The Royals and A’s picked up right where they left off. On Friday night, it nearly turned into punches.
In their first meeting since last September’s dramatic wild-card game, Paulo Orlando delivered a go-ahead triple in the eighth inning to help Kansas City to a 6-4 win.
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The victory nearly came at a big loss for the Royals when shortstop Alcides Escobar was run over by the Athletics’ Brett Lawrie covering second base. The Royals took umbrage with Lawrie’s late slide, and both benches quickly emptied before order was restored.
"I can’t judge intent," said Royals manager Ned Yost, who later acknowledged that he didn’t think Lawrie was trying to hurt Escobar when he slid over the bag.
Escobar was diagnosed with a sprained knee and likely will be sidelined for a few days.
"I’m trying to break up a double play there. It’s a tie game. No one is trying to hurt anyone there," Lawrie said. "That’s just playing the game hard."
Omar Infante drove in a pair of runs for the Royals, whose 12-inning victory over the A’s last year ultimately spurred them all the way to Game 7 of the World Series.
Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis (2-0) each pitched a scoreless inning in relief of Jeremy Guthrie, and Greg Holland breezed through the ninth for his fourth save.
Dan Otero (0-1) gave up both runs in the eighth inning for Oakland.
"It was eerily similar to about six months ago," said the A’s Stephen Vogt, who played in that wild playoff game at Kauffman Stadium that ended their season.
Vogt had a pair of solo homers Friday night, and Ike Davis also went deep for the A’s, whose team bears little resemblance to the one from a year ago. For one thing, their designated hitter these days is Billy Butler, who was playing for the Royals back then.
Butler went 1 for 4, extending his hitting streak to 10 games to start the season.
"I was trying to do too much," he said, "and I don’t do well when I’m trying to do too much."
The A’s jumped in front on Lawrie’s sacrifice bunt in the second inning, and Kansas City pulled ahead with five straight two-out singles in the third.
Oakland quickly answered when Davis homered on the first pitch he saw in the fourth, and Vogt tied it at 3 with his first homer just two pitches later.
Kansas City went in front again in the sixth on Infante’s single, but Yost elected to leave Guthrie in rather than go to Herrera at that point. Vogt made him pay with a drive to right for his first career multihomer game.
Later in the inning, Lawrie was on first base when Josh Reddick lined a pitch off Herrera toward third, where Mike Moustakas fielded it. He flipped to Escobar covering second, but Lawrie’s late slide over the bag caused a collision that left Escobar crumpled on the dirt.
He was helped off the field without putting any weight on his left leg, while Lawrie had to be escorted by his teammates through a horde of angry Royals and back to the Oakland dugout.
"It was a weird play," said Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, who had a good view of the play. "It was obviously late, but I don’t think he meant anything by it."
Yost said that he was worried that Escobar may have "torn up his knee," but he was reassured by trainer Nick Kenney that the injury is not considered serious.
"It looks like it’s going to be a bruise more than anything," Yost said.
A’s starter Sonny Gray gave up four runs and a career-high 11 hits in six innings. He tossed eight innings of shutout ball against Texas and allowed one earned run in 7 1-3 innings against Seattle in his first two starts of the season.
Butler received his AL championship ring before the game. Royals C Salvador Perez, 1B Hosmer and LF Alex Gordon received their Gold Glove awards. Gordon also received a Platinum Glove as the American League’s best defensive player.
Athletics: RHP Jarrod Parker (Tommy John surgery) is scheduled to throw three innings in extended spring training Saturday. On Monday, LHP Sean Nolin (sports hernia surgery) will throw two innings, and RHP A.J. Griffin will throw one inning.
Royals: Escobar was replaced in the lineup by Christian Colon, who is likely to start at shortstop Saturday. Escobar had started the club’s first nine games.
Athletics: RHP Jesse Hahn faces the Royals for the first time in his career.
Royals: RHP Yordano Ventura makes his third start of the season. He left his first two with cramps, first to his right thumb and then to his right calf.