The tributes poured in while Jarrod Dyson lay crumpled at the base of the center-field wall in Kauffman Stadium.
On the mound, Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie removed his cap. In the crowd, the fans on hand for a 5-3 victory delivered a standing ovation. As he loped back to the dugout, Dodgers sophomore showman Yasiel Puig, the victim of Dyson’s outfield robbery, doffed his helmet.
Dyson crashed into a wall and stole a hit from Puig on Monday night. It was a play fit for highlight reels on an evening when Dyson contributed in various ways. He singled three times, drove in two runs, scored a third, stole two bases and contributed to the defense as the Royals snapped a four-game losing streak.
“You can’t have a better game than he had,” manager Ned Yost said.
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Even now, after years scratching out an existence in the majors as a 5-foot-10, slap-hitting pest, Dyson still finds it hard to detach from his past as a would-be cleanup hitter. His night lacked only one element, he joked.
“I would have taken a bomb, if I could have got one,” he said.
He had to settle for the starring role in a win littered with contributors. Salvador Perez pounded two extra-base hits. Alcides Escobar scored twice, and Lorenzo Cain, the other prize fetched when the Royals traded Zack Greinke, notched two hits. Guthrie kept the Dodgers off the board until Hanley Ramirez’s two-run double in the eighth.
During their four-game skid, the Royals amassed eight runs. On Sunday, they beat up a familiar face. Greinke was pitching at Kauffman Stadium for the third time since demanding an exodus after the 2010 season. The crowd greeted him with polite applause during the pregame introductions. They showered him with jeers upon his exit midway through the sixth inning.
“I was pretty rude on the way out,” Greinke said. “So they have every right to be mad at me.”
In 110 starts at this park, Greinke had given up only 48 home runs.
The 49th came in the second inning. Perez pulverized a first-pitch slider and dunked his ninth homer of the season into the fountains in left-center field.
The Royals capitalized on an opening with two outs later in the inning. Escobar nearly brained Greinke with a single up the middle. He took second base when Greinke skipped a curveball in the dirt. Dyson punched an elevated fastball into left for an RBI single.
Granted the lead, Guthrie set a brisk pace. He threw eight pitches in the first inning and four in the second. The third was a relative marathon: 11 pitches.
“He fed off their aggressiveness,” Yost said.
Guthrie entered the game on a roll. He had posted a 2.85 ERA in his previous seven starts. He struck out 18 in his two starts on the last road trip, flustering the White Sox and Tigers. He credited his improved production during this stretch to more confidence pitching inside and a sharpened slider.
“I feel good,” Guthrie said. “I’ve been able to work on things, and be a little more consistent, so the results have been more favorable.”
He also trusted his defenders. With two outs in the fourth, Guthrie pumped a 93-mph fastball over the middle of the plate. Puig drove the ball to the deepest portion of center field. Dyson sprinted with his head craned over his left shoulder, gloved the ball and collided with the wall.
Dyson collapsed upon impact.
“I thought (Floyd) Mayweather hit him,” Cain said, and Yost wondered if Dyson was injured.
“Did I get back up?” Dyson said. “I’m a tiger.”
In his next at-bat, Dyson was the catalyst for a run by besting Greinke in an eight-pitch at-bat. Dyson fouled off three sliders before shooting a fastball up the middle. It was his second hit of the game, but he would not remain at first for long. He jetted to second for his 11th stolen base of the season.
As Dyson ran, Cain waited at the plate. Yost installed Cain as the club’s latest leadoff hitter on Sunday. Cain hungered for the opportunity, and has repaid Yost for his faith.
He dunked a single to shallow right, which provided Dyson ample time to race the final 180 feet home.
Greinke would depart an inning later.
Perez raked a leadoff double. Escobar flicked a sinking liner down the right-field line. The ball bounced past Puig. Escobar raced around to third base, where coach Mike Jirschele held him up and denied him the chance at an inside-the-park homer.
“I wanted it!” Escobar said. “I was still running.”
The night’s star brought him home, anyway. Dyson delivered Escobar to the plate with a single to center and ended Greinke’s night in the process. The five-run lead shrank as the game approached its conclusion, but the advantage was enough to snap the losing streak.
“We definitely needed this one,” Cain said.
To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.