Don’t look now, but it’s Moose who is coming through in the clutch
For a guy hitting just .138 overall, Mike Moustakas sure has played a huge role in three wins over the past week.
Moose’s homer in the 11th inning last week against Houston beat the Astros, his two-run bomb sealed a win against Minnesota on Friday, and his blast against Cleveland on Tuesday night got the Royals’ offense going.
And to be fair, Moustakas has looked far better in his last nine games than he did early in the season. He is 9 for his last 39 (a modest .231) but has hit three homers and smacked three doubles in that span. And he has lined out hard to the outfield three more times.
Don’t think that Royals skipper Ned Yost hasn’t noticed.
After Moose’s three-run homer off hard-throwing Cleveland starter Danny Salazar propelled the offense to an 8-2 win, Yost said: "The home run was awesome. But the line drive he hit to left-center was really hard hit. (Michael) Bourn made a good catch on that."
The point is that Yost and the rest of the Royals’ coaching staff get rightfully giddy when they see Moose drive the ball the other way. That is what Moose worked on during the offseason and especially in spring training.
Moustakas doubled to left-center Monday night, too. Yost and Co. are finally seeing Moose smack it the other way, just like he was doing in spring training.
And interestingly, it seems Moose has made a slight adjustment in his stance. He started the season with his lead foot as wide open as possible — almost out of the batter’s box. But lately, Moose has brought that lead foot in.
I don’t often agree with FOX Sports Kansas City announcer Rex Hudler on hitting mechanics — and before you ask, I did write a book on the Charley Lau approach to hitting — but Hudler was spot-on when he said Tuesday night that bringing that lead foot in has allowed Moustakas to be slightly quicker to the ball.
(Where I disagree with Hudler is on the lower body’s purpose in the swing. The Lau method promotes loading the backside and using the lower body as leverage for power and to propel the arm swing, keeping the hands relatively quiet; they are just along for the ride, so to speak, as in a golf swing. Hudler preaches just the opposite — a quiet lower body and active hands that throw the bat at the ball.)
But in Moose’s case, he perhaps was getting too long with his swing — it took too long for him to bring that lead foot back in to square, load and then fire his lower body in order to launch the swing.
The best news of all, as Yost said, is that Moose is driving the ball the other way. We all know about Moose’s love affair with pulling the ball — and that is where his home run power will always come from. But to keep his average up, Moose will have to keep driving the ball the other way, which will give pitchers pause to keep pounding the outer half of the zone.
And, of course, the other positive news is that Moustakas is coming through lately with the big hit when the Royals desperately need one, such as his homer Tuesday night. The Royals have been searching for the clutch hit (just like last year), and Moose is providing it.
"That swing really kind of got us awake," first baseman Eric Hosmer told FSKC’s Joel Goldberg after the game. "… It kind of relaxed us."
And, hopefully, it’s helping to relax Moose as well. The Royals need him to be a factor in the lineup all season.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.