Royals opt for speed at top of batting order
Escobar, Aoki and Cain have led the charge as 1-2-3 hitters
KANSAS CITY -- Royals manager Ned Yost tried something drastic on Sept. 13.
With his offense sputtering and Kansas City caught in a slump that included four losses in five games, Yost chose speed over convention, placing Alcides Escobar, Nori Aoki and Lorenzo Cain in the top three spots. Aoki and Cain were slated for the No. 2 and No. 3 hole for the first time this season, while Escobar recorded just one previous start at leadoff in 2014.
But the newfangled lineup paid dividends, as all three have benefited from the change. With a pair of hits in Sunday's 5-2 win over the Tigers, Escobar elevated his average to .382 (13-for-34) in the last eight games. He hit his 33rd double of the season tying Jose Offerman's franchise record by a shortstop in 1996.
Aoki's multihit game streak ended at four Saturday, but he still boasted a .533 average (16-for-30) in his last eight games.
"[Escobar's] been really creating some scoring opportunities for us, getting on base. [He] and Nori both have done a great job kind of transforming the top of that order, and now if we can get a couple guys hot in the middle of the order, we're going to be OK," Yost said.
Cain does not possess Aoki's mind-boggling numbers, but his response to hitting third has been positive. The outfielder tailors his game more to speed than power, but Cain adapted to the role of a No. 3 hitter when he deposited a three-run home run in the Royals' 6-2 win over the White Sox on Wednesday.
Cain also sparked Kansas City's thrilling walk-off win on Monday with the base hit that allowed Terrance Gore to score.