The Royals continue to play to type. A team that's never going to slug, Kansas City has to win with speed, defense, and timely hitting, or it's not going to win at all. There was no repeat base-stealing extravaganza in last night's 3-2 Game 1 win over the Angels, but the timely hitting showed up with Mike Moustakas's 11th inning home run that was his first in six weeks. Yet it would never have gotten that far without the outfield theatrics of Lorenzo Cain and Nori Aoki.
"It feels like there's five guys out there when they make plays like that," said starter Jason Vargas, who threw six innings of two-run ball, and only because of his backup. "If we don't make the catches that we did, we're not in here celebrating."
Cain was able early, skying to haul in a first-inning drive from Kole Calhoun, then charging in to snag an Erick Aybar liner in the second.
After stealing seven times on Tuesday, the Royals had but one last night. They didn't get many guys on, and Jered Weaver's pickoff move is an excellent one—he nailed Aoki in the first. But speed isn't just about running the bases. It's what allowed Cain (28 SB on the season) to get into position to make a play on Aybar's liner, and what allowed Aoki (17 SB) to cover so much ground after misreading fly balls.
Aoki—perhaps making his catches more difficult than they strictly had to be—saved at least three runs by robbing Howie Kendrick and C.J. Cron in the sixth and seventh. "We have a great outfield, and I'm just trying to keep up with everyone else," he joked.
"Saved the game for us both times," Ned Yost said.
There's more to the Royals, of course. Vargas was solid, and the bullpen bent but didn't break. But if Kansas City is to survive, it's going to need to rack up a few improbabilities like these each game. It's the sort of high-wire act you're forced to walk when you can't hit for shit.
"This game was not won and lost in that 11th inning," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It was won by Kansas City with four incredible defensive plays. Lorenzo Cain and Aoki in right field. That's where the game was won for Kansas City."