MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Yost works his magic, aces ASG test

Yost works his magic, aces ASG test

CINCINNATI -- Go ahead, Royals fans. Take that last laugh. You've earned it.

You too, Ned Yost.

Turns out the American League All-Star team was just fine loaded with Kansas City Royals, not to mention the rest of that specialized talent that Yost picked to try to preserve home-field advantage for the AL.

Yost's Royals have established themselves as the best team in the league. The 6-3 victory in Tuesday night's All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile gives them the chance to again host Game 7 of the World Series, a season after they lost a one-run game to the Giants at Kauffman Stadium.

"The plan went perfectly,'' Yost said, referring both to how he put the AL roster together and how he used his players. "You sit there and you look at the plan. You think it is a good plan, but the players have to go out and execute it. They did it to a T.''

Yost on AL executing game plan

When the early returns from fan voting began to roll in back in late May, there was concern that the first run of online only ballots would result in repeat of 1957, when seven Cincinnati Reds were elected and Commissioner Ford Frick was forced to put Willie Mays and Henry Aaron on the National League roster.

At times throughout this year's process, as many as eight Royals were leading in voting at their position, including light-hitting second baseman Omar Infante. But final results had Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar as the only Kansas City players in Yost's lineup, and Gordon had to be replaced after suffering a Grade 2 groin strain.

Davis whiffs Arenado

Commissioner Rob Manfred was almost as happy as Yost on Tuesday.

"I think you saw in different places like Detroit with Miguel Cabrera and Houston with Jose Altuve, fans saying 'Hey, OK. They voted [in Kansas City]. They had their say. But our guy is better,'" Manfred said at a meeting of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "That sort of fan reaction is a really good thing for a game, and it actually gives you confidence that fan voting is a good mechanism, not only for engagement, but that they have a way of correcting themselves when things get out of whack."

Manfred at the All-Star Game

Make no mistake about this: Yost wanted the best 34-man roster he could get, whether it was players from his organization or elsewhere. He had six Royals active for the game and got significant contributions from Cain (2-for-3 with a run-scoring double) and Escobar (1-for-2 with a single to start a rally) along with reliever Wade Davis, who worked a scoreless eighth.

But Yost was just as happy about a stolen base by Brock Holt, the Red Sox utility man he took over Boston teammates Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, and a strikeout of Bryce Harper by Orioles closer Zach Britton, who he brought into the game in the fifth inning.

Holt and Britton epitomize the kind of players Yost used his influence to include on the team because he felt they could play a role in helping his team win. He selected versatility and speed over another bat -- Alex Rodriguez, for instance -- and relievers over starters.

Holt steals second

"It was a lot of fun,'' Yost said of the experience, which he shared with bench coach Don Wakamatsu and the rest of his Kansas City coaching staff. "We've been really working on our game plan for the last week. We tried to punch holes in it every which way we could and worked it to perfection. We wanted to put power at the top of the lineup and hopefully get a quick strike. [Mike] Trout took care of that for us. We wanted to try to have a lead by the fifth inning so we could get our real power-arm relievers in that game to hold them down. That worked great.''

So did an against-the-grain decision by Yost when the score was 1-1 in the fifth inning. He had the right-handed-hitting Nelson Cruz lined up to face lefty Clayton Kershaw with two outs, Trout on second and Albert Pujols on first. But Yost pinch hit the left-handed-hitting Prince Fielder, giving Kershaw the platoon advantage.

Fielder's RBI single

Yost acknowledged that his tentative plan called for Fielder to take over as the DH after Cruz got two at-bats and that his gut told him to stick to that plan even with Kershaw on the mound.

"When I saw Kershaw out there …" Yost said, hesitating. "I had Prince Fielder [as a player with the Brewers]. I know how tough an out he is. It doesn't matter if it's left-handed or right-handed. In that situation, I felt good about Prince doing exactly what he did."

Fielder shot an opposite-field single to left, scoring Trout. Cain followed with a hard grounder down the line, past third baseman Todd Frazier, for a double that scored Pujols and gave the AL a 3-1 lead.

Cain's RBI double

These were the kind of moves that Yost made last October, when the Royals were on the run that didn't end until Gordon was stranded at third base in the ninth inning of Game 7.

AL All-Stars introduced

It's way too early to know what's going to happen this time around. But the Royals have given themselves a chance to open the World Series at home.

Now they just have to get there.

You know Yost is working on that plan now that he's aced the midterms.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.