to boot. Escobar at SS should have come over to cover third or Plouffe could have stayed home. If you had to leave a base unoccupied... It should have been second. Left handed pitchers like Deunsing typically fall off the mound to the third base side and when fielding a bunt they don't have to spin or move their feet to make a short throw to third for a force and did I mention that Fielder is slow. After watching the play... I believe that Fielder was forced if someone was covering the bag.
OK let's move on from that... Chances are... A sacrifice would have been successful despite a different bunt coverage plan. Peralta is then intentionally walked which is the correct move and the bases are loaded with one out. Duensing needs a strikeout and he does that with a beautiful pitch that Avila looks at.
That was a big moment... The type of moment that can lead to victory. Each member of the Twins should have been doing a mental fist pump when strike three was called.
Here is where the wheels fell off. Roenicke comes in to face Infante and his first pitch was awful... It wasn't a 60 foot ball in the dirt. It was a 50 footer. It was as bad a pitch as you will see.
On any ball in the dirt and I mean any ball in the dirt. The catcher has to get down to block it. For reasons beyond understanding, Joe stood up, increasing the size of his 5 hole ten fold. Under no circumstances do you stand up with a ball in the dirt. It was a bad pitch no doubt, but blockable by a major league catcher... Blockable by a high school catcher to be honest. If Joe just handles his position fundamentally correct. The ball could have still skipped through but he couldn't have been logically blamed for it because it was a wild pitch. By standing up he gave himself very little chance to knock the ball down and prevent the run. Roenicke was charged with a wild pitch and his teammate failed to save him.
This made the game 4-2 instead of 3-2 and any possible momentum from the Big Duensing strikeout was gone and the context of the game was immediately changed.
In the bottom of the 8th... Dozier and Escobar were retired before Hicks did a nice job working a two out walk.
If the game is still 3-2. You green light Hicks to get him in scoring position.
If he is thrown out... You lead off the ninth with your best hitter Joe Mauer. Hopefully still only down one run... If he steals second... They probably walk Joe but that puts another duck on the pond for the Hammer if he catches one but more importantly a runner is in scoring position so all he needs is a single to tie.
With a 4-2 deficit... Hicks is frozen at 1st and Mauer has to change his approach in his mind to entertain the thought of trying to tie it with a homer.
That passed ball wild pitch was huge. Joe was guilty.
Honestly... I'm not hung up on that moment. Joe is an amazing baseball player and I'm pleased as punch that he plays for my ball club. It's game 1 of 162 and we have a long way to go. Joe will save a few games along the way.
I just wanted to say that plays like that... Standing up on a ball in a dirt is what losing teams do.
If anyone is still searching for a reason why the Baltimore Orioles won the AL east last year despite average to below average pitching and average to below average hitting. You just saw an example of what not to do yesterday with Joe Mauer if you want to win games against the odds.
Admittedly... I didn't watch all 162 games that the Orioles played last year but I'm pretty certain that they won the AL east because the catcher didn't stand up when balls were thrown in the dirt.