Viva los Royals? How about Viva los Esky? Better yet: Viva los Esky Grande!
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Alcides Escobar entered Saturday with just two homers but ended the night with four after his two homers carried the Royals to a 6-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
I was laughing, right fielder Jeff Francoeur cracked, and saying were going to have the steroid people coming in and test us (Sunday) after Esky went deep twice. Theyll wonder whats going on.
But all year, hes done it. He plays at a tough position to make an All-Star team, but we all knew in here that he was very All-Star worthy.
This wasnt a bad way, all in all, for the Royals to mark their annual tribute to those with a Hispanic heritage a melting pot victory that saw a Venezuelan hit two homers in the American pastime.
I never did it before, Escobar said. This is my first time. Never before. Even in the minors. First time. And to do it against Jake Peavy, a (former) Cy Young winner. Im really happy about that.
Escobar turned around two 91-mph fastballs from Peavy and sent both into the Royals bullpen beyond the left-field wall. The first was a two-run drive that broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning; the second was a two-out laser that snapped a 3-3 tie in the seventh.
This wasnt totally by accident.
Escobar sent a few batting practice pitches from bench coach Chino Cadahia into that same bullpen prior to the game an unusual occurrence for a firm disciple of hitting coach Kevin Seitzers dictum (thats right, a Latin based word) of up the middle and opposite field.
I talked to Chino in the last round, Escobar said, and told him, Hey, throw me inside. I want to be able to hit a couple of homers in the game.
The Royals added two insurance runs in the eighth inning, which made things a lot easier for Jonathan Broxton, who rebounded from a blown save in Fridays loss by working a one-two-three inning for his 22nd save in 26 opportunities.
I thought it might be my first one, Broxton said. They said it was my sixth (one-two-three save), but it felt like it was my first one. Its been a while. Im just trying to go out there and get quick outs, and luckily I got three ground balls.
It was a bounce-back victory all around after Fridays crushing 9-8 loss in 14 innings, which saw the Royals use a club-record nine pitchers while blowing several scoring chances in extra innings over a 5-hour, 23-minute marathon.
Greg Holland, 3-2, got the victory on Saturday after stranding two inherited runners with the game tied in the seventh inning. He also protected a one-run lead by working around a one-out infield single in the eighth.
Peavy, 7-6, was the loser after permitting six runs and 12 hits in seven-plus innings.
Escobar was nearly a hero Friday when his two-run triple with two outs in the eighth inning sent the Royals into the ninth with a one-run lead. But Chicago tied the game against Broxton.
The Royals won for just the third time in their last 12 games on Saturday and pulled back to 10 games under .500 at 38-48. They also crept to within 9½ games of first-place Chicago in the American League Central Division heading into Sunday afternoons series finale.
With what happened (Friday) night, Francoeur said, this was good. And you look around, our whole division lost tonight. Its always good when you win and your whole division loses. We know weve got, what, 13 games left with this team?
When Escobar hits two homers, lots of things suddenly seem possible.
The Royals two-run eighth came after Billy Butler led off with an infield single. Pinch-runner Jason Bourgeois raced to third when Mike Moustakas grounded a single through the right side.
Francoeurs bouncer found a hole through the left side of a shortened infield for an RBI single and a 5-3 lead. That finished Peavy.
Chris Getz moved the runners with a sacrifice against reliever Hector Santiago, who then set up a force at every base by issuing an intentional walk to Salvy Perez. Lorenzo Cain batted for Jarrod Dyson and scorched a line drive to left for a sacrifice fly.
It made for a nice ending after a suspect start.
Royals starter Luke Hochevar issued a one-out walk in the third to Gordon Beckham, who went to second on a wild pitch before Alejandro De Aza sliced an RBI double into the left-center gap for a 1-0 lead.
But the Royals answered later in the inning after Dyson pulled a one-out single into right and stole second. Alex Gordon followed with an RBI single through the right side.
Escobar then jumped a 0-1 fastball and sent it into the bullpen for a 3-1 lead.
That wasnt a bad pitch, Peavy said. Just the wrong pitch. It was a ball that he got enough of to hit out of the ballpark.
Adam Dunn cut the lead to 3-2 with a mammoth homer to start the sixth. He sent a drive to straight-away center that cleared the upper wall of the batters eye and hopped to the base of the Crown Vision video board. Estimated distance: 451 feet.
Paul Konerko followed with a single through the left side, which finished Hochevar after 97 pitches. In came Aaron Crow, who coughed up the lead. A wild pitch moved Konerko to second before Dayan Viciedo yanked an RBI triple into the right-center gap.
That run was charged to Hochevar, whose final line showed three runs and five hits in five-plus innings.
The results were decent, he said, but, as I always say, what Im concerned about is executing quality pitches. And I felt tonight that was poor. My fastball command was not good. It was a grind.
It stayed 3-3 until two outs in the seventh, when Escobar drove a first-pitch fastball from Peavy into the bullpen for a 4-3 lead. Numero dos de la noche.
Im going to be the same guy, Escobar said. Im going to try to hit the ball back through the middle. But sometimes, when I catch the ball out front, its going to go out.
To reach Bob Dutton, call 816-234-4352 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.