As a reserve on a team with four All-Star Game starters, Jarrod Dyson knows he has to make the most of his opportunities when he steps between the lines.
He made sure of that Wednesday night with a spectacular defensive play and an enthralling inside-the-park home run.
The performance was good enough to receive a celebratory water cup bath from Salvador Perez after the Royals’ 9-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, a game in which Dyson replaced the injured Alex Gordon in the top of the fourth inning and immediately made his presence felt.
“Every time I’m out there, I try to do a job and provide some type of spark for the team,” Dyson said. “I was able to go out there and do it right away.”
Never miss a local story.
With the bases loaded and one run already in during the fourth against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, Rays designated hitter John Jaso roped a ball to Dyson’s right.
Dyson drifted over, caught the ball and came up throwing. He delivered a one-hop strike to Perez to nab a tagging Brandon Guyer at the plate and record the first two outs of the inning.
The play injected some life into the dejected crowd, downtrodden after Gordon’s departure, and his teammates looking for a spark.
“He brings energy, is what he brings,” said Royals manager Ned Yost. “But to make the throw he made there after that happened and to hit the inside-the-park home run, I think it boosted everybody’s spirits, and not only the players in the dugout but the fans in the stands, too.”
“It gave us momentum,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “It got the crowd fired up. It got us fired up.”
Dyson wasn’t done providing excitement.
In the sixth, Dyson legged out the inside-the-parker for his first home run of the season. It was his first home run since June 25 of last year, a span of 252 at bats, off the Dodgers’ Dan Haren.
With two outs, Dyson hit a slicing blooper down the left field line. Rays left fielder David DeJesus dove for the ball. DeJesus couldn’t come up with it, the ball trickled to the corner, and the race was on.
Alcides Escobar scored easily from third base. Dyson approached the third base bag and Mike Jirschele waved his arm in a windmill motion, sending him home. Rays shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera couldn’t handle the relay throw cleanly and Dyson slid head-first into home plate for the exclamation point.
“It was pretty close. It was suspect. I really didn’t come out of the box hard until I saw it drop, get past him,” Dyson said. “Then I turned the jets on.”
Lying on the ground with his cleats still resting on home plate, Dyson cracked a smile and took a deep breath.
“I had to take a break right there,” Dyson said. “I gave it my all right there getting around the bases trying to score, but it’s an exciting for me.”
It was the first inside-the-park home run in Dyson’s career.
With Gordon’s length of absence unknown, Dyson will keep being that spark to help his team win ballgames.
“You gotta put this day behind you and just keep moving forward and keep trying to do great things to help the team win,” Dyson said.
Dyson wasn’t the only player to hit an inside-the-park home run in Wednesday night’s game. Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe accomplished the feat in the fourth inning on the play Gordon in which injured himself.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Dyson’s home run marked the first time since May 26, 1997, that two inside-the-park home runs occurred in the same game. Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs and Tony Womack of the Pittsburgh Pirates each rounded the bases that day at Three Rivers Stadium.
The last time it happened for the Royals was May 14, 1980, when Kansas City’s Willie Wilson and New York’s Bucky Dent did it at Yankee Stadium.