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Francoeur turns unusual assist against A's

Francoeur turns unusual assist against A's

Francoeur turns unusual assist against A's
OAKLAND -- Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur was well-armed and on target on Wednesday afternoon, pulling off a rarity.

Francoeur startled Michael Taylor by throwing him out at first base -- yes, first base -- after the A's rookie seemed to have lined a single into right field in the second inning.

But Francoeur fielded the ball on the first bounce and whipped a throw to first baseman Eric Hosmer. Instead of getting his second Major League hit, Taylor was the third out of the inning. Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

"I knew it was going to be a close play," Taylor said. "I hit it and knew I hit it right at him. I took off and it hopped right to him, and he made a strong throw. It was a great play. He did everything he was supposed to do, and I did what I was supposed to do, and he came out on top."

It was the first time a Royals right fielder had thrown out a runner at first base since at least 1974, which is as far back as could be determined. The A's Ryan Sweeney was the last right fielder in the American League to pull off the feat, just last season.

It wasn't a first for Francoeur, however, who did it in his National League days.

"I did it one time before in my career, against Mat Latos in San Diego. He's a pitcher, though, so that probably doesn't count," Francoeur said. "This is definitely the first position player ever. I wasn't even thinking about it. The ball was just laced at me with the perfect hop, and you've got to give Hoz a lot of credit, too, because he saw how hard I was charging and he just ran right to the bag and I just let it go. You kind of feel bad because you do it to a guy in his fourth game in the big leagues, but hey, that was really, really fun."

It's a real rarity in the AL where pitchers don't bat. This was just the fifth time since 1974 that a 9-3 play has been recorded in the AL. It's happened 31 times in the NL, presumably often with pitchers as the targets.

The other AL right fielders to pull it off: Bernie Carbo of the Brewers on June 18, 1976, against the A's Phil Garner; Harold Baines of the White Sox on Sept. 9, 1984, against the Angels' Rob Wilfong; Orlando Merced of the Blue Jays on May 5, 1997, against the Tigers' Jody Reed, and Sweeney of the A's on July 2, 2010, against the Indians' Mike Redmond.

Garner is now a special advisor to the A's and is an extra coach during September. So he was in the dugout for a little déjà vu.

Hosmer alertly covered first base despite the apparent safe hit.

"I just turned around and saw Frenchy charging pretty hard at it," Hosmer said. "He was telling me when we were in Toronto and [catcher Jose] Molina came up, to watch out for it. And in Interleague, for the pitchers. So I had it in the back of my mind. It was a pretty cool play -- the highlight of the day."

That was only Francoeur's second assist of the game. In the first inning, he ran down Coco Crisp's double along the right-field line and threw to second baseman Johnny Giavotella. He relayed the ball to catcher Salvador Perez who turned off-balance and was bowled over by Jemile Weeks, trying to score from first base.

"There was nowhere for me to slide. The only way to get to the plate, really, was to go on top of him," Weeks said.

Perez held the ball for the out, but he was stunned by the collision and was tended for a few minutes by Royals head athletic trainer Nick Kenney. Finally, Perez was deemed OK to continue.

"He stayed in the game, he's a very tough kid," Royals starter Bruce Chen said. "Not only is he going to be good, but he has a lot of heart when he plays."

The two assists gave Francoeur 15 for the season, boosting the Royals' outfield total to a Major League high of 48.

The 9-3 to nail Taylor, though, was one of the season's top moments.

"If there's someone in the league that's going to do it, it's Francoeur," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Taylor hit it hard, he was running hard."

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

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