Esky's all-around effort pushes KC past Tigers

Esky's all-around effort pushes KC past Tigers

Esky's all-around effort pushes KC past Tigers
KANSAS CITY -- Shortstop Alcides Escobar pointed to a clubhouse television which was playing highlights of the Royals' 4-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers and he smiled.

Escobar had a terrific game on Tuesday night -- three hits including a home run, two RBIs, a stolen base and two superb fielding plays.

"The part I'm most happy about is that the game was televised to Venezuela and they saw the whole game over there," he said. "My whole family saw the game and so I'm really happy."

Escobar ran his fingers over his cellphone.

"Everybody saw the game and I've got like 35 messages on my phone right now," he said.

Escobar raised his batting average to .292, pounded his fifth home run, swiped his 34th base and made his gazillionth spectacular stop at shortstop.

"He's just had a phenomenal year -- defensively, offensively. I mean it's been a really breakout year for him," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's played all phases of the game as well as you can ask a Major League shortstop to play 'em. He's hit for an average, he's a tremendous baserunner and defensively, he's just about as good as it gets."

There were other significant numbers in this game, the first since the Tigers clinched their American League Central title on Monday night. The Royals ended a string of five straight losses to the Tigers and marked their 72nd win, one more than they achieved last year.

With the Tigers already in possession of a postseason berth, the spotlight fell on Miguel Cabrera, their Triple Crown candidate.

He gave the crowd of 14,283 a good look at his talents, smacking singles in his first two at-bats against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie. His second hit to center came with the bases loaded and scored two runs in the third inning.

After right fielder Jeff Francoeur raced to the line to grab Cabrera's fly ball for the last out of the fifth inning, the Tigers' star was taken out of the game with a .331 average, up two points. That, along with his 44 home runs and 137 RBIs, had him leading the AL in all three departments -- at that moment, at least.

"You've got to give him credit, playing this game today," Yost said. "There's a lot of players that would probably sit on those laurels after doing what they did last night. But he didn't."

Cabrera's hit inflicted the only lasting damage on Guthrie, who gave up three hits and two walks in that inning. But it began with a fine running catch by Francoeur and ended with a nice double play by second baseman Tony Abreu and first baseman Billy Butler.

After the inning, pitching coach Dave Eiland fixed a delivery flaw which enabled Guthrie to get his pitches down in the zone and get through the next three innings unscathed. Guthrie earned the win, finishing his 14-start stint with the Royals with a 5-3 record, a 3.16 ERA and questions about returning next season. He's a pending free agent.

"It was good, I absolutely enjoyed it," Guthrie said. "Great defense behind us -- not just infield defense but outfield defense which goes overlooked a lot. ... This is a place where any pitcher is going to be made a whole lot better because of the guys around him on the diamond. I've enjoyed it and I've learned a lot."

Does he feel Kansas City is a good fit for him?

"Oh, yeah, absolutely, I think so. Great teammates, great city, so I think any pitcher would be fortunate to pitch here," he said.

So let the negotiations begin.

Escobar, who homered off Doug Fister in the first inning, helped the Royals go ahead, 3-2, with an RBI single in the fifth. After Francisley Bueno and Kelvin Herrera each worked a scoreless inning of relief, Francoeur gave closer Greg Holland a two-run cushion to start the eighth.

"That one felt pretty good," Francoeur said. "They'd been trying to get ahead of me all night with first-pitch heaters, except the second at-bat Fister threw me a curveball. But they did it yesterday, too, with [Rick] Porcello and [Joaquin] Benoit. So I know [Brayan] Villarreal throws 96, 97 [mph], so I wanted to look for a good fastball and try to get the head out and it felt pretty good."

Francoeur's 16th homer this season traveled 425 feet far over the left-field wall.

"He crushed that ball. Boy, I mean I think that's as far a home run as we've seen in this park," Yost said. "And it was cool, the air was heavy and he hit to the deepest part of the park. He really got every bit of it."

Holland worked a perfect ninth for his 16th save, an inning that began with a brilliant play by Escobar up the middle.

"Their shortstop put on a clinic," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

But Escobar is not quite through. The season finale affords him the chance for another demonstration on Wednesday night.

"One more game," Escobar said. "I'm going to keep going hard."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.