Raising Cain: Royals outfielder shakes slump with three-hit day
CHICAGO — Lorenzo Cain entered Wrigley Field on Friday shouldering an extended slump. He was playing in a stadium he had never played in, facing a pitcher he had never faced. So he did what he thought was best — nothing.
Prior to Kansas City’s 8-4 win over the Cubs, Cain watched zero minutes of video. Before each game, he typically absorbs footage of the opposing starter, as well as film of his swing. He diagnoses what worked and what didn’t. He theorizes what could and what should.
"I just didn’t do anything today," Cain said. "It’s weird. That’s how weird this game is. … Just went out and swung the bat. It worked out."
Cain led a previously dormant Royals offense to an offensive eight-run outburst with a three-hit day, including the go-ahead double in the top of the eighth inning. He also worked a nine-pitch walk and scored two runs.
Kansas City’s win snapped a season-high four-game losing streak and refocused a road trip that had veered off track with a three-game thumping by the Yankees. During the four-game skid, the Royals scored just five total runs and slashed .197/.243/.258.
"We bounced back today in a big way," Cain said. "I don’t think you can keep this team down long. That’s the only good part about us. Definitely fighters, continue to battle throughout the season. We showed up in a huge way today."
It took only one pitch to prove it.
Royals leadoff man Alcides Escobar blasted the first pitch he saw into the left-field bleachers, which were not sprinkled but doused with migrated Royals fans. The homer was Escobar’s second of his career on the game’s first pitch, the first coming against Detroit three weeks ago.
"It’s always good to be leading the ballgame 1-0 after one pitch," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Royals starter Edinson Volquez handled the slim lead with ease. He struck out a season-high nine batters and allowed three runs on six hits across 5 2/3 innings. Volquez left after surrendering a two-run home run to Jorge Soler in the sixth inning.
Soler’s homer came on a 3-0 pitch that Volquez admitted he still didn’t know how he hit it out. The bomb closed the Royals’ lead to one and brought on Ryan Madson to finish the inning.
Volquez didn’t know how many strikeouts he had Friday, confessing that he actually doesn’t seek out high punch-out numbers. The strikeouts balloon his pitch count and limit his ability to get deep into games. When he was 25, the strikeouts beckoned to Volquez. But now, at 31, the calls ring hollow.
"That gets me in trouble," Volquez said. "I don’t like too many strikeouts."
Kansas City hauled a 4-3 lead into the seventh inning, ready to unleash its bullpen trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. But on Herrera’s third pitch, Addison Russell boomed a solo homer to left field.
The home run tied the game and stunned the crowd. Herrera danced around a single and a walk to escape the inning without further damage.
But that’s when Cain and the offense picked him up. Mike Moustakas led off the inning with a walk, bringing up Cain, who had picked up two hits on the day despite lugging a .171 average in his previous 10 games.
Cain smoked a double over Dexter Fowler’s head and into the center-field ivy, scoring Moustakas, giving the Royals a late lead and raising Cain out of his slump.
"Sometimes you just have dry spells," Cain said. "I definitely went through a rough one there."
Kansas City added two more runs in the inning on a Fowler error and pushed across another insurance run in the ninth on Escobar’s single. Davis struck out all three hitters he faced in the eighth and Holland sat down the Cubs in order in the ninth.
"Our bullpen’s not going to (blow a lead) very often," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "Offensively, as a whole, we did a good job of picking them up right there. That’s what good teams do."
As for Cain, he’ll go sans video again on Saturday.
"It worked," he said, "so we’ll stick with it another day or two."