At first, it seemed as if the Royals' potent offense would continue its surprising surge without skipping a beat. Alcides Escobar led off the game with a sharp double to center field, immediately giving the Royals a runner in scoring position with no one out. Ned Yost's team proceeded to small ball the possibility of a big inning away; Mike Moustakas sacrificed Escobar to third with a bunt, his second sacrifice in three games, and Lorenzo Cain grounded out to score Escobar and give the team an early 1-0 lead.
The Royals again looked to bully the White Sox in the third inning. Paulo Orlando, making his Majors debut, walked in his first plate appearance. Omar Infante then slapped a nice single to center field, his first of the season. Yost and Co. again proceeded with the small ball, as Escobar sacrificed Orlando and Infante to third base and second base with a bunt. Moose, rapidly returning to his career norms, promptly popped out to first base in foul territory. Cain couldn't gather a hit and the inning, which began with two men on and no outs, ended without a score.
But Cain was not at all silent in this ball game. Cain and the defense supported Edinson Volquez valiantly in his first start as a Royal. Volquez was quick and efficient, screaming through the Chicago lineup with poise and excellent execution. In a few instances, hits almost befell Volquez. Thankfully for Kansas City fans, the defense has not yet seemed to lose any steps in their relentless pursuit of white leathery spheroids:
Cain and Volquez were desperately needed as the Royals continued to waste excellent scoring opportunities. In only his second MLB plate appearance, Orlando shot a triple deep into the outfield. Infante, Escobar, and Moustakas failed to bring him home, sacrifice or no.
In an attempt to (successfully) surprise viewers, the Royals turned on the offense like a switch in the sixth inning. Cain doubled and advanced to third on an Eric Hosmer ground out. Kendrys Morales then doubled, bringing Cain in and bumping the score to 2-0 in their favor. Alex Rios meekly grounded out to shortstop. Then, with authority, Salvador Perez swatted a pitch into the left field seats for a two-run home run. With that, John Danks departed.
The White Sox managed to squeeze a run out of Volquez in the seventh inning, a two out rally that didn't rally quite hard enough. Volquez hit Adam LaRoche with a pitch, subsequently bringing about an umpire's warning for the third consecutive game. It did not seem to be malicious; Volquez struggled with control in the inning and immediately walked the next batter, Avisail Garcia. LaRoche would come around to score on an Alexei Ramirez single, but no more damage occurred.
It was a brilliant showing by the Dayton Moore free agent acquisition. Volquez hoisted a final stat line of 8 innings pitched, 4 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts. Greg Holland predictably slammed the door shut in the ninth inning, striking out a pair and collecting his second save of the year.
The Royals' power surge is somewhat of a revelation; after last year's abysmal showing, the Royals have slugged their way to five home runs in this young season in addition to some well-hit doubles (and triple). Somewhat more amazingly, the Royals have done this through committee. Mike Moustakas, Alex Rios, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and Salvador Perez all have one homer. If the group can maintain this momentum through most of the year, this club suddenly gets significantly scarier. The last time they had a power surge like this, they rode it all the way to the World Series.
Tomorrow, the Royals travel to Los Angeles/Anaheim/Californa/The Wild West to face the Angels, whom the Royals crushed in the American League Divisional Series on route to an American League Championship. It is the Angels' home opener. The Royals next play in Kauffman from Friday, April 17 through Wednesday, April 22 and will face the Athletics and Twins.