KANSAS CITY -- When Alcides Escobar is batting second in the Royals' lineup, if the leadoff batter opens the first inning with a single or a walk, Esky is likely to put down a bunt, trying for a hit.
Anyone making a managerial critique might question if playing for one run in the first inning of an American League game is wise. While manager Ned Yost says he never gives a bunt sign in the first inning, he's not against Escobar's idea of bunting for a hit either.
"Do they know what our record is when we score first?" Yost asked, referring to critics. "When we score first we're 38-16. When [opponents] score first we're 11-49."
That's certainly a statistic to ponder and Yost has.
"So I think it would behoove us to score first any way that we possibly could. When Escobar bunts in the first inning, worst-case scenario is nine times out of 10 we're going to have a runner at second base with our three and four hitters coming up. Best-case scenario is we're going to have runners on first and second with nobody out and the three-four hitters coming up," Yost said.
"Now if he swings away, since he's a .300 hitter, the odds are he's probably going to make seven out of 10 outs, but that three times out of 10, is it beneficial to us if he hits a double or a single -- yes. But it's still beneficial to us to put a runner in scoring position to see if we can score first. That's what I don't have a problem when he bunts for a hit in the first inning."
Prior to Tuesday night's game against the A's, Escobar had put down a bunt four straight times after the leadoff batter, either Alex Gordon or Jarrod Dyson, had reached first base in the first inning. Each time he was bunting for a hit, but each time he failed, Escobar was thrown out and the official ruling was a sacrifice bunt.
That wasn't the intended purpose, but the runner was moved up and, on two of those four occasions, the runner scored and the Royals won each time.
"The whole object, according to the stats, is we need to score first any way that we can do it," Yost said. "It doesn't say score four runs first, it doesn't say score three runs first, it says score first. [When we do] our record is 38-16."