Shortstop rips leadoff single, makes impressive diving catch in second inning
By Jeffrey Flanagan
KANSAS CITY -- Shortstop Alcides Escobar brought his A game to the Royals' 6-3 win on Saturday in Game 2 of the American League Championship series against the Blue Jays.
Escobar singled on the first pitch he saw in the first inning. And that has been a pattern -- he has swung at the first pitch of his first at-bat 11 times in the past 13 games. And the 28-year-old shortstop made a scintillating defensive play -- something that has also become routine.
"They tell me if I see a good pitch right away to swing at it," Escobar said after Kansas City grabbed a 2-0 ALCS lead, with Game 3 coming Monday night at Rogers Centre (7 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1/Sportsnet, with game time slated for 8 p.m.). "If it's a strike, I'm going to swing at it."
It was the third time this postseason that Escobar got a first-pitch hit in the first inning. He also had two first-pitch, first-inning homers during the regular season. Isn't Escobar surprised that pitchers keep throwing hittable pitches on the first delivery of the game?
"I don't know why they do that," Escobar said. "I guess they don't want to throw a ball on the first pitch and get behind."
But more importantly, Escobar may have saved a big inning with a sensational diving catch off a line drive from Toronto's Russell Martin.
After a strikeout, Ventura faced a full-count pitch to Martin, who sent a screaming liner toward left-center. But Escobar dived to his left, fully extended, and snared the liner. Escobar then flipped to second baseman Ben Zobrist to double up Encarnacion, and the Royals escaped the inning without any damage. According to Statcast™, the ball came off the bat with an exit velocity of 110.8 mph, Martin's second-highest exit velocity this season.
"I never really saw it," Escobar said. "I caught up with it late. But that was big -- they score at least one there, maybe two."
Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.