Notebook Dump (6.11.08)
Game: Indians 1, Twinks 0
Record: 31-34, 2nd, 6.5 back
Streak: Lost six
* Two days after I highlighted the fact that the Twins had been their own worst enemies on the basepaths, Carlos Gomez and Matt Macri made two fatal base-running gaffs. Macri was caught stealing in a pick-off by Sabathia after leading off the third with a bunt single thus thwarting any attempt at the rally. However, Gomez's fubar was possible more of a problem for the Twins considering the implications of Gomez on base without any outs. In the first, Gomez singled on a grounder through the third base/shortstop hole and Alexi Casilla followed that with a perfectly executed bunt single past the girthy CC Sabathia and slow-footed Ryan Garko at first. According to BillJamesOnline.net, Gomez is currently ninth in the majors with 66 runs scored when leading off the inning. When he reaches base leading off an inning, the Twins score approximately 1.69 runs that inning.
With the two speedsters on base with no outs, the Twins seemed to be guaranteed at least that amount. Another reason to anticipate runs was that Joe Mauer has been just as effective against left-handed pitchers as he had against the right. For the season, Mauer has been hitting .364/.394/.485 against lefties in 71 plate appearances. Sabathia, meanwhile, has been hit fairly well by his left-handed batting counterparts, being hit at a .255/.305/.459 clip. Mauer took three pitches, leading to a 1-2 count and sized up the fourth (a 93.7 mph fastball) that was thrown low and on the outer-half of the plate. The ball projected off of Mauer’s bat on a line that was consistent with the positioning of Indians left fielder Ben Francisco. On FSN, Bert Blyleven began to rant about Joe has failed to “pull” that pitch to successfully advance the runners. Reviewing the swing on TiVo and judging from the pitch f/x data from GameDay, it would seem that there was nothing that Joe could have done with the pitch aside from a) letting it be called strike three, b) fouling it off or c) attempting to pull the ball that would have been a turned over for a grounder to second and a possible double-play ball. But, as sharply hit as it was, Mauer failed to move the runners up and in the process became the first of twenty-seven precious outs.
This brought up Justin Morneau. For his career, Morneau had been ineffective against Sabathia. In 46 plate appearances against the Cleveland hurler from Vallejo, California the Canadian masher had accumulated just six hits (2 of which were doubles) and produced a small .167/.279/.306 batting line. Sabathia approached Morneau the same way as he did Mauer. He busted him away with fastballs and sliders. On the 1-2 pitch, Sabathia released a 94 mph fastball that was a tad up in the zone and covered more plate than he would have liked. Morneau drove the pitch towards the left-center gap at Progressive Field. Replays would show Gomez dancing off second trying to visualize where the Morneau shot would land. Gomez’s instincts must have told him that the ball was destined for sod because after the momentary pause he was off like a blaze and had already rounded third when the ball came to rest in the fleet-footed Ben Francisco’s glove. The problem, of course, was the Gomez failed to recognize that even if he stood perfectly still at second, he still had enough speed to score had the ball found grass. In 12 opportunities this year to go from 2nd to home, Gomez had done so 10 times. All he had to do was wait to see it bounce.
"He thought for sure it was in the gap and he put his head down," Gardenhire said. "But you've got to watch the ball. Obviously, he got too excited there. You have to slow the game down a bit. But it's a young man mistake."
"I saw the outfielders play deep, and I thought the ball is going down hard," Gomez said. "He hit it low, and ... I looked at the ball -- I didn't think [Francisco] had a chance."
Unfortunately for Gomez, that one run was the difference. After that inning, Sabathia cruised, shutting down the Twins for the duration of the game.
"They put the bat on the ball pretty good early and then they made a base-running mistake," said Sabathia, "From there, I tried to attack them. I didn't think about the score. I just wanted to keep it close, whatever that means, and give us a chance to win."