Royals keep running with a Wild Card dream
Double steal in fifth helps beat Tribe; KC 2 1/2 back in standings
By Dick Kaegel / 9/18/2013 1:50 AM ET
KANSAS CITY -- Crazy rundown play. Crazy victory for the Royals. And the Kauffman Stadium fans went crazy.
The resilient Royals not only escaped a rundown trap, they escaped the shadow of a tough loss to Cleveland by rebounding with a 7-2 win over the Indians on Wednesday night to the roar of a hometown crowd of 21,198.
"We were going to do whatever we could do to win this game, because this was a huge game for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
It meant the Royals had not lost two games in a row since the end of August at Toronto, it gave them an 11-6 record in September and, most importantly, kept their hopes burning in the American League playoff picture.
They moved 2 1/2 games behind Texas, one of three teams ahead of them in the race for the second Wild Card berth. Cleveland is a half-game back, Baltimore one game and New York is also 2 1/2 behind.
"Every game is a must win since we're behind and trying to catch up," said winning pitcher Bruce Chen, who improved to 8-3.
The Great Escape from a rundown play in the fifth inning gave the Royals a crucial run and, Yost thought, proved to be a good omen.
It involved a missed sign by the Royals, some fancy legwork by Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon, and six -- count 'em -- six throws by the Indians.
"It was like a snowball fight -- people throwing snowballs everywhere and everybody running around," Gordon said. "It worked out good for us."
Sure did. Escobar singled off Indians starter Danny Salazar with one out and went to third as Gordon rolled a hit into right field. Emilio Bonifacio came to the plate.
"We put a hit-and-run on with Boni and Boni missed the sign so, we had to do some scampering around," Yost said.
Did they ever. Gordon was caught in no-man's land between first base and second and catcher Yan Gomes fired off a throw.
"That wasn't what was supposed to happen," Gordon said. "Gomes has a cannon, almost as good as Salvy [Perez] behind the plate, so when he [Salazar] did the slide-step, I had no chance of getting to second. He fired it to second and I did everything I could to stay in a rundown and make things happen -- especially with Esky's speed over there. Try to make them make a play and that's exactly what happened."
Gordon, in a hotbox, kept the Indians busy tossing the ball while Escobar eased off third base.
"I saw them throw a couple times on the rundown and I decided to go to home plate," Escobar said. "Then, they threw the ball to third base and I had to do something. I relied on my instinct and the catcher missed me, and I got the run. And it was a good call by the umpire."
Escobar ducked under Gomes' glove, plate umpire Adrian Johnson ruled no tag, and he scored. Gomes said his mistake was glancing down to third base to see if Gordon was heading there.
"When I did that, he just dropped down and went right under," Gomes said. "It was a pretty disappointing play on my part. It kind of turned out to be a pretty big momentum play for them, so it was kind of tough to swallow."
Indians manager Terry Francona thought his fielders handled things quite well, at least until Gomes looked the wrong way.
"But, to that point, I thought they did a good job," Francona said. "They kept the runner in view the whole time. They kept the rundown going. He just went under the tag. That was a big play, because we had a chance to have two outs and a runner on second as opposed to a run scoring."
If you're keeping score, the play went 2-6-3-4-3-5-2 except, of course, there was no out and so no recorded play. Just a double steal credited to Gordon and Escobar.
"Esky, wow! What a move!" Gordon exclaimed.
It gave the Royals a 4-2 lead which they clung to until scoring three runs in the eighth inning. The big events of that inning included a dropped fly ball by Indians right fielder Ryan Raburn, a bases-loaded walk by Jarrod Dyson and a bases-loaded, two-run single by Escobar.
"Both at-bats were tremendous," Yost said. "Dice coming in against that tough lefty, laying off some tough pitches to get us a run and then Esky with the big base hit to even give us more. At this time of the year, you take as many as you can get and those were some huge at-bats late in the game."
The Royals also started the game with a three-run first inning. Perez belted a two-run double and later scored on Salazar's wild pitch.
Chen faltered only in the third inning when the Tribe scored twice. When he encountered a jam in the sixth, Yost quickly went to his bullpen. His five relievers combined for four shutout innings. Even though the Royals had a five-run lead, closer Greg Holland was brought in to finish it off, a non-save situation.
"They were fantastic," Yost said.
Once again the 2013 Royals had demonstrated their ability to bounce back from adversity.
"There were times last year when we really didn't know how to stop the bleeding," Holland said. "I think a lot of that comes from experience and a lot of it comes from getting leadership from guys like Ervin [Santana], Wade [Davis] and [James] Shields -- guys that have been there and done that before. We had some tough stretches last year but now, when we lose, the clubhouse is totally different than last year and I think that's something we've had to develop, and that shows in our win column."
Which, by the way, shows 80 victories -- and counting.