All spring, we heard about how the Royals were going to increase their aggression on the basepaths. With Chris Getz, Alcides Escobar and others, they certainly had the personnel in place to steal more bases than other teams (provided they get on base first).
Friday night’s game against the Twins demonstrated how significant that aggressive approach can be when applied in the right situations.
A combination of timely hitting, hustle and superhuman speed combined to lead the Royals back to .500 as they beat the Twins 4-3. The final three Royals runs came with one in the seventh and two more in the eighth to take the lead.
There were quite a few heroes in the comeback, most notably, of course, Jarrod Dyson.
Upon coming into the game as a pinch runner for Kila Ka’aihue, he stole second on the first pitch to Brayan Pena, then advanced to third when the throw sailed into center field. With Wilson Betemit on third, his base-stealing savvy and speed caused a rushed throw from catcher Drew Butera, allowing Betemit to score.
Then, in a play that rarely happens, Dyson scored from third tagging up on a popup to shortstop Alexi Casilla.
The win ends a six game losing streak and takes some pressure off the Royals. After a game like Friday’s, it seems like the Royals might get some momentum after the win.
In Cleveland, towards the end of the series, they looked shell-shocked and dejected.
After Friday’s game, there were smiles all around.
Dyson gets credit for disrupting a typically focused Twins team on defense, but he wasn’t the only player hustling during the win.
Alex Gordon pulled a ball into the corner and took the extra base, driving in a run with a triple in the fifth. Betemit drove a ball into the gap and turned the corner at first with his sights set on second base and he reached, diving under a tag from Luke Hughes. He then stood his ground in front of Alexi Casilla as a Ka’aihue line drive came up the middle. Casilla never really saw it until it hit the dirt in front of him and the ball went off his glove for a hit while Betemit went to third.
It turns out that was a big play in hindsight. If Betemit reads it wrong, there might be a play at third, he might end up heading back to second. As he froze in front of Casilla, it came within inches of hitting him. But his moving to third left second base open for Dyson to steal. If Betemit’s stuck on second, the Royals can’t try to steal third with Betemit as the lead runner and Pena at the left side of the plate. No steal attempt means there’s no throw into the outfield to score Betemit and no Dyson on third.
Brayan Pena had a nice game too. He went 2-3 with a walk, but he made a key play in with two runners on and one out in the top of the sixth. Danny Valencia was on third after doubling in two runs. Butera went for a bunt and Valencia broke for home. The Royals pitched out and Pena foiled the suicide squeeze attempt by chasing Valencia down and tagging him before he got to third.
Then, leading off the seventh, he took a ball the other way and hustled to second, sliding in for a double. On a fly ball by Alcides Escobar, he tagged up and moved to third. That enabled him to score on Chris Getz’s soft single and get the Royals within one.
Bruce Chen looked better than he did on Sunday in Texas, but still ran into trouble in the sixth. He gave up hits to four of the five hitters he faced in the inning, giving way to Louis Coleman who benefited from the busted squeeze play, but also struck out Butera looking. Blake Wood came in and worked a strong 1.2 innings, allowing a runner on an error only. With two on in the top of the seventh, he struck out Justin Morneau and stranded two runners. After taking the lead, Joakim Soria closed the door, getting three ground outs on nine pitches for the save.
Jeff Francoeur went hitless, ending his 17-game hitting streak.