Seven stolen bases. Four sacrifice bunts.
That’s going to be the lingering story from the Royals’ defeat of the A’s in Tuesday’s wild card game: the Royals small-balled the A’s to death, finally prevailing 9-8 in 12 innings.
It seems to be a ludicrous way to sum up a game that included 17 runs scored and 28 hits. But there’s no denying that the Royals did the “little things” exceptionally well.
The Royals were 7-for-8 stealing bases. Their big baserunning blunder came in the second, when Billy Butler was caught wandering off first base. Unfortunately, the caught stealing there went to Eric Hosmer, who took off for home rather than leave Butler hanging out to dry.
The Royals sacrificed in the third, ninth, 10th and 11th innings. The first two preceded runs. In the third, Alcides Escobar moved Mike Moustakas from first to second. The Royals went on to collect an RBI double and an RBI single with two outs in the frame. In the ninth, pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson was sacrificed to second by Escobar and then stole third, scoring the tying run on a sac fly. In the 10th and 11th, the Royals failed to plate the runner from second with one out.
It was in the eighth that the Royals’ speed was the biggest factor. Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, pinch-runner Terrence Gore and Alex Gordon all stole bases as part of a three-run frame. Perhaps all three runs would have scored anyway; the last runner to score in the inning, Eric Hosmer, didn’t need to steal a base to do so. But perhaps not. The Royals’ speed certainly had the A’s jumpy, not just in the eighth.
So, the steals worked, undeniably. The bunts? One could certainly argue that the Royals would have been better off playing it straight up, and one certainly would be arguing that right now had they lost. After all, the Royals’ hit .341 on the night. It was the eighth, when they didn’t use the bunt, that they had their biggest rally and wreaked the most havoc.