PHILADELPHIA — That machine-gun attack the Royals displayed all spring in razing the Cactus League merely got re-routed to Philadelphia, it seems, without a stop in Chicago for the season-opening series.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Actually, it was a little late Friday in arriving, but no matter. The Royals shrugged off an early four-run deficit in pounding their way to a 13-4 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
“We knew we didn’t swing the bats great in Chicago,” left fielder Alex Gordon said, “but give credit to Chicago’s pitching staff. They did a great job, but we just moved on.
“We never lost confidence in our offense, but that’s one of the best turnarounds I’ve ever been a part of in Kansas City. Opening Day (in Philadelphia), and the excitement.
“They come out scoring runs, but we just kind of turned a 180 on them.”
Don’t be fooled, though. The game turned on one monster at-bat by Gordon in the sixth inning. The Royals trailed 4-2 at the time with the bases loaded and two outs.
Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick had just issued an intentional walk to Billy Butler, who didn’t start because there was no designated hitter in accordance with National League rules.
Butler entered the game as a pinch-hitter for pitcher Bruce Chen, who had replaced an ineffective Wade Davis.
“That was the tough decision,” manager Ned Yost said, “because you know they’ve got the lefty down there (in the bullpen). You know the odds are they’re probably going to walk Billy (with first base open).
“You put a lesser hitter up and do they face him or not face him? So you make them make a choice right there. I felt good with Gordy. That’s why we did it.”
In came Jeremy Horst for a left-on-left matchup with Gordon, who pumped a three-run triple into the right-center gap that was, yes, deep enough to score Butler from first with the go-ahead run.
“I just tried not to get too big (in his swing) with the bases loaded,” Gordon said. “I tried to keep my same approach. I got a good pitch to hit and was able to find a gap.”
Butler scored easily.
“Off the bat,” he said, “I was just running as hard as I could to give Eddie (Rodriguez, the third-base coach) the chance to send me. The ball is hit there, you’re just running on contact.”
After that, it was all Royals.
Chris Getz hit a three-run triple in a four-run seventh. Alcides Escobar hit the Royals‘ first homer of the season — who had that in the pool? — in a two-run eighth. Escobar also had an RBI double in a two-run ninth.
The final tally was a 19-hit attack with contributions from everyone.
“It’s a tough one,” Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard admitted. “You don’t want to lose your (home) opener like this.”
Eric Hosmer started the Royals’ comeback with a two-run single with two outs in the fifth. Hosmer had four hits. Getz, Gordon and Mike Moustakas each had three hits as the Royals evened their record at 2-2.
Boy, it didn’t start well, though.
The Royals trailed 4-0 before they mounted a serious threat against Kendrick in the fifth by loading the bases on successive one-out singles by Getz, Miguel Tejada and Gordon.
Tejada’s single came while batting for starting pitcher Wade Davis, which speaks to a problem that might easily be overlooked, i.e, that Davis wasn’t very good in his Royals’ debut.
Kendrick had a chance to escape unharmed after getting an out at the plate on Escobar’s grounder to first, but Hosmer lined a two-run single to right.
The chance for a bigger inning slipped away when Salvy Perez grounded out to second. But that was all a prologue to Gordon’s game-changing triple.
“He’s the leader of our team,” Moustakas said. “Him and Shieldsy (James Shields). Gordo is the leader of our offense. He’s a quiet leader, but he gets after it. He works hard, and he gets us going.
“He gets a big hit like that, and we were able to rally behind him. When he goes, we go.”
Chen, 1-0, got the victory after working a one-two-three fifth with two strikeouts. J.C. Gutierrez protected a one-run lead with a one-two-three sixth.
Tim Collins then worked two scoreless innings before Luke Hochevar closed out the comeback. The Phillies managed one runner over the final five innings against four Royals relievers.
Kendrick got the loss.
Davis actually limited the damage in his four innings but, problem was, there was a lot of damage to limit. He surrendered nine hits and, considering two left the park, a bill showing four runs was fairly modest.
The Phillies nicked him for one run in first inning, two in the second on homers by Dominic Brown and Erik Kratz , and another run in the third inning.
“It was an uphill battle,” Davis said. “I made a ton of mistakes up in the zone today. My fastball command was as bad as it’s been in a long time. I didn’t have a good feel for any of my breaking stuff.
“I felt like I was behind to every hitter.”
Davis gained a no-decision when the Royals, finally, got rolling.
“Better late than never,” Moustakas said. “That’s what we’re capable of doing. We did it during the spring. It just took us a couple of games to get it rolling, but our offense is capable of putting up runs in a hurry.
“It was just nice for us to get going and see some results.”