Before Royals left fielder Alex Gordon collided with third baseman Mike Moustakas chasing down a foul ball just over a month ago, Gordon was wrestling with his performance at the plate.
Offensively, Gordon was having the worst season in his nine years as a Royal.
Through Gordon’s first 42 games, he was hitting a career-low .211. He had dropped to sixth in the Royals’ order.
“Look on the bright side,” manager Ned Yost remembers joking with Gordon after he injured his wrist in the collision. “Now I can at least put somebody in left field that might get a hit.”
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Gordon laughed about it, too. He knew it was true. Yost, like always, was just trying to get the best out of his lineup.
For the first time since May 22, Gordon played Saturday night with the Royals after six minor-league rehab games in which he hit .364. With Northwest Arkansas and Omaha, he adjusted his timing, he saw the ball better, and, for the first time this year, his swing felt good.
“(I’m) just a lot more relaxed, looser,” Gordon said. “I think I struggled early on, just thinking a little bit too much about mechanics, not being an athlete in the box. That’s kind of what I went down to work on.”
Gordon returned to the Royals’ lineup in the second game against the Astros — not where he was before in the middle of the lineup, but to the No. 2 spot, behind Whit Merrifield and ahead of Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer. That bumped shortstop Alcides Escobar to the eighth spot in the lineup.
Traditionally, Gordon’s best spot in the order has been the No. 2 hole. His batting average (.342), on-base percentage (.421) and slugging percentage (.532) all top out in the second spot, though it is on a sample size of only 126 plate appearances.
The same goes for Escobar, whose best numbers come from the No. 8 spot. There, in 724 plate appearances, Escobar has notched higher marks in batting average (.280), on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.687), and batting average on balls in play (.313).
Yost said it’s possible that Escobar could move back up in the lineup if his bat heats up at some point, but for now, he’s trying to give the Royals the best lineup configuration that would top out production.
Statistics say this lineup would be it. The next couple of games will give Yost and the Royals a chance to see how this new shift in the lineup works out.
“Guys definitely know what spots they’ve been successful in, and there’s a bit of confidence in that,” Yost said. “Both guys seem to be comfortable in those respective spots, and we’ll just see how it looks for a while.”