An unfamiliar sight greeted Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas in the first game of this season. In his second at-bat, the Detroit Tigers positioned themselves in a dramatic shift along the right side of the infield.
This alignment often greets left-handed pull hitters like Boston designated hitter David Ortiz or Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard. For Moustakas, it was a first. He saw it again in Detroit, and against the Chicago White Sox here at Kauffman Stadium.
“This is new,” Moustakas said on Sunday morning before a 5-1 loss to Chicago. “But if that’s what they’re going to do, I’m going to get my hits to the left side of the field. If you drop down a bunt, start hitting a ball over at the shortstop, they’re not going to be able to do that anymore.”
For now, Moustakas has yet to break through. He is hitless in 15 at-bats. He did work an RBI walk in Saturday’s victory.
Manager Ned Yost still elected to give Moustakas the day off on Sunday. Chicago started southpaw terror Chris Sale. The Royals employ right-handed-hitting backup Danny Valencia, whose primary skill is hitting left-handed pitching. So the swap made sense.
But Yost hinted the mental break would be worthwhile for Moustakas. The team does not want his early-season slump to snowball.
“He’s pressing a little bit,” Yost said. “But not nearly as much as he did last year. He’s going to be OK. And that’s just signs of maturity.”
In turn, Moustakas is preparing to bunt more. He understands if he demonstrates the ability to hit the ball the other way, the shift will disappear. The bunt is one tool at his disposal.
“I haven’t done it much in my career,” Moustakas said. “But it’s not that difficult. Because the shortstop’s over on the other side of second, and the third baseman’s at shortstop. So I just have to bunt it past the pitcher. I don’t have to be fine with it.”Yost wins challenge
Yost won his first challenge of the season in the sixth inning. Omar Infante backhanded a grounder in the hole and threw to first. The umpire called Chicago infielder Marcus Semien safe. Yost disagreed — and after a 68-second delay, his contention was agreed with.
The team also watched Robin Ventura unsuccessfully challenge a similar call in the bottom of the inning.Hosmer OK after scare
Eric Hosmer collapsed in the infield dirt in the fourth inning after White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu stepped on his foot running through the bag. Abreu stepped on a nerve, Yost suggested, which caused Hosmer’s foot to go numb. He regained feeling in his foot shortly thereafter, and remained in the game.
“It hurt a little a bit,” Hosmer said. “It was a quick scare. But it’s good to go.”Escobar eases slump
In the eighth inning, shortstop Alcides Escobar broke through with his first hit of the season. He is now one for 17 on the season.No rest for Perez
Catcher Salvador Perez is scheduled to play all three games against Tampa Bay this week. The team has an off-day on Thursday. Perez has started every game for the Royals thus far.