Eighteen hours after suffering through a third shutout in four days, Royals manager Ned Yost reaffirmed Tuesday his desire to stay the course on offense. He has not considered juggling the lineup, he said, whether that be by replacing Alcides Escobar at the leadoff spot or something more wholesale.
“There’s nothing to juggle right now,” Yost said. “There’s nowhere to go with it. We got Esky swinging the bat better. Now we need Gordy, Morales and Cain swinging the bat better.”
Escobar opened May with four hits in nine at-bats over two games, raising his season average to .234 with a .265 on-base percentage entering Tuesday’s game against the Washington Nationals. Alex Gordon, Kendrys Morales and Lorenzo Cain entered the day still mired in extended slumps.
The specifics: Gordon is batting .205 with a .327 on-base percentage after just two hits in his last 22 at-bats. Morales is batting .217 with two homers in his first 25 games. Cain is batting .231 after showing signs of breaking out in the last week.
So what’s the possible solution? Yost was asked Tuesday whether he had considered juggling the lineup as a means to create a spark. He said such a move could have the opposite effect.
“That doesn’t create a spark,” Yost said. “It creates a fire. All of a sudden, now we’re juggling lineups, and they start pressing even more. You ride it out, stay calm. You ride it out. It’s a proven lineup. It’s proven.”
In 2015, the Royals were sixth in the American League in runs scored, finishing with 724 runs (4.47 runs per game). They won 95 games and claimed the American League Central title on their way to a World Series championship in the fall.
This year, the Royals have scored just 81 runs in 25 games, averaging 3.24 runs per game. They are batting just .201 with a .259 on-base percentage with runners in scoring position. A year ago, they batted .281 with runners in scoring position.
Escobar spent most of the 2015 season in the leadoff spot. Even Yost concedes he is not traditional leadoff hitter. He owns a career on-base percentage of .297, and he has grown fond of swinging at the first pitch of games. But Yost points to his performance in the postseason — Escobar was the MVP of the American League Championship Series — and his club’s success with Escobar in the lineup. He also points to a lack of alternatives for the leadoff role, especially with Gordon struggling.
“You don’t start changing just to change,” Yost said. “It’s worked in the past. Now we got guys that are off to slow starts. They’ll get it going. But it doesn’t create a spark.
Yost added: “You can’t be panicking in these times. Stay steady. They’ll get through it. It’s no fun going through it, but there’s nothing you can do but endure it.”