Spring training begins in February. Thirty seconds after spring training begins, pitchers start doing those fielding drills in which they cover first base. They do those fairly damn continuously until, oh, five minutes before the first pitch on Opening Day. Pitchers moan about it, but there’s a reason they do this. Just ask the Rockies, who lost last night’s game in large part to a pitcher’s failure to cover the bag.
The Padres had runners on first and second with one out Edgmer Escalona was pitching for Colorado, when Chase Headley grounded to Todd Helton at first base. Helton checked the runner heading to second, realized he had no shot at him, and turned to flip it to the covering Escalona.
Except Escalona wasn’t covering and Headley managed to beat Helton in the foot race to the bag. That loaded the bases, and the Padres’ seventh run came one batter later when Nick Hundley hit a sac fly that would have been out number three if Escalona had remembered his training. The Padres ended up winning 7-6. Jim Tracy after the game:
“You’re taught from Day 1 that a ball hit to the right side on the ground, you move to that direction. It’s that simple.”
Or at least it should be. What won’t be simple is next spring training if the Rockies miss the playoffs by one game, because Tracy will likely run pitcher fielding practice from dawn to dusk and tell his hurlers to get their arms in shape on their own time.
With his team trailing 8-3 to begin the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the Astros, Indians third baseman José Ramirez eventually won a 17-pitch at-bat against closer Ken Giles, ripping a double off of the wall in right field. The Indians would go on to score five runs on seven hits to tie the game against Giles and Hector Rondon. Ramirez almost won the game in his second at-bat of the ninth inning, but first basebamn Yuli Gurriel made a terrific diving catch on a line drive otherwise headed for the right field corner.
Giants first baseman Brandon Belt set a new modern record for the longest at-bat last month, seeing 21 pitches against the Angels’ Jaime Barria. The Astros’ Ricky Gutierrez sfaw 20 pitches from the Indians’ Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998, which was the previous record. Kevin Bass saw 19 pitches from the Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian in 1988. There have also been five 18-pitch at-bats from Brian Downing, Bip Roberts, Alex Cora, Adam Kennedy, and Marcus Semien.
Sunday’s game wound up going 14 innings. The Astros pulled ahead 9-8 in the top of the 13th on a solo home run from Evan Gattis. However, the Indians’ Yonder Alonso responded with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the 13th to re-knot the game at 9-9. Greg Allen then lifted a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the 14th to give the Indians a 10-9 win.
After Sunday’s effort, Ramirez is batting .292/.389/.605 with 15 home runs, 37 RBI, 34 runs scored, and seven stolen bases. According to FanGraphs, his 3.5 Wins Above Replacement ranks third across baseball behind Mike Trout (4.4) and Mookie Betts (4.1). They’re the only players at three wins or above.