Sun can't stop Royals' great defensive plays

Sun can't stop Royals' great defensive plays

KANSAS CITY -- None of the Royals assumed anything was an out once a ball sailed up into the bright blue sky at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday.

The sun played havoc on pop-ups and fly balls, and that was evident throughout the Royals' wild 9-8 win over the Orioles.

Early on, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas lost a Ryan Flaherty pop-up that fell for a single. Moments later, shortstop Alcides Escobar lost a pop-up by Jonathan Schoop, found it, lost it again, then found it again and made the catch.

"On the one I dropped, I had it on the way up and then lost it," Moustakas said. "I hoped it would come out of the sun, but it never did.

"It was a tough day with the sun and combined with the wind. But the outfielders did a great job, and Esky picked me up a couple of times. Great job by everyone."

Gordon makes the catch in left

In the fifth inning, the Orioles had two on and two out when Joey Rickard skied a fly ball to deep left-center. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain couldn't find the ball but at the last second, left fielder Alex Gordon raced over to make the play, saving at least two runs.

"Me and Lorenzo actually know the time of the day on day games when it's going to be bad for either of us," Gordon said. "Early in the game, I'll say 'Ball in the gap is yours.' Then as the sun moves, it's my ball in the gap. We just know."

That communication was especially true in a crazy eighth inning. After a leadoff single by Orioles leadoff man Seth Smith, Schoop sent a drive to right-center that Cain caught while crashing into the fence. Right fielder Jorge Bonifacio was nearby in case Cain lost the ball in the sun, which was a good thing because Cain, after tumbling to the ground, tossed the ball to Bonifacio, who threw back into the infield to keep Smith at first.

Then Manny Machado floated a routine fly ball to right that Bonifacio never saw.

Cain's tough catch in center

"Lost it in the sun right away," Bonifacio said.

But Cain hustled over and made the catch in right.

Then came perhaps the play of the season: After a walk to Chris Davis put the tying runs on, Mark Trumbo fouled a ball behind home plate.

Catcher Drew Butera, who had three hits including a home run, never saw the ball.

Reliever Joakim Soria realized quickly that Butera had lost the ball and sprinted toward foul territory. Soria raced about 90 feet before grabbing the pop-up with a basket catch just before hitting the backstop. End of inning.

"The sun was bad," Butera said. "Our guys did a great job battling it. You can't control the elements. You have to deal with what you've got.

"You know, [Soria] keeps telling me he wants to catch pop-ups: 'Here's your chance.' I thought it was a foul ball straight back from the swing. I didn't see it. I heard Salvador Perez [from the dugout] screaming at me. So I looked up. Next thing I know is I see Jack running by. Thank God he's athletic." 

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.