This was originally going to be a post about how the Royals should look to upgrade at third base at the trade deadline. The post was going to focus on the overall struggles at the position this year, about how neither Mike Moustakas nor Danny Valencia had produced nearly enough for a team with legitimate playoff aspirations. That post may still happen in a couple of days, but for now, in the matter of an inning, Moustakas changed the script.
With a mostly filled Kauffman Stadium ready to show their support for the Royals, Hisashi Iwakuma has stifled the offense over the first four innings. Meanwhile, James Shields had given up five runs, taking the crowd entirely out of the game. Then, things started to change. With one out, Salvador Perez hit a solo home run to put the Royals on the board. After a base hit, up came Mike Moustakas. Moustakas, who had been on a nice run over the previous nine games, hitting .290/.389/.613 with three home runs, turned on a pitch on the lower half of the plate and crushed it into the right field bleachers.
While that home run was important to cut the lead to 5-3 at the time, what made the home run noteworthy was how Mike Moustakas reacted. He was fired up, gesturing to the Royals dugout and the crowd to make noise. Moustakas then kept going when he was in the dugout, trying to pump up the rest of the Royals as the crowd was in full voice. A fired up Moustakas? This was something different than what the Royals had seen in 2014.
In that moment, two things happened. First, the Royals, who appeared to be dead to rights against Iwakuma, took all the momentum. It seemed inevitable that the Royals would, at least, tie the game. Second, there appeared to be a change with Moustakas. For the first time this year, he had a look that Royals fans had not seen in a while. Moustakas looked like he felt that he actually belonged in the major leagues. He looked like he had that confidence that had been lacking back.
Even though Mike Moustakas was unable to come through with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the eighth, he handled that result differently as well. Instead of the deer, or moose, in the headlights look, Moustakas looked as though he was still confident. He looked as though he felt that next time, he would come through. It was a sight that had not been seen in quite some time.
Is this the beginning of the ascension of Mike Moustakas? Was that home run, and the subsequent reaction, the moment that he needed? While questions will remain until Moustakas can prove that he can hit for more than a week or two, he has a different look than he did at those other times. For the first time in a long time, Moustakas looks as though he believes he belongs at the major leagues.
The Royals, as they go through their shopping list, are in need of another power bat and potentially a third baseman. However, if this is really a new Mike Moustakas, the Royals may have found that third baseman in a place where they may not have expected it – already on their roster.