It may have easily gotten lost in the shuffle of what eventually became a seven-run inning en route to a crucial World Series Game 6 win by the Royals, but a weak ground ball to first base may have been the early turning point in the game.
Already over thirty pitches into the game, San Francisco Giants pitcher Jake Peavy had been anything but sharp. He had allowed the game’s first run via a Mike Moustakas double that scored Alex Gordon, then followed up with a strikeout of Omar Infante for the first out of the inning. Alcides Escobar stepped into the batter’s box with runners on second and third and an opportunity to extend the Royals’ slim lead with a base hit.
Peavy ultimately won the battle, then conceded the war.
Escobar dribbled a 1-2 pitch to first baseman Brandon Belt who charged the ball, fielded it, lifted his arm to throw home, then didn’t. The runner, Salvador Perez, froze when he saw the ball was hit directly towards first base and Belt, caught in no man’s land, had only one play: run to first base. Unfortunately for Belt and the Giants, Escobar had the same idea. The batter outran Belt to first, slid in safely, and, even though no one scored on the play, set up a bases loaded scenario that would eventually blow the game wide open.
The blunder – technically, it was an infield hit and thus, no error – should have the responsibility shouldered by both Belt and Peavy, but the mental mistake belonged to the pitcher on this play.
Brandon Belt has one responsibility in this type of defense: throw home if he is moving towards the plate and the runner is trying to advance, or flip the ball to the pitcher covering the bag.
The pitcher was not covering the bag.
Instead of sprinting past Belt to first base, Jake Peavy not only stood a few feet from the mound, but actually pointed to home plate, signalling that Belt should be throwing the ball home. Why? It’s one thing to be out of position – it is inexcusable given the level at which he is playing – but it is a compounded issue when he uses his poor judgement to aid in an even poorer decision. Certainly, Belt needs to have had better field awareness, but he should not have had a pitcher standing in his view pointing to the wrong base.
As expected, Peavy subsequently gave up another hit and was removed from the game. His poor positioning surely was more a result of being caught up in a critical moment than anything else. He likely felt that he dodged a bullet when Escobar grounded out to first base, but it would have only been productive if they cut the runner down at home. Instead, he was unable to separate his emotion from his responsibility.
Peavy’s subtle blunder opened the floodgates, and again proves why the Kansas City Royals have been so successful this postseason. They don’t let mistakes go unpunished.
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