Omar Infante owns the most playoff experience on the Royals’ roster, but he’d never experienced anything like Wednesday’s sixth inning.
Infante entered the second game of the World Series at Kauffman Stadium with 156 career postseason plate appearances, passing inactive Raul Ibañez during the Royals’ October run for the most experience on the club’s 40-man roster.
But before turning around a 98 mph fastball from Hunter Strickland, Infante had never known the joy of smashing a postseason home run.
“It was great for us and great for me, because basically I haven’t done well in the postseason,” Infante said. “Now, we’re in the World Series and I have to come through. This home run today was very important to me.”
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Infante’s first career round-tripper came in his 145th postseason at-bat and ended the second-longest active postseason streak without a home run.
Only Cardinals outfielder John Jay, who hasn’t homered in 189 postseason at-bats, has gone longer without socking one out of the park.
“It’s not easy to hit a good fastball at 96 or 97, but I’m trying in that situation to make good contact, and I made good contact on that pitch,” Infante said. “That’s why you get a homer.”
Infante, who also had a ringing double in the second inning and scored the Royals’ first run, appeared in the World Series for Detroit in 2006 and 2012.
His 2012 World Series ended with a nondisplaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal when he was hit by a pitch on his left hand in game four.
Infante also helped the Tigers reached the American League Championship Series last season and played for Atlanta during the 2010 National League Division Series.
During 40 career postseason games, Infante is a .248 hitter who only had four RBIs — in 142 at-bats entering Wednesday — before launching a two-run shot off the back wall of the Royals’ bullpen to cap a five-run outburst that broke a 2-2 tie.
“That was a huge home run for us right there … and Omar was pumped,” third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “You could see how fired up he was coming around there.”
Moustakas said that if Infante can stay hot, “it will put us over the edge.”
During the offseason, the Royals filled a gaping hole in the lineup by signing Infante to a four-year contract through 2017.
Beset with injuries, including shoulder and back ailments, Infante had underperformed, batting .252 in 135 games with 30 extra-base hits.
Statistically, it was his worst season since 2007, but now it features the best moment of his playing career and helps send the Royals to San Francisco all-square at 1-1 in the best-of-seven series.
“My mind was clear, I made good contact today and that’s good for me,” Infante said.