The newest Royal sparked the latest comeback. Josh Willingham idled on the bench for six innings on Tuesday night, kept out of the lineup against the Colorado Rockies because of the game’s National League rules at Coors Field. When called into action, his effect was immediate.
Willingham singled up the middle to ignite the three-run flurry capped by run-scoring doubles from Omar Infante and Salvador Perez. He returned to the starting lineup for Wednesday’s series finale with the Rockies, and played the field for the first time as a Royal.
In his first eight games as a Royal, Willingham provided the production the team hoped for when they acquired him on Aug. 11. He batted .360 with a home run, three doubles and five RBI.
“I hate to use the term ‘a professional hitter,’ but he gives you a solid at-bat every time he gets up,” manager Ned Yost said. “And he may strike out. But he gives you a solid at-bat every time up. And he has a chance of doing damage every time up.”
Willingham, a 35-year-old veteran of 11 big-league seasons, installed a modicum of power in the lineup’s middle. He also represents a deviation from the rest of his teammates. He is prone to strikeouts and he collects his share of walks. His new team avoids both of those outcomes.
The Royals rank last in the majors in walks. They also strike out the fewest of any other club. Heading into Wednesday’s games, the club had struck out 745 times, which was 107 fewer than the Athletics, who rank 29th.
Willingham may distort those totals. In his first 76 games, he walked 44 times. His total matched Alex Gordon’s team high. Gordon accrued his sum in 119 games. No other Royal had walked on more than 35 occasions this season.
Willingham had struck out 87 in those 76 games. Gordon bested him there, with 90 punch-outs. Otherwise, Willingham would lead his new team in this category as well.
Colon leads off
After Tuesday’s game, when rookie infielder Christian Colon’s pinch-hit walk extended an eighth-inning rally, Yost pledged to play Colon again the next day. He found an interesting spot for him. Colon started at third base and led off for the first time in the majors.
Yost chose Colon over Lorenzo Cain, who went 1-for-5 with an RBI double in his return to action on Tuesday.
“Talked to the coaches and we all kind of came up with Colon,” Yost said. “No magic scientific formula there.”
Hosmer waits for another exam
Eric Hosmer does not expect to undergo an examination on the stress fracture in his right hand until the club returns to Kansas City on Monday. He has yet to swing a bat since July 31.