BALTIMORE — Cue up another round in the Royals’ ongoing bunt debate.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Alcides Escobar bunted in the first inning Sunday against Baltimore after Alex Gordon opened the game with a single. Escobar bunted on his own; he was bunting for a base-hit — and here you go: Good idea or not?
Few teams, particularly in the American League, play for one run early in games, which is what a bunt in the first inning appears to suggest. This was also the fifth straight time in a 22-game span that Escobar’s followed a leadoff single with a first-inning bunt.
“I was bunting for a base-hit,” Escobar explained. “Sometimes in that situation, after Gordo gets a base-hit, I’m trying to push the ball (to the right side). If I get it past the pitcher, I’m safe. Easily safe. If not, at least I get Gordo to second.”
Escobar leads the Royals with nine bunt base-hits. Nobody else has more than four.
This bunt failed to produce a single. It did move Gordon to second — and Escobar was credited with a sacrifice — but the Royals failed to score when Mike Moustakas flied to center and Billy Butler struck out.
So, again, good strategy or not?
Manager Ned Yost previously chided Escobar for some early-game bunts, but not this time.
“He’s trying to bunt for a base-hit,” Yost said, “and he’s our best bunter. Quite frankly, he’s been pretty successful at it. Worst-case scenario, we’ve got a chance to get on the board first (with a runner at second). You’ve got your three, four guys coming up next.
“I don’t have any problem with it.”
Escobar emphasized: “I’m trying to help the team in that situation, but I’m not trying for a sacrifice bunt. I’m trying for a base-hit.”
Gordon raised his average to .294 by going two for four in Sunday’s loss. He is batting .337 in 68 games since returning May 27 to the leadoff role. He also continues to lead the majors with 38 doubles — and, now, home-run pop is again part of his game.
Gordon hit two homers in Saturday’s 7-3 victory over the Orioles and has four homers in his last 10 games after hitting just five in his first 103 games. That was an alarming drop since he led the club last season with a career-best 23 homers.
“I don’t know,” Gordon admitted. “I’m not trying to hit home runs, but maybe I am being a little more aggressive than I’ve been in the past.”
Gordon was seven for 18 with a double and three homers in the four games against the Orioles.
The Royals and Royals Charities hold one of their annual marquee charity events today when they stage their fifth annual celebrity golf tournament at the National Golf Club of Kansas City in Parkville.
Participants are expected to include 12-15 players and on-field staff members. The tournament, which is sold out, begins with a 9 a.m. shotgun start and benefits the Special Olympics of Greater Kansas City Metro.
Royals Charities will hold a post-tournament reception, awards program and silent auction.
Left-hander Chris Dwyer pitched his first complete game of the season Saturday in Class AAA Omaha’s 7-2 victory at Tucson. He allowed eight hits while striking out four and walking four in a 105-pitch performance.
It was, perhaps, Dwyer’s most-encouraging performance in a disappointing season. Ranked prior to the year as the organization’s No. 9 prospect by Baseball America, Dwyer is just 8-11 with a 5.55 ERA at Omaha and Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
Omaha outfielder Wil Myers — no surprise — is the organization’s top prospect in midseason ranking recently released by TopProspectAlert.com.
Myers, 21, entered Sunday with 33 homers, 93 RBIs and a .308 average in 112 games at Omaha and Northwest Arkansas.
The rest of the top five (numbers prior to Sunday):
• Right-handed pitcher Kyle Zimmer, 21, is 2-2 with a 3.04 ERA in seven games at Class A Kane County and Rookie Surprise.
• Right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi, 22, is 12-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 games at Omaha and Northwest Arkansas.
• Outfielder Bubba Starling, 20, is batting .286 with eight homers and 30 RBIs in 37 games at short-season Burlington.
• Right-handed pitcher Yordano Ventura, 21, is 3-7 with a 3.78 ERA in 20 games at Northwest Arkansas and Class A Wilmington.
It was 40 years ago Monday — Aug. 13, 1972 — that the Royals pulled off the first of the six triple plays in franchise history. It occurred in the third inning of a 13-4 loss to Texas at old Arlington Stadium.
The Rangers had runners at first and second when catcher Ed Kirkpatrick fielded a bunt by Toby Harrah and turned it into a catcher-third-second triple play.
It’s been more than six years since the Royals executed a triple play: June 11, 2006 against Tampa Bay at Kauffman Stadium.