Escobar racks up 4 hits, but Jays roll
Royals' leadoff hitter has .429 OBP in postseason
TORONTO -- Statistically, the case could be made that Royals manager Ned Yost should bat shortstop Alcides Escobar in the lower third of the batting order. But it's hard to argue with the success this team has had with him residing at the top, particularly during the postseason.
After finishing the regular season with a .293 on-base percentage, Escobar has found his way on base at a .429 clip this postseason, doing so four times in Monday's 11-8 loss in Toronto in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. He led off the game with a triple and collected three more hits, all singles, and scored three times.
"I feel good right now," Escobar said. "Really good."
The shortstop became just the third Kansas City player with four hits in a playoff game, joining teammate Lorenzo Cain, who accomplished the feat last year, and Hall of Famer George Brett, who did it twice during the 1985 postseason.
A Royals team that never goes down quietly has largely relied on Escobar to keep the line moving in the later innings, as he did Monday in helping cut a seven-run deficit to three by game's end. In the fifth, his leadoff single sparked a rally that, though short-lived, resulted in two runs. Then in the ninth, four runs scored after Escobar's leadoff base hit.
In both instances, No. 2 hitter Ben Zobrist followed with a double, finishing with three to raise his postseason average to .355 behind Escobar, who has hit .394/.429/.606 in the club's eight playoff games.
"He's swinging it so well, it gets the ball rolling quickly and makes me comfortable to step in there and swing the bat when he's already on base," Zobrist said. "It creates a little bit more of a hole on the right side there, too."
Escobar hit first for much of the regular season, but his second-half struggles -- he hit .197 in August -- convinced Yost to try out Alex Gordon and Zobrist in the leadoff spot in September. The Royals began losing more games than they were winning, which led Yost to move the pesky Escobar back into familiar territory during the last week of the season.
Kansas City finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak.
"I'm feeling really comfortable in the leadoff spot," Escobar said. "I did that all in the Minors, and right now I'm doing a really good job, so I like to be in that spot."