As he rounded third base, desperate for an opening to tie this baseball game, Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson turned his eyes across the diamond. When the throw bounced, he knew just what to do.
“I saw the ball kick out,” Dyson said. “And then I just turned on the boosters.”
He scored on a two-out throwing error by former All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes. An inning later, Omar Infante ripped a two-run single to guide the Royals to an 8-6 victory over the Blue Jays, one of the hottest teams in baseball.
The Royals cooled one streak — Toronto’s nine-game string of wins — and ended their own four-game stretch of futility. The day began with a shuffling of the coaching staff. It ended with the team’s first sign of life in days.
“It feels really good,” manager Ned Yost said. “I was really pleased with the way we swung the bats tonight.”
The offense bailed out starter James Shields, who was terrorized by Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. He emptied his toolbox to try to temper the Blue Jays. He even picked off a pair of runners. But he could not keep the baseball in the park. Shields yielded six runs, thanks to a trio of two-run blasts, two of them from Encarnacion.
“I made three bad pitches,” Shields said. “And they capitalized on it.”
Earlier this week, the team endured a three-game humiliation at the hands of the Astros. They demoted hitting coach Pedro Grifol and shifted third-base coach Dale Sveum into that position. Amid the upheaval, the club turned to its finest player. Two winters ago, the Royals traded for Shields to curb skids like this.
A freight train awaited him. The Blue Jays lineup is savage, packed with sluggers like Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Jose Bautista.
It was Bautista who dinged Shields in the first. Shields had just given up a single to former Royal Melky Cabrera. He tried to stuff a cutter at Bautista’s knees. But Bautista ripped his bat through the zone and lined a two-run shot over the left-field fence.
Just like that, the Royals fell behind. But they did not go quietly. Salvador Perez mashed a solo homer in the second. Two innings later, doubles by Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon created a run.
Another long ball cost the Royals the tie. The scenario felt quite reminiscent. Lind singled. Up came Encarnacion. Shields tried to fit another cutter inside. This pitch was slightly higher than the one to Bautista. It ended up in the same place, blasted over the fence in left.
Once again, the Royals trailed by a pair of runs. They would not wait long to answer. The uprising began from one of the unlikeliest sources: Backup utility man Pedro Ciriaco. He laced a double off the wall in center, narrowly missing a game-tying homer. Instead, it was an RBI double.
After Nori Aoki dropped a splendid bunt single, Omar Infante tied the game by lining a knuckler into left. A similar hit into right by Billy Butler gave the Royals their first advantage of the night.
“The offense kept coming,” Yost said. “They kept producing runs.”
They would need to, because Shields could not best Encarnacion. His second homer fell in the sixth. It was enough to make Shields scream into his glove.
The Royals looked like they were drifting toward another defeat. The low point would have come with one out in the ninth — Billy Butler raked a ball into right field, but was thrown out on a quick throw to first by Bautista.
Except with two outs, Alex Gordon managed a single. Dyson pinch-ran for him and stole second. He was in perfect position to capitalize on Reyes’ mistake.
“We showed good signs,” Dyson said. “A comeback. We’ve just got to keep rolling.”