CHICAGO -- Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar leaped into the air, raised his glove to prepare for a backhand stab, and -- for a moment -- seemed to freeze with his feet off the ground as he twisted to reach for Todd Frazier's rocket line drive.
In the seventh inning of the Royals' 4-1 win against the White Sox on Friday night, there was the smack of ball hitting leather, then the gasps, then the return to ground.
But Escobar wasn't done. As soon as his feet hit the field, he wheeled and fired a throw to second to double up Adam Eaton for an inning-ending double play. Escobar's nifty glove work halted any chance of a White Sox rally.
"He's pretty good," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's very athletic."
Escobar's catch was possibly the most important play in an important game for the Royals. The White Sox have become known for their ability to score in the late innings, but Escobar's play neutralized their momentum. As a result, the Royals picked up a victory to start this three-game series with the American League Central leaders.
Escobar -- the reigning AL Gold Glove Award winner at shortstop -- also got a bit of payback for his treatment in the first inning, when White Sox shortstop Tyler Saladino made an impressive backhand stop and throw to get Escobar at first. Saladino went on to make multiple difficult plays to take hits away from Kansas City.
"They were playing great defense," Escobar said. "Like I said, the defense in the game, that's the most important thing."
In addition to the play in the seventh, Escobar made another leaping catch on a ball to his glove-hand side in the ninth to rob Saladino of a hit with a runner on base.
"He's a Gold-Glover for a reason," Yost said.
Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.