The Royals’ youth movement may be in full swing, but for one night at least, a couple of heroes from the glory days paved the way in a 10-3 win over the Twins on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Left fielder Alex Gordon had three hits, including two doubles and knocked in five runs, while third baseman Alcides Escobar collected three RBIs and three hits, including a double and a triple.
“We’re feeling like we’re a quality team right now that’s playing well,” Gordon said. “Whether you’re young or old, we’re just playing together and having fun. That’s really all that matters. It doesn’t matter who does it, just as long someone gets it done.”
The Royals’ roster looks vastly different from opening day as nine players are no longer with the team, and two more are on the disabled list. The new kids have made an impact over the last three weeks with shortstop Adalberto Mondesi showcasing his all-around talent, Ryan O’Hearn and Hunter Dozier hitting lasers around the park, and new starters twirling gems.
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It’s a big reason why the Royals, 52-96, have won five of their last six games and 14 of 20 overall.
Saturday, however, was mostly about the old guard.
Gordon had an RBI groundout in the first inning, and Escobar’s run-scoring single in the second gave the Royals a 2-1 lead against the Twins and starter Chase De Jong.
In the fourth inning, Escobar sliced a triple down the right-field line that brought home second baseman Rosell Herrera. Catcher Cam Gallagher then missed a potential safety-squeeze bunt and Escobar was in a pickle. But the Royals caught a break when Escobar broke for home and third baseman Gregorio Petit’s throw hit Escobar, who scored easily.
Twins manager Paul Molitor, apparently believing Gallagher committed to the bunt, argued vehemently. Home-plate umpire Ben May didn’t agree and instead ejected Molitor, who later said he was upset that his team had blown the play.
“I think their manager thought I was squared up and committed to it, but I’m pretty sure I pulled back,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher then hit a double when Twins center fielder Jake Cave lost track of the ball. After an out, Mondesi singled and stole second. He and Gallagher came home on a two-out, opposite-field double by Gordon that gave the Royals a 6-1 lead.
In the sixth inning, Gordon added another opposite-field, two-run double for a 6-2 lead, and an inning later Escobar double home a run and scored on Gallagher’s fourth hit of the night as the Royals made it 10-2.
Gordon, who raised his average to .242, finished one shy of a career-best for RBIs. Yost was impressed with Gordon’s ability to beat the shift.
“He had some fantastic at-bats,” Yost said. “He was staying on the ball, driving it the other way. He’s really been working on that after they’ve been shifting him all year long. His focus really has been to beat that shift and drive the ball the other way. I told him he looked like Rod Carew tonight, just peppering them down the left-field line.”
Rod Carew, the Hall of Famer who had 3,053 career hits? Gordon wasn’t ready to make that comparison.
There was no denying, however, that Gordon made the Twins pay for the shift.
“I’m just trying to stay simple,” Gordon said. “I’ve been working with Terry (Bradshaw, hitting coach) and Pedro (Grifol, quality-control coach) a lot this year and trying to use the opposite way. Obviously, teams are shifting me, so a lot of my hits are going to come the other way and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Not hitting into the shift, but hit it where they aren’t. Tonight it worked out.”
A night after 2015 World Series MVP Salvador Perez hit a walk-off grand slam, a couple of stars from that postseason team continued their solid second-half play.
Escobar, the 2015 American League Championship Series MVP, is batting .319 (29 for 91) with eight doubles since Aug. 2. Gordon, who hit the clutch home run in Game 1 of the ‘15 Series, has 27 RBIs in his last 41 games since the start of August.