CLEVELAND — The elements clicked into place for the Royals in an 8-2 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday night.
Mike Moustakas crushed a three-run homer. Alcides Escobar and Jarrod Dyson manufactured a run for the second night in a row. Billy Butler came a few feet shy of his first homer of the season, instead settling for an RBI double. Eric Hosmer went four for five with two doubles, three runs and an RBI.
Gifted a sizable advantage, James Shields (2-2, 1.91 ERA) logged six taxing innings. He held Cleveland to two runs, and struck out nine. Danny Duffy produced two more innings of scoreless relief.
The Royals, 10-9, carried one of baseball’s worst offenses into Tuesday’s game. They ranked 26th in runs and 26th in on-base plus slugging percentage. There were undefeated when they scored four runs — but they had only accomplished that relative feat in nine games.
Their second baseman, Omar Infante, led the team in RBIs. Their shortstop, Alcides Escobar, led the team in OPS. The team had hit six home runs; eight individual players had hit at least six, and nine players had five.
The picture was not pretty. The power outage was the reason behind the team’s 9-9 start, general manager Dayton Moore admitted. But it also sustained his belief in his team’s talent.
“Of course, it’s been a little frustrating,” Moore said. “It’s frustrating for the players. But … we’re not really panicking.”
When a team runs on all cylinders, Moore explained, it excels in all phases of the game. The Royals had yet to experience that type of success. But their record was still reasonable.
“If your team is not producing offensively, or in the starting rotation, if you have a good team, you’re playing about .500,” he said. “If you have a bad team, you’re well below. We are where right now because of how we’ve performed offensively. I’m not disappointed. And I’m not really concerned.”
Manager Ned Yost echoed that sentiment. “We’ll catch on fire,” he said before the game.
Shields allowed an unearned run in the second. Omar Infante bungled an funky grounder for a one-out error. After a single by David Murphy, Shields bounced a breaking ball off the grass and onto designated hitter Lonnie Chisenhall. With the bases loaded, Michael Bourn slashed an RBI single.
The Royals offense roared to life in the fourth. Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler notched ground ball singles. Salazar steadied himself for two batters, and the Royals were in danger of stranding the duo. It was up to Moustakas.
Early in the season, rival evaluators still questioned whether Moustakas can close the fatal flaw in his approach, his inability to handle inside pitching. But Moustakas still possesses the tools to detonate mistakes. Salazar hung a slider, and Moustakas vaporized the pitch into the Royals bullpen near the right-field pole.
The reactionary tremor among the sparse crowd had yet to dissipate when Escobar chopped a grounder deep in the hole. His shortstop counterpart, Asdrubal Cabrera, could not field it. Soon after, Escobar swiped second and jetted to third when catcher Yan Gomes air-mailed the throw.
As he did the night before, speedster Jarrod Dyson plated a run by laying down a bunt. He pushed a grounder up the first-base line and ran past Nick Swisher for an RBI single.
Salazar was not long for the game. Hosmer scalded a one-out double off the center field wall in the fifth. Butler followed him with a double of his own. This drive appeared close enough to touch the wall in center. Instead, the ball ticked off center fielder Michael Bourn’s glove and Hosmer raced home.