"Around that squirrel, there was a baseball game," the Royals' Billy Butler pointed out.
Yes and, in the end, it was the Cleveland Indians who had the last laugh with a 4-3 victory on the strength of two-run homers by Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis. It was the Royals' second straight loss following a five-game winning streak.
For interested nature lovers, the squirrel was shooed off the field by the groundskeepers for good after the second inning and never did return.
"That little joker was frolicking," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He was out there during batting practice, too. Big ol' red fox squirrel. I don't know where he came from."
"It was really funny," Butler said. "He just wanted to hang around, he didn't want to leave."
Initially, the critter was chased into the Royals' bullpen but reappeared and, after the next half-inning, was herded into the Indians' bullpen beyond center field.
Cleveland's relievers did what they could to help the squirrel wranglers.
"I was like, 'Bring it in here. Bring it in here. Get him out of harm's way,'" reliever Cody Allen said. "I didn't want [center fielder Michael Bourn] to be running back on a fly ball, look down and a squirrel be there. I don't think you can review that play."
After things no longer were quite so squirrelly, the baseball game continued.
Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie gave up a double to Kipnis in the fourth and Brantley followed with his drive over the right-field wall. In the sixth, it was a double by Nick Swisher followed by another blast to right, this one by Kipnis.
"I left the changeup up to Brantley, and he did a nice job and he drove it. The one to Kipnis was a bad pitch, a slider that hung in the middle of the plate," Guthrie said.
"The two homers are what did the damage but, outside of that, I thought he threw the ball well," Yost said.
In between the home runs, in the fifth inning, the Royals conjured up three runs to briefly hold a 3-2 lead against right-hander Zach McAllister.
Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar opened the inning with back-to-back doubles for the first run. McAllister fielded Jarrod Dyson's bunt and threw the ball past first baseman Swisher for an error, allowing Escobar to score. Later, Omar Infante singled in Dyson.
Even so, McAllister wound up a winner with a 3-0 record.
"The one inning that he gave up some contact and we had a couple missteps, he kept making pitches and he didn't come unglued," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And then, he went back out and pitched good again."
After McAllister left, the Royals got zip-a-de-do-da against three Indians relievers, giving their bullpen a streak of 10 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.
Mixed in with the squirrel antics, three Tribe errors and those two home runs was some dazzling defensive work by the Royals, especially Escobar.
His prize play was a remarkable catch that ended the sixth inning. He raced from near second base all the way into foul territory, well past third base, to grab Jason Giambi's popup just inches from the ground while sliding on the rubberized track.
"That was really a hard play, wow," Escobar said. "I was playing behind second base and got to it on the third-base side, a foul ball. Wow."
Well, he certainly wowed his manager.
"Man, I don't know if you're going to see a better catch than that, really. That was just a phenomenal play," Yost said.
Escobar also collaborated with center fielder Dyson to cut down David Murphy at the plate in the third inning. Dyson gathered up a double by Swisher and fed Escobar, who threw a strike to catcher Salvador Perez, ending the inning.
"The relay throw to cut the first runner down at the plate was a tremendous play," Yost said. "Gordy [Alex Gordon] made a couple of great plays out in left, Nori [Aoki] made a couple real nice plays in right. Really good defensive game."
Escobar's RBI double also raised his batting average to .305.
"Esky's putting it all together -- offense, defense. He's just doing everything, playing great," Yost said.
Infante with two hits got his average up to .297 and Gordon, also with a single and a double, improved to .294.
There were enough positives to allow Yost to throw out some good-natured parting comments about the squirrel.
"They could have got him for trespassing because I doubt if he bought a ticket," he said. "And that's the first time I've seen a spectator run on the field where they didn't tackle him and arrest him."
It was a nutty night.