By Jeffrey Flanagan and Earl Bloom
MLB.com |@FlannyMLB |
ANAHEIM -- The Royals continued to pick up where they left off last season, sweeping the Angels on Sunday as they did in the American League Division Series in 2014.
On Sunday, the Royals whipped the Angels, 9-2, behind Alcides Escobar's three RBIs and the solid pitching of starter Yordano Ventura, who gave up just four hits and two runs through 5 2/3 innings while striking out seven.
Ventura's start, though, was tainted by a bizarre exchange with Angels center fielder Mike Trout in the sixth inning. After Trout singled, Ventura stared him down at first base. And after Trout scored on a double, Ventura exchanged words with Trout behind home plate as both benches and bullpens emptied. More >
"Yordano is just a very competitive guy," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Later in the inning, Ventura left the game with a right calf cramp -- he had left the season opener with a right thumb cramp.
"It's fine," said Ventura, through interpreter Christian Colon. "It just kind of grabbed and tightened up in the sixth. I will get with the trainers to see how to fix [the cramps]."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Escobar's near homer: The key hit in the game was a two-run double by Escobar in the second inning. Escobar hit a long drive to left-center field, and appeared to think the ball was going to make it over the fence. The ball landed right at the top of the wall, however, and caromed back toward the infield. But instead of a triple, Escobar cruised into second with a double. Regardless, the double put the Royals up 4-1.
"I hit it really well," Escobar said. "I thought it was out [of the ballpark]. Sometimes the ball carries well here and sometimes it doesn't. But I knew it would be two runs."
Paulo from Sao Paulo: In just his second big-league start, Brazlian Paulo Orlando continued to wow Royals fans with his speed. Orlando, who tripled in his first start, delivered two more triples on Sunday. All three of his hits are triples, which shouldn't be a shocker -- he was a terrific track competitor growing up. Orlando scored three runs.
"It's fun," Orlando said. "I want to contribute and I can do that with my speed."
Big error: For the second time in as many games, the Royals batted around early against a top Angels starter. This time, it was C.J. Wilson in the second inning, when Kansas City scored four runs. An error by third baseman David Freese on Omar Infante's hard grounder with runners on first and third and one out led to an unearned run. But really, if Freese had fielded the ball cleanly, the Angels likely would have had an inning-ending double play and escaped with the score still tied at 1.
"A play, here or there, and it might have been better for C.J.," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He was in the zone early, and those guys squared some up. They were hunting and pecking early in counts, and got fastballs to hit. These guys are hitting on all cylinders ... they took it to us in this series."
Forcing the issue: Pujols added a sixth-inning double to the first-inning homer (his 522nd to take sole possession of 18th on the all-time list), then got greedy and tried to steal third base off Ventura. Pujols got a great jump, but catcher Salvador Perez's throw nailed him. More >
"I stopped -- I should've kept going," Pujols said.
"I think there was some frustration there," Scioscia said. "We didn't play well in this series, and we had a hard time scoring runs. And with the [Ventura/Trout] incident, there was some emotion involved there, too."
SOUND SMART TO YOUR FRIENDS
Royals shortstop Escobar has stolen bases in 54 of his last 60 attempts -- that 90 percent success rate is the second highest in baseball since 2013. Jacoby Ellsbury has the highest success rate at 91.1 percent.
"I think less is more. He can get comfortable, hopefully, and just play baseball." -- Scioscia said, when asked what his instructions were to second baseman Taylor Featherston, a Rule 5 Draft pick who made his Major League debut on Sunday without having played above Double-A.
INTERESTING DEVELOPMENT More hat tipping: It didn't have a big bearing on the game, but once again Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain made a breathtaking catch. In the fifth inning, Cain raced in on C.J. Cron's sinking liner and made a fully-extended dive toward the infield to snare the ball and make the catch.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy takes the hill for his second start of the season on Monday at 3:10 p.m. CT against the Twins in their home opener. Duffy loves Target Field, where he is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his career. This will be the Royals' third "opener" this season.
Angels: Right-hander Matt Shoemaker (17-4 career) makes his 22nd start, and second of the season, against the Rangers in the opener of a three-game set at Globe Life Park. Shoemaker is 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA at Arlington.
Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. Earl Bloom is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.