Moose breaking free for Royals in postseason
Third baseman ties club mark with fourth playoff home run
BALTIMORE -- Amid a postseason awakening 29 years in the making, the Royals are witnessing one of their promising young sluggers burst to life at precisely the same time.
That would be Mike Moustakas, whom Dayton Moore selected with his first pick in his first Draft as general manager of the Royals, the second overall selection in 2007 behind David Price. The third baseman has had his fingerprints on each of the club's six consecutive wins this postseason, the latest a 6-4 victory in Baltimore that secured a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series on Saturday.
Moustakas launched his fourth homer of the playoffs in this one, tying Willie Mays Aikens' 1980 club record for home runs in one postseason.
"I'm just seeing the ball well right now, seeing good pitches to hit and not missing," said Moustakas. "That's pretty much it."
Only Hall of Famer George Brett has more postseason homers (10) on the all-time franchise list
Royals fans have believed Moustakas, 26, to be the heir apparent to Brett as their next cornerstone third baseman. But he's struggled to even stay in the Majors, at one point this season being sent to Triple-A Omaha with a .152 average.
Moustakas was back soon enough, carrying confidence from an organization that has lent him so much amid the many tough stretches, and he trudged to the finish line with a .212 average. He's hitting .375 this postseason -- and in key situations, too.
His first homer was an extra-inning game-winner in the AL Division Series opener against the Angels. The second came in the Royals' ALDS clincher. On Friday, he belted a two-run homer in the 10th inning that helped secure another extra-inning victory. Saturday's blast, a two-out, fourth-inning shot to right field off Orioles starter Bud Norris, unlocked a 3-3 tie.
"Postseason baseball, you see what a player is made of, and he's been stepping up for us, getting some timely hits, timely home runs in big situations for us," said Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. "He's really living up to those expectations that everyone had for him."
"I've always known the type of talent that Moose has at the plate," said designated hitter Billy Butler. "He's had a tremendous performance on the big stage, and he's worked really hard for it. I'm happy he's coming alive. He's helping this team out, and that's what it's all about.
"He's had a lot of struggles the last couple years, and to have him have this kind of success on this kind of stage, it's gotta give him a lot of confidence, and hopefully he takes it into next year."
Moustakas, who also laid down a sacrifice bunt that led to the go-ahead run in the ninth, is soaking up every second of this crazed month.
"I'm having an absolutely phenomenal time playing baseball right now," he said.
All the while, he's managed to field dozens of daily questions about his hard-fought journey, and all of the doubters he faced along the way, with ease. His path, in many ways, resembles that of the organization, albeit on a smaller scale.
So much pent-up hope and angst has finally sprouted into something special.
"I'm just excited to be in the postseason with the Kansas City Royals and helping this team win ballgames," he said. "Everything I went through this year led me to this point, and I couldn't ask for a better way to go about it now. We're sitting here in the postseason up, 2-0, against a great ball team.
"It's an awesome feeling being able to bring something back to Kansas City and have those people having a lot of fun and enjoying watch us play ball."
Those same people must have thought out loud, "Why?" when watching the suddenly homer-happy Moustakas readying to bunt in the ninth with Omar Infante aboard first base with none out in a tie game against Orioles closer Zack Britton.
But these are the Royals after all.
"That's just how we're playing the game right now," said Moustakas. "Any way we can score, we're going to score. If that means sac bunting, anything we can do to generate runs, we're all fine with it.
"We're in the business of winning ballgames right now. It doesn't matter how we do it. We gotta find a way. If I gotta bunt, I'll drop one down."
He did, and Alcides Escobar yet again made a genius out of Ned Yost when he followed with an RBI double. He then would score on Lorenzo Cain's fourth hit of the game.
"That just shows you what part of the year we're in," said Butler. "Right now we just need a run. Moose got the bunt down. Shows you he can do it all."
"You gotta battle your way through, and he's been doing that all year," said Hosmer. "He couldn't find a better time to step up, couldn't find a better time to get hot than right now."