There are three spots in the batting order that traditionally have been viewed as having more importance than any of the others. Dayton Moore and company have on multiple occassions expressed their belief that if you can field a quality leadoff, three hole, and clean up hitter the team can consistentely provide quality offense.
For the first time in the Dayton Moore era we can safely say that the Royals have found answers for each of these three spots. But instead of a persuasive essay to convince you, let's just look at how the bottom of the 9th unfolded last night.
Leading off the bottom of the ninth for the Kansas City Royals number 4. Alex Gordon.
After falling down in the count 0-2 against hard throwing lefty Matt Thornton, Alex did what any good leadoff hitter would do in that situation, he battled back.
95 mph fastball. Foul (0-2)
81 mph slider. Ball (1-2)
96 mph fastball. Foul (1-2)
96 mph fastball. Foul (1-2)
83 mph slider. Ball (2-2)
97 mph fastball. Ball (3-2)
Finally on the ninth pitch of the at bat, Gordon found a pitch that he could do something with and ripped it in between the first and second basemen into right field.
There are two thngs that didn't happen in this at bat that should be noted. First, Gordon laid off the slider in. Up until this season the slider from left handed pitchers was Alex Gordon's biggest and most glaring weakness. The pitch seemed to consistently find the hole in his swing, when time and time again he would show the inability to lay off the pitch and would instead find nothing but air with his swing.
Second, Gordon's stayed agressive throughout the entire at bat. In the past Gordon would often get deep into at bats by taking a passive approach and then eventually this passiveness would do in him, in the form of a called strike three. Now, Gordon is always looking for the right pitch to hit and with his natural pitch recognition abilities is able to work counts, while also not being vulnerable for the called strike three.
Stepping to the Melky Cabrera.
One pitch, one perfect sacrifice. Gordon to second with one out.
Now batting the designated hitter, number 16 Billy Butler.
The White Sox made the smart tactical move and intentionally walked Butler. First and second, one out. Of course unlike in the past the White Sox were forced to pick their poison as opposed to walking the three hitter in order to get to an obviously weaker cleanup man. Finally that leads us to...
Up for the Royals, the first baseman, number 35, Eric Hosmer.
On the second pitch of the at bat, Eric Hosmer did what he does best when he laced a Matt Thornton fastball over left fielder Juan Pierre's head for a game winning double.
The Royals have the pieces in place in the three most critical spots of the lineup for at least the next two seasons. If we can extend Gordon, maybe even we can have those pieces in place for the next four seasons. Either way the Royals could finally have an offense that for the next several years will be a force in the American League Central.