Royals take a 4-0 lead with a four-run third inning in Game 1 of the ALCS

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Update: The Orioles got a run back in the bottom half of the third inning. Nick Markakis led off with a double down the right field line and moved to third base on Alejandro De Aza’s ground out to second base. Markakis scored on an Adam Jones line drive single to left field, cutting the score to 4-1. It could have been worse, but Alex Gordon saved an additional run from scoring when he made a sprawling catch in the gap in left-center to retire Steve Pearce for the third out.

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Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar belted a high 2-0 Chris Tillman fastball into the seats in left field at Camden Yards to give his team a 1-0 lead with one out in the top of the third inning. The Royals weren’t done.

Tillman continued to struggle after allowing the home run to Escobar, serving up a single to Norichika Aoki and walking Lorenzo Cain. He then fell behind Eric Hosmer 3-0, but battled back to record a strikeout. Billy Butler reached when first baseman Steve Pearce couldn’t handle the bounce on J.J. Hardy’s throw on a ground ball deep in the hole, loading the bases. With a full count, Alex Gordon cleared the bases with a broken-bat bloop down the right field line, upping the Royals’ lead to 4-0. Mercifully, Salvador Perez flied out to left field to end the inning.

Tommy Hunter began warming up in the bullpen during Gordon’s at-bat. Tillman will head into the fourth inning having thrown 59 pitches.

The Royals notably entered the post-season having hit 95 home runs during the regular season. Shockingly, they hit four in their sweep of the Angels and it appears they are continuing the power surge to begin the ALCS.

Escobar is not exactly known for his power, either. The 27-year-old hit only three home runs in 620 plate appearances during the regular season, and has hit just 21 in his career spanning 3,198 plate appearances.

The Royals are paying everyone. Why can’t all of the other teams?

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Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.

The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.

Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.

While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.

Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?