KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One by one, they exited. Eric Hosmer in the moments before the fifth. Mike Moustakas with one out in the sixth. Lorenzo Cain for a pinch runner. Alcides Escobar in the middle of the seventh.
Royals manager Ned Yost planned this, of course, planned it as his team approached its final weekend here at Kauffman Stadium. He wanted to give his pending free agents another chance to soak in the adulation as the curtains closed on the 2017 season. And while the execution was not perfect — Hosmer’s departure before the fifth inning caught most fans off guard — the emotions remained the same.
In a 4-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday night, the Royals’ championship core paid the favor back to a crowd of 32,727. Cain finished 1 for 2 with a walk and run scored. Moustakas went hitless after an emotional pregame ceremony celebrating his record-breaking 38 homers. Hosmer collected another hit as his batting average settled at .317.
The biggest swing of the night belonged to rookie Jorge Bonifacio, who clubbed a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth that erased a 2-1 deficit. The 410-foot blast, combined with another quality start from starter Jakob Junis, helped the Royals secure their fourth victory in five games and keep alive the hope of a fifth straight .500 season.
A possible 81-81 finish will be secondary this afternoon, when Hosmer, Moustakas, Cain and Escobar play what could be their final game in a Royals uniform. But if you are going to say goodbye, you might as well do it in style.
On Saturday, the evening began with a special surprise during a pregame ceremony. The Royals had planned to honor Moustakas for his record-breaking season at the plate. Yet as he stood out near the mound, ready to throw out the first pitch, he did not know what would come next. Hosmer grabbed the microphone and spoke to the crowd. Moments later, he announced the arrival of Moustakas’ father, Mike Sr., who walked slowly out to the mound to join his son.
Two years after the death of his mother, Connie, Moustakas threw out the first pitch with his daughter, Mila, in his arms and his father by his side. The scene set the mood for the rest of the evening.
The Royals would take a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Moustakas grounded into a double play with Cain on third base. Junis would allow two runs before departing after six innings. Bonifacio hammered a three-run shot to left in the sixth. Mike Minor worked around a leadoff double in the ninth, notching his sixth save of the year.
As Minor recorded a strikeout for the game’s final out, the crowd let out a lusty roar. There will be more like it on Sunday afternoon.