Royals grab fourth straight win, move into tie for first
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — OK, so now that’s four in a row for the Royals after that disastrous weekend in Minneapolis.
And with their 5-0 win over Minnesota on Friday night at The K, the Royals vaulted into a tie for first place in the AL Central, percentage points behind Detroit.
And just in case you’re wondering, they do have a wild-card spot locked up if the season ended today.
— Alex Gordon and his amazing play. When Josmil Pinto tried to take second base on a ball to deep left-center in the fourth inning, no one expected the play at second base to be close. "I mean, that’s a double in the alley," Gordon said. "As a runner, you have to go." But Gordon got to the ball, pivoted and threw a strike to Omar Infante, who applied the tag to get a stunned Pinto. That was Gordon’s third outfield assist this season and 57th since he moved to the outfield in 2011 — the most in the majors.
— Vargas overcomes a shaky start. Starter Jason Vargas was phenomenal again, shutting out the Twins through seven and lowering his ERA to 1.24. But it wasn’t quite as easy as it looked. "He really struggled with his command big time early on," manager Ned Yost said. "He threw over 50 pitches, I think, in two innings. Then he made some adjustments." Asked how he was able to get through his shaky start, Vargas thought for a moment and said, "Great defense."
— The Moose Calls. Mike Moustakas continued to swing the bat well. He had two doubles and three hits in Minnesota last weekend, hit what proved to be a game-winning homer in Houston and drilled a two-run bullet over the right-field wall Friday night. "It does feel good to get some results," Moose told me. "I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball hard and sometimes they haven’t fallen in." The homer was on a change-up, the second change-up he has hit for a homer this week. Will he keep seeing them? "I hope so," he said, smiling.
— The unlucky cleanup spot. Maybe the No. 4 spot in the Royals’ order is somehow jinxed. Billy Butler manned that spot for most of last season and, well, we know how he struggled. And now Sal Perez is the new cleanup hitter. After an 0-for-4 night, the new cleanup hitter is 1 for 8 there. Ugh.
— Don’t give away outs. The Royals have been caught stealing six times this year, have grounded into 15 double plays and simply are giving away too many outs. They gave away another one Friday night when Eric Hosmer, after singling in a run, strayed off first on the throw home and got caught in a rundown. The Royals would have had first and third with one out had Hoz stayed put. Instead, the mistake killed the ining after Perez made the third out.
— Here’s your chance, Justin. OK, this is a stretch, because there really wasn’t anything else to pick on with this win. The Royals played solidly in all phases. But we know that Yost and the Royals love Justin Maxwell and want to see him succeed. He’s getting his chance now with Jarrod Dyson on bereavement leave and Lorenzo Cain on the disabled list. But Maxwell went 0-for-4 Friday with two strikeouts. Sorry, Justin, I’m being a little too picky, I know. But I needed a third element of "3 Down" here.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com.