Cain making Anaheim his second home
Royals' center fielder back to his old tricks vs. Angels after starring in last year's playoffs
ANAHEIM -- Lorenzo Cain returned to the scene of the crime Friday night. Angel Stadium is where the Royals outfielder, alongside fellow hit bandits Alex Gordon, Nori Aoki and Jarrod Dyson, began the process of stealing the American League Division Series from the West champion Angels last October.
Rarely has an outfield dominated a postseason series with its defense the way these guys did.
Wasting no time in his return for the Angels' home opener, Cain banged a two-out double off the wall in left-center off Hector Santiago in the first inning. He was on his way to third, thievery in mind, when Eric Hosmer ripped an RBI single. An inning later, Cain backed against the wall to snatch Erick Aybar's drive to left center, making it look easy.
Cain, who stroked a go-ahead RBI single in the fifth and added an insurance run in the ninth by drawing a bases-loaded walk, must think Anaheim is his second home by now.
On the heels of a pair of one-run ALDS decisions in 11 innings last October in Anaheim, Kansas City came home for Game 3 and landed the knockout blow. Cain and Co. pirated the series, sending the team with the best regular-season record in the Majors into winter in a daze.
"I can't really explain it," Cain said. "All postseason, it felt like they were coming to me every game. I had the opportunity to make a diving catch or run one down in the gaps every game. In the postseason, they kept finding me. And I made sure I made the plays."
Starting with the Royals' madcap AL Wild Card Game comeback win against Oakland, Cain stole extra-base hits from the A's, Angels, Orioles and Giants all the way to the finish. A classic World Series ended when Salvador Perez popped up Madison Bumgarner's final pitch of Game 7, stranding Gordon at third with the potential tying run.
Whether in his customary spot in center or in right with a late-game move accommodating Dyson's range in center, Cain made the spectacular almost routine. He also met the challenge offensively, posting a slash line of .333/.388/.417 in 15 postseason games, with five doubles, eight RBIs and 13 runs scored.
At 28 -- Cain turns 29 on Monday -- the Valdosta, Ga., native became an overnight sensation for a team that shocked insiders with its Wild Card ride to within two runs of a championship.
"I was just playing my game, trying to catch everything like I always do," Cain said. "Not many people gave us a chance, but we ended up making it to the World Series and almost winning it.
"We're underdogs again. We know everybody's picking other teams to win the [Central] division. That's fine. Proving people wrong, that's what we like to do."
Batting third, Cain brought a .417 average into this weekend series. He added to his highlight-reel collection with several spellbinding catches against the White Sox in Kansas City's season-opening sweep in Chicago. Cain twice hit walls robbing Adam LaRoche and Micah Johnson of extra-base hits.
It was pointed out to Cain how Torii Hunter -- the man he credits with molding him as a baseball player long before they ever met -- had a favorite expression regarding such dangerous catches: "The wall is undefeated."
"I think I'm down 6-0," Cain said, grinning.
Cain played a career-high 133 games before the 15 in the postseason last year. He'd like to play even more this season.
"My only goal is to stay healthy and play a majority of the games," Cain said. "People used to say I was injury prone. My first two years here [2012 and '13], I was injured a lot. I had an oblique [strain], a torn hamstring and, in Oakland, I tore my groin.
"It all happened going full-tilt in the field. I just compete, play hard. You've got to prove yourself every day in this game."
Cain said he already can hear Hunter's voice, yelling, "'Slow down, young man.' He's in the division now [with the Twins], so I'm sure I'll be hearing from him, telling me to calm down."
Cain met Hunter through former Brewers teammate LaTroy Hawkins at a Globetrotters exhibition in Phoenix during Spring Training several years ago. Lorenzo felt as if he already knew Torii, having spent so much time studying his every movement.
"He was the guy I always watched when I was in college [Tallahassee Community College] and high school [Madison County, Fla.]," Cain said. "I wanted to model my game after him. I loved the way he played defense, swung the bat, everything. He molded me as a player.
"He's always been great to me. He's the kind of guy you feel comfortable around. He likes to have fun, but he's serious about the game. That's how I like to be. I have a good time with my teammates, and I think they're comfortable around me."
New to the Royals, Kendrys Morales -- Hunter's former teammate with the Angels -- nodded in approval.
"Great guy, great player -- just like Torii," Morales said.