Wetmore: 5 thoughts on would-be game winners, bunting and Correia
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This column presents 5 thoughts from Wednesday's game.
As always, feel free to ask questions or make observations in the comments. If you have a unique baseball observation during a game, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@DerekWetmore).
1. Kevin Correia started the game for the Twins. He pitched six innings and allowed five hits and three earned runs. More to the point: why was Correia starting a game for the Twins in August when they're out of contention?
The Twins have 50 starts remaining to hand out to starters, and there's a strong case to be made that each should be given to a pitcher with a chance to make the starting rotation next season.
2. Backup catcher Eric Fryer picked off a runner at second base in the seventh inning to preserve what was then a one-run lead.
Yonder Alonso led off the seventh with a single and moved to second base when the next batter walked. With first and second and no outs, Alonso got a little bit too big of a lead and Fryer threw behind him to second base, where Eduardo Escobar was in place to make the catch and apply the tag.
I spoke with a former Major League catcher recently who said that often times a catcher will need to have a throw predetermined before a pitch. That allows the catcher to get set up not only to receive a pitch, but to catch it in a place where he can then make the quickest throw to a base.
In this case, however, Fryer said it was more reactionary, when he saw enough 'daylight' to catch the runner.
"Mentally I just said 'be ready' in case he bunts through it or takes one high. Once I saw the clearance, there was a lot of space there, I'm throwing every time," Fryer said.
3. Speaking of failed bunt attempts, the Twins had a safety squeeze attempt foiled with Jordan Schafer at the plate. He sacrifice bunted successfully Tuesday, but this bunt -- with runners at first and third -- went straight to the ground and bounced up to catch Schafer as he was leaving the batter's box, so he was ruled out.
4. Later, there was another interesting situation involving a bunt. Kurt Suzuki led off the bottom of the 10th inning with a pinch-hit single up the middle. Josh Willingham had been getting loose to hit for Schafer, but once the catcher reached base, Schafer walked to the plate and bunted Suzuki to second base.
Studies have shown that bunting in that exact base-out situation reduces the total run expectancy. (If you're curious about the specifics, bunting there drops a team's expectation from 0.941 runs per inning to 0.721 runs.) But the Twins were playing for the tie, and it's also important to consider that getting the runner to second increases the percentage chance that single run scores.
Ron Gardenhire said after the game that Willingham would have hit for Schafer if Suzuki didn't reach base. If the decision is to bunt in that situation, it makes sense to stay with Schafer instead of Willingham.
Generally speaking, I'm against sacrifice bunting because the most important object to score runs in baseball is to avoid outs. But there are certain high-leverage spots in which it can makes sense to trade an out for advancing a runner, depending on the score, the skill of the batter and how many outs remain in the game.
5. Eduardo Escobar slammed his helmet in frustration on the base paths after hitting what looked to be a walkoff winner in the bottom of the ninth inning. With runners on first and second with two outs and center fielder Alexi Amarista playing shallow, Escobar lined a pitch over his head that would have easily scored Eduardo Nunez from second base. Amarista was playing shallow to prevent Nunez from scoring on a ground ball to center or to take away any bloop hits, it seemed.
But Amarista raced back and made a highlight reel-worthy grab to send the game to extra innings.
Escobar threw down his helmet after rounding first base and jumped several times in apparent disbelief.
"Yeah I hit it good with Amarista playing in so I thought it was a hit. Then I saw him run and run and run and run, it was a nice play," Escobar said.
The two were double play partners in Venezuela, Escobar said, when Amarista played second base.
In the Twins dugout, the feeling when Escobar connected was that the game would be over.
"When he hit it I thought it was down for sure," Fryer said, "just because [Amarista] was playing so shallow, trying to take away a little bleeder. Guy made a great play, going back, over his shoulder. ... Dang it."