Escobar, Zobrist enter postseason record book
Royals shortstop extends hitting streak to 14 games, second baseman ties doubles mark
NEW YORK -- Twenty-four hours after a brushback pitch knocked him to the ground and resulted in strong words from the pitcher who threw it, Alcides Escobar was back in his spot at the top of the Royals lineup doing what he normally does -- hit.
On Friday, Escobar fell flat to the ground on what pitcher Noah Syndergaard acknowledged was a purpose pitch, in an attempt to make the Royals' red-hot leadoff man a little less comfortable at the plate. The next night, "Esky" was back to being pesky, swinging at the first pitch from Steven Matz and singling to lead off the Royals' 5-3 win over the Mets in Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night at Citi Field.
"After that happened, I just got ready for today," Escobar said of the Syndergaard situation. "I forgot that thing already. I'm going to swing at the first pitch. Today, they threw me a breaking pitch and I swung at it."
The base hit was a milestone for Escobar, extending his postseason hitting streak to 14 games. He's logged at least one hit in every game dating back to Game 2 of the American League Division Series, and he's now tied for the longest hitting streak in a single postseason overall, matching Manny Ramirez (2004) and Marquis Grissom (1995).
The Royals are on the cusp of winning the World Series, needing one more win over the Mets to take the best-of-seven set in just five games, with Game 5 set for Sunday on FOX at 8 p.m. ET. The Royals can point to any number of contributors that got them this far, but at the forefront of the conversation has to be what the top of the lineup has put together all month, pacing an offense that is sometimes overlooked by the club's superior bullpen depth and defense.
No team can get this far without the prototypical table-setters, and Escobar and Ben Zobrist have barely had a hiccup in their places at the top of the order through all 15 postseason games. Their October performances are, in fact, being mentioned among the all-time greats.
"They've been setting the tone for us the whole entire time," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "If you look back at a lot of the big innings we've had, Zobrist is right in the middle of it if he's not starting it off. They've done just a great job at the top of the lineup for us, setting the tone for us pretty much every game."
That's no exaggeration. Consider this:
Escobar's 22 hits are tied for the most in a single postseason by a shortstop, matching Derek Jeter, who had 22 hits in three different postseasons (1996, 2003 and 2009). He's also 12-for-24 when leading off an inning in 15 playoff games.
Zobrist, who was 1-for-3 in Game 4, doubled for the fourth time this World Series, a Royals record. He has eight doubles in the postseason, tying a Major League record, accomplished by Albert Pujols and David Freese, who each had eight doubles for the Cardinals in 2011.
"I could not have asked for a better postseason up to this point," Zobrist said. "The contributions all across the clubhouse are clear. Everybody has contributed, that's how you win games. That's how you have to play to continue to win games."
One game from a World Series championship, the Royals have left any sourness from Game 3 behind them, a task that was easy to complete given their obvious decision to not retaliate, and Escobar's lack of interest in fanning those flames.
In that respect, his teammates were not at all surprised to see the same "Esky" stride to the plate to open Game 4.
"It's one thing that's special about Esky," Hosmer said. "He plays with no fear. With everything going on and what happened yesterday, it didn't seem to faze him up there. To see him get a hit right there sparks the team up and really gets you fired up."
Said Escobar: "I continue to play my game and be the same guy, aggressive at the plate. Nobody in here wants to fight. We want to win a game. We want to end it here. We're coming out tomorrow wanting to be the champions."