The Royals' No. 9 hitters have batted .282, the best mark at that spot in the Major Leagues. Entering play Monday, the Kansas City No. 9 hitters also led baseball in hits (89) and doubles (26) while ranking second in total bases (133) and slugging percentage (.421), trailing the Toronto Blue Jays in both categories.
What has been the secret to Kansas City's nine-hole success? The main reason is Alcides Escobar, who has started as the No. 9 hitter a team-high 36 times.
"That would be a correct assumption -- with Esky hitting .300, yeah," manager Ned Yost said.
Escobar is having a stellar season, entering play Monday hitting .313 with 21 doubles and 27 RBIs. Batting ninth, Escobar has hit .309 with 12 doubles and 11 RBIs. He has since been bumped up to the No. 2 spot, where he's continued his success.
Second baseman Chris Getz, who has hit ninth five times this year, added to the RBI total with his run-scoring single Sunday against the White Sox. He had his own take on the team's nine-hole success.
"It says a lot, I guess, about the guys who are getting on base in front of them, really. It means that whoever's in the nine-hole has been putting together productive at-bats," Getz said.
Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has always referred to the ninth-place hitter as the second leadoff man, and he uttered the phrase just last week in Kansas City when unveiling the National League lineup for the All-Star Game. Getz said he saw the logic behind La Russa's way of thinking.
"There's definitely something to it," Getz said. "I think it depends on who's down there. But for the most part, it's typically a guy that could easily be a leadoff hitter, as well, a guy that can put the bat on the ball, put together a good at-bat. I think that's the reason why they put him in the nine-hole, versus maybe seven or eight, or maybe two."
The No. 9 hitter in Monday's game against the Mariners was catcher Salvador Perez, the ninth position player Yost has started in that spot this season. Yost said he wasn't too keen on putting Perez, who is hitting .373 this season, last on the lineup card, but he had no choice.
"I don't want to hit Sal ninth. I don't have any other spot to hit him right at this moment," Yost said. "I've been sitting here, looking at it, trying to figure out how to get Sal up in the lineup because I think he's a middle-of-the-order guy."