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Clutch Escobar delivers in ninth inning

Shortstop hits opposite-field go-ahead double

BALTIMORE -- Top of the ninth, score tied, speedy pinch-runner Terrance Gore with the go-ahead run standing on second. Up to the plate walked Alcides Escobar, who was 0-for-4 and had yet to hit the ball out of the infield.

"We had all the confidence in the world in Esky," said Gore, "and he got a double."

Sure did, a sharp ground ball just inside the first-base bag and down the right-field line, scoring Gore easily. An error and an RBI single by Lorenzo Cain -- his fourth hit of the night -- made it a two-run inning and gave the Royals a 6-4 victory over the Orioles on Saturday night in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.

Escobar jumped on the first pitch he saw from left-handed closer Zach Britton, and he had no doubt it would stay inside the line.

"Oh, yeah, when I hit the ball, I knew it was fair. I was looking for one pitch and he threw me a fastball down. I hit it right down the line," Escobar said. "With Gore at second base, any hit he's going to score easily."

That made Escobar 7-for-28 in the postseason with three RBIs and one surprising home run belted in Friday night's 10-inning, 8-6 win.

The homer was the Royals' first by a leadoff batter since George Brett did it three times against the Yankees' Goose Gossage in the third game of the 1978 ALCS. It was also the first homer by a Royals shortstop since Fred Patek in the second game of that same series.

Escobar was made the permanent resident of the leadoff position on Sept. 13 when manager Ned Yost decided to load the top of his lineup with speed. In those last two weeks of the regular season, Escobar hit .362 with five doubles, a homer and nine runs in 69 at bats.

"He's been lightning, he's been a spark plug up there for us," said teammate Mike Moustakas. "He's been doing everything we need him to do and more. He's one of the quietest, best shortstops in all of baseball."

Escobar and Cain came to the Royals together in the celebrated trade that sent pitcher Zack Greinke to Milwaukee.

"That was the start of putting together a championship caliber baseball team, to get two guys as athletic as they are and in a trade," manager Ned Yost said.

"It's sure fun to watch them evolve over the last couple of years and really get to this point in their careers where they're really fantastic players."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for
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