BALTIMORE -- Oh, those No. 9 hitters in the lineup -- not very important, are they. Bite your tongue. They are for the Royals.
Entering Thursday's series opener with the Orioles, the Royals' ninth-place hitters -- and there have been 12 of them plus pitchers in Interleague games -- were leading the Majors (and, of course, the American League where it really matters) with a .300 average and 119 hits. They ranked second in RBIs with 53, one behind the Rangers.
Second baseman Chris Getz batted ninth for the 13th time on Thursday.
"When it comes to the nine-spot, it's still a slot in the lineup, so it's a place where you at least want some sort of production, and we've been fortunate enough to have a lot of success in that position," Getz said. "A lot of it has something to do with Esky [Alcides Escobar] being there a long time. We might have been sandbagging a little bit with him down there."
Escobar, with 36 starts at No. 9, is hitting .309 (38-for-123) there. Getz has been pretty good himself at .295 (13-for-44).
"As far as a nine-hole hitter, he's another leadoff guy," said Jarrod Dyson, who's made 18 starts in that spot. "That's somebody that the manager looks for to turn that lineup over. If the nine-hole gets on, it turns the lineup back over to the top, and most nine-hole guys are going to be fast."
For most of the season, the Royals' ninth batters have been followed by leadoff man Alex Gordon, who not only is adept at getting on base, but has good power as well.
"And with me being on first," Dyson continued, "that gives Gordo good pitches to hit. So all I've got to do is get on base however I can. Do whatever it takes to get on base so the other guy can get good pitches to hit and drive me in."
Dyson has been dynamic as a No. 9 hitter with a .349 (22-for-63) average and 10 stolen bases. Dyson noted that both he and Getz have good speed and could function in the leadoff role for many other teams.
"People have always said it's a second leadoff guy," Getz said. "Typically a nine-hole hitter is someone who could easily be a leadoff guy with his tool set and speed being one of them."