Alcides Escobar leading Royals' charge with MVP-like ALCS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Alcides Escobar is first in the Kansas City Royals’ lineup and No. 1 when it comes to potential MVP candidates for his club in the American League Championship Series.

The Royals still need one more victory to advance to the World Series for a second consecutive season, and Escobar has led the way to a 3-2 series lead over the Toronto Blue Jays.

For all of his success at the plate in the ALCS, most notable for Escobar has been his insistence on swinging at the first pitch the Royals see from whichever Blue Jays pitcher has been on the mound.

Five games so far have meant five first-pitch swings, and Escobar has a hit on two of them. In two games, he managed to put the second pitch in play for hits.

Taking into account his first at-bats in each game, Escobar has four hits in five chances, finally making a first-inning out in Game 5 against Marco Estrada. But when he led off the fourth inning against Estrada, he managed to get a hit.

Escobar isn’t one to work deep into counts anyway, but nobody could have expected that the Blue Jays would have made a pitch close enough to the plate for him to take his five first-pitch swings after seeing the trend.

“Yeah, that surprised me right there, because everybody knows I swing at the first pitch and continue to throw a strike,” Escobar said. “If he does pitch it, continue to throw a strike, I'll continue to swing the bat.”

It is far from a conventional approach, but the Royals have no complaints. Escobar is not only batting .526 in the series (10-for-19), he has a .737 slugging percentage and his OPS is through the roof at 1.259. He is tied for the team high with five RBIs as the leadoff man and has a team-leading 14 total bases.

The other top Royals candidate who could give Escobar a potential run as the series MVP award would be Ben Zobrist, who has a .318 batting average, a .591 slugging percentage and 13 total bases.

But Escobar’s run is reaching historic proportions. The only other leadoff man to record at least 10 hits and five RBIs in a league championship series is Dustin Pedroia of the 2007 Boston Red Sox.

Escobar batted .257 in the regular season, with a .320 slugging percentage. But the postseason continues to be the place where Escobar delivers.

During the past two postseasons, Escobar is hitting a cool .333 (35-for-105) and has a .351 on-base percentage and a .476 slugging percentage. Those 35 hits are tied with Willie Wilson for second most in Royals postseason history. Just 10 hits in front of Escobar is Hall of Famer George Brett, who had 45 postseason hits.

Escobar obviously is playing inspired baseball.

“Everybody wants to win the World Series,” he said. “They fight now for one more game. Another win tonight and that's really close to being in the World Series again, the second year in a row for me and all my teammates.”