KC Royals: Alcides Escobar Shines Early In World Series
By Dylan Miles
The KC Royals have stunned the New York Mets by taking the first two games of the World Series. After taking the NLDS from the Greinke, Kershaw and the Dodgers, the Mets went on the sweep the red-hot Cubs to advance to their first World Series since 2000. The only thing that stood in their way of a World Championship was a fiery, determined and angry Royals team. Though the Series is still young, the Royals have stood resolute in being determined to finish what they had started last year after losing to the San Francisco Giants in Game 7.
At the core of the Royals offensive production and defensive wizardry stands a 6′ 1″ 185 lb magician named Alcides Escobar. Not only has he made outstanding defensive plays, but Escobar has put together one of the best offensive clinics. Though Escobar has only 6 RBIs this postseason, his ability to get on base in any way possible while providing his team with hope is unlike any other.
The 28-year-old Venezuelan shortstop has emerged as a source of hope and motivation as his performance in the regular season has continued with a fantastic postseason so far.
The ALCS MVP has a reputation in the Royals clubhouse much like a rabbit’s foot; Escobar brings luck to the team. As the leadoff hitter, Escobar is known for swinging at the game’s first pitch and the Royals are known for winning when he does so. Escobar hit .364 on the first pitch during the regular season. Since the beginning of the postseason, Escobar has led off 12 games for the Royals and has reached base safely in 6 of those at bats. Escobar’s bat crossing home plate on the game’s first pitch, making contact with the ball or not, brings a roar from the KC Royals dugout and the fans at Kauffman Stadium.
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With the first pitch on his mind, Escobar stepped to the plate as the first Royal to bat in the 2015 World Series. As Mets ace Matt Harvey stared into catcher Travis d’Arnaud‘s crotch, Escobar already had his mind made up. Harvey wound up and let one fly; Escobar was all over the first pitch fastball and barreled it up to deep left center field, just short of a first pitch home run. As the ball was about to land, miscommunication between Mets outfielders allowed the ball to drop and be kicked along the warning track in left field.
As Escobar rounded second base, he had nothing else on his mind but a good ol’ (extremely common, of course) leadoff, first pitch, inside-the-park home run. Escobar crossed home plate without a slide and gave the Royals an early lead and an early sense of hope. Esky’s inside-the-parker was the first in a World Series game since 1929 (Mule Haas, Philadelphia A’s) and the first World Series leadoff inside-the-park home run since 1903 (Patsy Doughtery, Boston Americans). The Mets stepped onto the field at the K, and Esky greeted them.
Escobar was unable to tally another hit for the rest of the night, but was able to reach base in the bottom of the 14th inning on a throwing error by Mets third baseman David Wright. Escobar would round the bases and eventually score the World Series Game 1 winning run for Royals on an Eric Hosmer sacrifice fly.
In Game 2 of the World Series, Escobar went 2-5 with 2 RBIs. He opened the game against hard throwing Jacob deGrom as he always does, by swinging at the first pitch; however, there was to be no inside-the-park homer today, but just a routine fly out to right fielder Curtis Granderson. Even though there was no hit tallied and he did not get on base, the KC Royals and their fans were somehow comforted by the swing by Escobar; everyone knew that the Royals would be just fine in Game 2.
Down 1-0 in the fifth inning, Alex Gordon worked a leadoff walk and Alex Rios singled to put runners at first and second with no outs. Escobar stepped to the plate in one of the biggest spots of the game as Mets starter Jacob deGrom had been dealing and controlling the tempo of the game. After two failed bunt attempts and down 0-2 in the count, Escobar swung and lined one into center field, scoring Gordon and tying the game. His RBI single to tie the game sparked a fifth inning rally that would eventually carry the Royals to a 4-1 lead. Both Alex-es get plenty of credit for getting on base, but Escobar’s ability to lace an 0-2 pitch into centerfield ignited the Royals devil magic that so many fans are familiar with.
Already tacking on two more insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth, Escobar stepped up with a runner at third and one out. As Royals fans hoped for a sacrifice fly that would give them a 7-1 lead, Escobar was thinking bigger; he once again laced a ball to deep center field, over the head of Juan Lagares. Alex Gordon scored from third and Escobar legged out a triple.
The Royals ended up winning big, 7-1, but Alcides Escobar carried the spark to tie the game and lead the fifth inning rally.
Escobar now has 20 hits this postseason, just two shy of the record for most hits by a shortstop in a single postseason; the honor currently held with 22 hits by none other than Derek Jeter, who has done it three times.
Escobar’s defense should never be overlooked; Rex Hudler even gave him the nickname “El Mago,” meaning, the magician. Escobar makes a run for the best shortstop in baseball every night that he takes the field, making some of the hardest plays in baseball look like a walk in the (ball)park. Esky’s defense gives Royals pitchers comfort every time that they take the mound, knowing that there’s an all-star shortstop backing them up can ease a pitcher’s mind. Escobar has had 7 balls rolled to him in the World Series, and has not committed an error; more impressively, Escobar has not committed an error in his 52 total chances in the entire 2015 postseason.
The ALCS MVP is continuing his historic postseason with fantastic performances in the first two World Series games. Thanks to his contributions on offense and defense, the KC Royals head into New York with a 2-0 World Series lead.