KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After the baseball had fallen from the sky, after Alex Gordon had flung himself onto the warning track and laid face first in the dirt, after Kauffman Stadium witnessed its latest moment of defensive brilliance, Miguel Cabrera moved toward home plate and decided to stop.
It was the top of the fourth on Thursday night, the early moments of the Royals’ 4-0 victory over Detroit, and the stadium was still roaring. The crowd of 30,763 had come to its feet and stayed there, cheering as starting pitcher Edinson Volquez raised his cap into the air.
In the deep part of left field, Gordon was staggering back into position. Back near home plate, Cabrera, the former Triple Crown winner and AL MVP, let the scene continue. Gordon had robbed the Tigers’ Justin Upton with a preposterous diving catch in the left-center gap. The Royals’ defense would win the night, carrying the club to a series victory over Detroit, pushing their record to 10-5 entering a weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles.
Volquez posted seven scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 1.46 after four starts. Mike Moustakas clubbed his fifth homer, a laser beam that landed 414 feet from home plate in center field. Eric Hosmer extended his hitting streak to 11 games — and his streak of reaching base to a career-high 23 games.
But on a cool Thursday night in April, the victory was defined by defense. Hosmer added a diving grab in foul territory. Gordon cut down Jose Iglesias in the third inning on an ill-conceived attempt to go first to third with two outs. And then, one inning later, with the Royals’ lead at 1-0, Gordon turned in the play of the night, chasing down a ball in the spacious acreage of Kauffman Stadium.
The baseball was in the air for more than five seconds, enough time for Upton to nearly reach second base, and enough time for Gordon to cover close to 40 yards. He sprinted into the left-center gap. He sprawled out onto the dirt of the warning track, just a few feet from the base of the wall. As the baseball fell from the sky, he stuck out his glove at the perfect moment, cradling it in the webbing of his glove.
The play would become pivotal when the Tigers loaded the bases in the inning. Volquez escaped the jam by striking out Detroit catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a 95 mph fastball. The Royals turned the inning into a springboard, scoring three runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Alcides Escobar provided the first run with a sac-fly, scoring Omar Infante.
Moments later, Moustakas crushed a solo homer. Lorenzo Cain helped manufacture the final run, stealing third base with two outs, then sprinting home on an error by third baseman Nick Castellanos. The Royals nearly broke the game open in the early innings against Tigers starter Mike Pelfrey, racking up eight base runners during the first two frames.
But somehow, they came away with just one run. In the end, the missed opportunities did not matter. Volquez turned in another sterling effort. The defense backed him for another night.