Royals

Alcides Escobar homers, Royals cruise in 6-2 victory over Detroit

The Royals' Alcides Escobar rounds third base after his leadoff solo homer during the first inning of Saturday’s baseball game against the Tigers in Detroit.
The Royals' Alcides Escobar rounds third base after his leadoff solo homer during the first inning of Saturday’s baseball game against the Tigers in Detroit. AP

During a pregame meeting with starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, hours before a 6-2 Royals victory over Detroit, pitching coach Dave Eiland did not broach the subject. There was no need. The Royals bullpen limped into Saturday’s game with only three of the team’s eight relievers at manager Ned Yost’s disposal, and Guthrie did not require a reminder.

The notion resided in the back of Guthrie’s mind through his 7 1/3 innings against the Tigers. Six days after Detroit pounded him for six runs, Guthrie responded with his longest — and finest — outing of the season.

Kansas City captured a lead six seconds into the game on the first leadoff home run of Alcides Escobar’s career. Guthrie never relinquished that lead.

“Huge,” Yost said, drawing out the syllables inside his office. “All capital letters.”

The outcome validated the faith Yost expressed last week in Guthrie, 2-2 with a 5.70 ERA. It also evened this three-game series. The two clubs will settle their accounts, and declare a temporary leader in the American League Central, on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.” The schedule afforded the Royals 24 hours to enjoy their victory.

The Royals had earned an afternoon of bliss. The first month of the season the club was battered by a string of freak injuries and unnecessary suspensions. They played again on Saturday without third baseman Mike Moustakas, who returned to California on Friday for a family emergency.

The odds appeared unfavorable for Kansas City on Saturday.

Yost did not feel comfortable using relievers Wade Davis, Ryan Madson, Franklin Morales, Jason Frasor and Chris Young, who will start on Sunday. Guthrie lugged a 6.52 ERA to the mound. Backups populated the final third of the lineup, with new reserve catcher Drew Butera guiding Guthrie. And the Royals were facing Anibal Sanchez, a pitcher who has stymied them in recent years, and beat them last week at Kauffman Stadium.

On Saturday Guthrie scattered eight hits and limited Detroit to two runs. Yost complimented him on his best arsenal of the season, with Guthrie’s fastball humming around 93 mph and his off-speed pitches perplexing the Tigers.

Guthrie agreed with Yost’s assessment. Asked how he could tell, he replied, “I got more outs than every other game. That’s a good indicator.”

“I was able to keep the ball down more consistently. There wasn’t a whole bunch different. They hit some balls hard again today, just like last game. It just happened there weren’t people on base when they got them, for the most part.”

Guthrie pointed to a fourth-inning sequence as crucial. With two men on, he iced third baseman Nick Castellanos with a 93-mph fastball on the corner for a strikeout, then fanned catcher James McCann for the inning’s final out.

The sequence embodied Guthrie’s method of success Saturday. He gave up four extra-base hits from the fourth inning through the sixth but Detroit managed to score only once.

“The experience allows him to know, ‘OK, I’ve just got to continue to make pitches,’ ” Yost said. “He never wavers from making pitches. And when he’s got his stuff, like he did today, he can make big pitches when he needs to.”

The offense provided Guthrie a safety net. Sanchez owned Kansas City in 2014. He allowed two runs in two starts. The tide appears to be shifting: The Royals, 19-11, managed to score three runs off him last week at Kauffman Stadium. They bested that mark on Saturday.

The Tigers manufactured a walk-off celebration the night before, but the Royals experienced no hangover. At 1:08 p.m., Sanchez unleashed his first pitch of the game, a 91-mph fastball at the waist. Escobar could not resist.

“I was looking for that pitch,” said Escobar, who has four hits in two games since returning Friday from a concussion. “It was right there. When I hit that ball, I said, ‘I know that ball is gone.’ ”

Lorenzo Cain batted next. He sprinted to first on a ground ball to the shortstop for an infield hit. Sanchez threw an 0-2 fastball on Eric Hosmer’s hands. Hosmer still powered an RBI double into the left-center gap.

The rout of Sanchez was on. Escobar and Hosmer each delivered RBI singles in the second. Butera drove in a run with a ground-out in the third. Omar Infante cracked the first of his three hits and drove in a run in the fourth. Kansas City exhibited aggressiveness against Sanchez.

