Alcides Escobar is a maestro with his glove, making the kinds difficult of plays at shortstop that has helped to make the Kansas City Royals one of the best defensive teams in baseball.
On Wednesday night, Escobar showed he can swing the bat a bit, too. His two-run double in the seventh inning proved to be the difference in a tense 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
”He’s been very consistent,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. ”He’s always been an important part of our club because of his defense. He saves runs in the field. But when you add offense to that, he becomes a very special player.”
Eric Hosmer drove in the other two runs for the Royals, whose bullpen blew a 2-0 lead for young starter Yordano Ventura before holding on to beat Toronto with a late rally for the second straight night. Kansas City won the series opener 10-7 behind a six-run eighth inning.
Kelvin Herrera (1-1) stranded runners on second and third in the seventh, and Wade Davis struck out Jose Reyes to leave the bases loaded in the eighth. Greg Holland worked around a double in the ninth for his seventh save in seven tries.
”You play 162 games. You’re going to see a lot of things happen,” Holland said. ”The mark of a good bullpen is when you have guys pick each other up when they get in jams.”
Drew Hutchison (1-2) allowed all four runs on five hits in seven innings for Toronto.
The 23-year-old right-hander, who missed last season after Tommy John surgery, kept the Royals mostly off balance until Escobar guided his double down the left-field line with two outs in the seventh. Jimmy Paredes and Salvy Perez scored easily to give Kansas City the lead.
”I got ahead of him. I went right at him. I thought I made a good pitch,” Hutchison said. ”That’s a situation where I expect myself to thrive and get the job done, but I didn’t.”
The Royals improved to 14-0 when scoring at least four runs – they remain 0-12 falling short of that mark. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays lost for the sixth time in their last seven games.
Toronto also lost outfielder Melky Cabrera in the sixth inning when he was hit in the left shin by a pitch from Danny Duffy. Cabrera needed to be helped off the field, though X-rays taken at the ballpark came back negative and a team spokesman said he was day to day.
The Royals manufactured a 1-0 lead through driving rain in the first inning with a double by Nori Aoki, a sacrifice bunt and Hosmer’s sacrifice fly. They tacked on another run in the fourth when Hosmer followed a double by Omar Infante with one of his own.
As long as Ventura was pitching, it seemed that would be enough.
The Blue Jays struggled to catch up to the 22-year-old’s triple-digit fastball, managing just two hits over five innings. But they were more successful at avoiding stuff off the plate, driving up his pitch count and forcing him from the game after five innings and 92 pitches.
”It was cold out there,” Ventura said through a translator, fellow starter Jeremy Guthrie. ”Naturally, it was a little more difficult to command.”
That’s when Royals manager Ned Yost called on Duffy, who hit Cabrera in the left shin with his first pitch. Cabrera dropped to the grass in foul territory and stayed there several minutes, eventually getting helped through the dugout and to the clubhouse by the Blue Jays’ trainers.
Duffy proceeded to walk Jose Bautista on five pitches and was yanked for Aaron Crow, who gave up singles to Edwin Encarnacion and Juan Francisco that tied the game 2-all. Crow finally escaped the inning, and the Royals bullpen held Toronto down the rest of the way.
”It’s frustrating, but at the end of the day I need to do a better job to give us a chance to win after we came back and scored two runs,” Hutchison said. ”I was in complete control going into the seventh. It comes down to that it’s on me and I need to get the job done.”
NOTES: Toronto left 11 runners on base. … Bautista finished with 30 walks in April, matching Fred McGriff’s club record for a single month. … Blue Jays INF Brett Lawrie (sore back) was held out of the lineup. Manager John Gibbons called him day to day. … RHP Jeremy Guthrie starts the series finale Thursday night for Kansas City. LHP Mark Buehrle starts for Toronto.