Yost won't lie: Royals climbing back over .500 is a 'big deal'
JUN 11, 2014 6:03p ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It has been a long, hard climb for the Royals to step back over .500 -- they were last a game over on May 14 -- but a stirring 4-1 win over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday has them above sea-level again, and also all alone in second place in the American League Central.
Yes, there are still miles to go in this 2014 season, but manager Ned Yost felt it was just fine to show his appreciation for how well his troops are playing now after winning their fourth straight.
"I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't a big deal to be over .500," Yost said. "It's a big deal to beat a division rival like Cleveland. It's a long season and you take it day by day, but this is big."
The Royals swept the two-game set with the Tribe, winning this one behind the brilliance of starting pitcher Yordano Ventura, who was as efficient as he has been all season.
"Just great command of his fastball," Yost noted. "Good changeup and a pretty good curve once in a while. But he really could do anything with his fastball today."
Ventura went seven strong innings, allowing six hits and one earned run. He walked none while throwing just 85 pitches, 61 for strikes.
Ventura probably could have gone the distance, but Yost opted for his killer combo of Wade Davis and Greg Holland to close the matter.
"I felt good, but it's obviously not my decision how long I pitch," Ventura said through interpreter Bruce Chen. "I just go as hard as I can as long as I can until they decide to take me out."
The Royals also tied a franchise record with four sacrifice flies, and rode the legs of Alcides Escobar, who scored on a sac fly to the shortstop, beat out two infield hits and stole his 17th base.
-- Have a day, Esky. Escobar indeed was all over the place making big-time plays. Let's start with his single in the second inning with Mike Moustakas on second base. He alertly moved up to second base on the throw back to the infield. He went to third on a single by Nori Aoki, and then came the play of the day (year?).
Omar Infante, with one out and runners on first and third, popped up to shortstop. But former Royal Mike Aviles had trouble picking the ball up in the high sky. Aviles made the catch just off the infield dirt but tumbled on his back in doing so. Escobar, sensing Aviles didn't have time to get up and throw, took off for home. Aviles threw from the seat of his pants and the throw was cut off by pitcher Trevor Bauer, who threw wildly to home and Esky scored. A sac fly to the shortstop.
"That just set the tone for the whole day," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "Great play by him."
Escobar said he knew how tough the sun was on popups. "I thought if he had trouble with it," he said, "I would go. Never done that before."
Esky also came up with runners on first and third and one out in the fourth and promptly delivered a sac fly to left. Oh, and he also legged out an infield hit in the sixth. Oh, and he legged out another one in the eighth. Oh, and he stole a base.
"He just keeps getting better," Yost said.
-- Moose is getting loose. OK, we're not suggesting that Moustakas has climbed out of his slump. But he doubled (a rocket off the right-field fence) and scored in the third, and singled in the fourth. That made it three straight hits (he homered the night before in his last at-bat) for the first time since he did it against Cleveland last Sept. 16-17. "He hit the ball hard three times, actually," Yost said. "He's swinging the bat well, Hoz is swinging well, they're all swinging well right now."
-- Situational hitting. Hey, I certainly give the Royals enough grief for not delivering with situational hitting, so when they do it well, let's give them the tip of the cap. The Royals delivered four sacrifice flies, tying a franchise record."That's what good teams do, get runs home when you can," Yost said.
Jarrod Dyson came through with one in the second to plate the first run, Infante had his bizarre sac fly to the shortstop, Esky delivered in the fourth and Billy Butler came through in the seventh.
"When we're going good, those are the things we generally do," Butler said.
-- Infante continues to sink. Infante still is mired in a deep slump. Yes, he did get that fluky sac fly. And yes, he did get a broken-bat bloop single in the seventh (and scored on Butler's sac fly). But even a 1-for-3 day made Infante only 6 for his last 44. Ouch. Infante will get another day off (with the rest of the team) Thursday. Maybe that will help.
-- A rare off game for Alex. Alex Gordon made a brilliant diving catch to rob Michael Bourn of a hit in the third. But in a rarity lately, Gordon didn't do anything special at the plate. In fact, Gordon went 0 for 4 and stranded Butler at second in the fifth with two outs, and stranded Hosmer at second with two outs in the seventh. But you know what? I think Gordon has built up enough equity lately to have one off day at the plate.
-- Nothing. Really, there wasn't anything else to point a finger at. The Royals played terrific defense, pitched well and got timely hitting. What is there to complain about? And if you are complaining, the guess is no one is listening.