“We struggled against him a lot, lately,” Hosmer said. “We wanted to get to him early. I think we did a good job of that. Esky set the tone with that first-pitch homer. A lot of guys weren’t putting themselves in holes. We were getting going early, and weren’t missing them.”

Escobar added, “That guy, he always throws really good against us. Go out and be aggressive against this guy, because he throws a lot of strikes. Any pitch right there, close in the strike zone, just swing the bat.”

The Royals finished with 13 hits. Guthrie managed to hold the line. He also saved the bullpen. With Young scheduled to start Sunday, Guthrie understood that if he saw Young warming up, something had gone awry. Young was never considered necessary.

Up four runs, Yost sent Guthrie out for the eighth inning. When Victor Martinez slammed a single off the right-field wall, Guthrie departed the mound. Luke Hochevar finished the eighth in three pitches. Greg Holland commanded the ninth. A refreshed corps will be ready for the series finale.

Every time he takes the mound, Guthrie explained, he aims to log as many innings is possible. This is the responsibility of a starting pitcher. He understood the burden before him on Saturday. He did not buckle.

“For Guthrie to get us through seven, that’s phenomenal,” Yost said. “To get us through an out into the eighth — I mean, the job that he did was tremendous.”

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4730 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @McCulloughStar. Download True Blue, The Star’s free Royals app, here.

Saturday’s game

Royals 6, Tigers 2

Kansas CityAB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

A.Escobar ss

5

2

2

2

0

1

.303

L.Cain cf

5

1

2

0

0

0

.339

Hosmer 1b

5

0

2

2

0

0

.322

K.Morales dh

5

1

1

0

0

2

.306

A.Gordon lf

2

1

0

0

2

2

.284

Infante 2b

5

0

3

1

0

0

.250

C.Colon 3b

5

0

2

0

0

0

.286

J.Dyson rf

3

1

1

0

1

0

.214

Butera c

3

0

0

1

0

0

.167

Totals38

6

13

6

3

5

DetroitAB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Gose cf

5

0

1

0

0

1

.329

Kinsler 2b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.306

Mi.Cabrera 1b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.333

V.Martinez dh

4

1

2

0

0

0

.245

Cespedes lf

4

1

2

0

0

0

.286

J.Martinez rf

3

0

1

0

1

0

.219

Castellanos 3b

3

0

1

2

0

1

.222

J.McCann c

4

0

2

0

0

1

.313

Romine ss

3

0

0

0

0

0

.381

a-R.Davis ph

1

0

0

0

0

0

.270

Totals35

2

9

2

1

3

Kansas City

221

100

000

6

13

1

Detroit

010

001

000

2

9

1

a-fouled out for Romine in the 9th.

E: A.Escobar (3), J.Martinez (1). LOB: Kansas City 10, Detroit 8. 2B: Hosmer (8), K.Morales (9), Infante (9), J.Dyson (1), Gose (6), V.Martinez (3), Cespedes (11). 3B: Infante (1), Castellanos (2). HR: A.Escobar (1), off An.Sanchez. RBIs: A.Escobar 2 (10), Hosmer 2 (25), Infante (12), Butera (1), Castellanos 2 (11). CS: L.Cain (2). S: Butera. SF: Castellanos.

Runners left in scoring position: Kansas City 6 (C.Colon 3, A.Escobar 2, J.Dyson); Detroit 4 (Romine, J.McCann 2, Mi.Cabrera). RISP: Kansas City 4 for 12; Detroit 1 for 9. Runners moved up: Butera, Kinsler.

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Guthrie W, 2-2

7.1

8

2

2

1

3

98

5.70

Hochevar

0.2

0

0

0

0

0

3

0.00

G.Holland

1

1

0

0

0

0

11

0.00

Detroit

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

An.Sanchez L, 2-4

6

9

6

5

3

2

99

5.44

B.Hardy

1

2

0

0

0

1

15

4.76

Alburquerque

1

1

0

0

0

0

15

7.45

Chamberlain

1

1

0

0

0

2

21

5.87

Inherited runners-scored: Hochevar 1-0. IBB: off An.Sanchez (A.Gordon). HBP: by An.Sanchez (A.Gordon).

Umpires: Home, Mark Ripperger; First, Jeff Kellogg; Second, Brian O’Nora; Third, Alan Porter. Time: 2:40. Att: 41,456.

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