Defensive shifts hurt Astros in Game 2
Royals find holes on key hits in sixth, seventh innings
KANSAS CITY -- If watching Eric Hosmer reach out and poke a soft RBI single to shallow left field in the sixth inning wasn't frustrating enough, Kendrys Morales followed with an RBI single that went through a hole on the right side of the infield created by a defensive shift.
The Royals' good fortune continued when Alcides Escobar led off the seventh with a high fly ball that landed between speedy center fielder Jake Marisnick and right fielder George Springer. Escobar scored the game-winning run on a Ben Zobrist single to give Kansas City a 5-4 win Friday in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Kauffman Stadium, evening the series at 1-1.
"They're a tough team to get out," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Even the two-strike hits in the sixth -- we had a two-strike double to [Lorenzo] Cain, a two-strike, one-armed single to Hosmer, a two-strike rolling ground ball to second base from Morales, right-handed. A couple of walks."
It was that kind of day for the Astros, who were in the right position repeatedly in Thursday's 5-2 win in Game 1, but couldn't finish plays in Game 2. When you shift as much as Houston, the times it doesn't work can be frustrating. Relief pitcher Oliver Perez made a pitch to get Morales to hit the ball into the ground in the sixth, but second baseman Jose Altuve was on the shortstop side of the bag and it rolled into right-center.
"Normally when you see ground balls, you're thinking it's a double play, but the shift was to third base, and that happens," Perez said. "That's part of the game. Sometimes you have to take it."
Still, with the game tied at 4 in the seventh, Escobar led off with a fly ball to right against reliever Will Harris. Marisnick made a long run toward the gap, and Springer raced back and toward the gap, only to watch the ball drop between them.
"Good placement," Marisnick said. "We've been playing them the same all series, and he just put it in a good spot. We're both watching each other and it's kind of an awkward angle for him. He's playing pretty shallow and we've been playing him in. [If] we're playing normally in the outfield, that's an out to right-center."
Springer said the twilight glare wasn't a factor.
"I knew it was over my head," he said. "It was a perfect spot at a bad time."
With Escobar at third and no outs, the Astros had to play the infield in against the heart of the Royals' order.
"Zobrist gets the breaking ball, does a good job getting him in," Hinch said.