As Cheslor Cuthbert made his way toward the far end of the Royals dugout, weaving through a line of high fives and hugs, he turned to his right and saw the pointing fingers of teammates Jarrod Dyson and Salvador Perez.
“Go,” Dyson said, pointing up to the steps of the dugout.
The crowd inside Kauffman Stadium remained on its feet. The noise in the dugout hit a crescendo. One minute earlier, Cuthbert, a 22-year-old rookie, had raked a line-drive home run into the left-field seats. It was the first homer of Cuthbert’s young career — and the defining moment from the Royals’ 12-1 bludgeoning of the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night.
Now the crowd was begging for a curtain call. The moment surprised him, Cuthbert would say afterward.
“There’s something big from the fans in Kansas City,” Cuthbert said.
One day after joining the Royals as a September call-up, Cuthbert finished two-for-three with a walk and four RBIs. He piled on a dazzling play at third base in the top of the fifth.
“He’s been very, very good since he’s been here,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He’s been a very solid performer at third base, defensively, and he mixes in big hits.”
The display came as third baseman Mike Moustakas rested his hamstring for the second straight day. On Tuesday, Ben Zobrist manned third base as Cuthbert arrived with the rest of the September reinforcements. On Wednesday, Cuthbert logged his eighth start of the season.
It came nearly two months after Cuthbert made his major-league debut on July 7, filling in while Moustakas was out on the bereavement list. Cuthbert piled up six hits while playing in six games in July, and after remaining with the Royals in early August, he headed back to Class AAA Omaha for most of the month.
He returned with a vengeance on Wednesday.
In the bottom of the second, Cuthbert fisted a bases-loaded single into right-center field off Detroit starter Randy Wolf. The single scored two runs, and as Cuthbert stood at first base, he locked eyes with Perez, who stood atop second base and demonstratively clapped his hands.
“I faced this guy last year in Triple-A, so I had an idea of what he would throw to me,” Cuthbert said of Wolf.
In the top of the fifth, Cuthbert would add a spectacular defensive play to the ledger, diving to his right and snaring a grounder from the bat of Tyler Collins. Cuthbert sprung to his feet and delivered a perfect strike across the diamond to first baseman Eric Hosmer.
That set the stage for his first career homer in the bottom half of the fifth. Facing reliever Guido Knudson, Cuthbert hooked an 81-mph slider that caught the middle half of the plate. It tucked inside the foul pole in left — one of four Royals homers on Wednesday night.
“That was a pitch that was inside, and to keep that ball fair was impressive,” Yost said.
In the moments after the game, Cuthbert was doused with Gatorade and shared a moment with minor-league teammate Paulo Orlando. But standing in the Royals clubhouse, he hadn’t located his home run ball. If he ever found it, Cuthbert said, it was headed back home to Nicaragua — to his mother.
“I haven’t got the baseball yet, but I would love to get it,” Cuthbert said. “Nobody told me about it yet, so hopefully I can get it.”