The Royals found the solution to their production woes with runners in scoring position that has plagued them over the last week: grind out a 10-pitch at-bat with the bases loaded.
Dyson kept his approach simple against Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi in his second at-bat. He learned plenty after his first at-bat against the right-hander. The approach? Don’t hit the ball back to the pitcher.
“He was feeding me a lot of fastballs away and I just stayed with that approach,” Dyson said. “I actually was trying to hit something through the six-hole because they left a gap wide open for me. That at-bat, I wasn’t coming off the fastball no matter what he was doing and I just put some good wood on it.”
The Royals, who won their first series against Boston since 2017, were working out of an early deficit after starter Mike Minor yielded a two-run homer in the second. They had already cut the lead down to one run with Adalberto Mondesi, who went 2-for-3 in the series finale, scoring on a fielding error by first baseman Bobby Dalbec.
Salvador Perez knocked in the first run of the third inning with a line-drive single that scored Whit Merrifield, who led off the inning with a single and later hit a two-run homer in the sixth. Mondesi followed with a double as Kelvin Gutierrez’s walk in the next at-bat loaded the bases.
The situation was amplified when Hunter Dozier was called out on strikes for the second out. Leading up to Sunday, the Royals were batting .090 with runners in scoring position in their previous eight games, which was highlighted by going 0-for-11 on Saturday.
But Dyson flipped the script against Eovaldi’s rising pitch count. Dyson fouled off five consecutive pitches after he worked the count to 2-2. The mix of four-seam fastballs, curveballs and cutters finally paid off when Dyson connected on the 10th pitch and lined it to left field to plate Perez and Mondesi, who was removed from the game at the start of the top of the seventh inning with discomfort in his side, with the go-ahead runs.
“He fouled off some good curveballs, some good back-door cutters.” Eovaldi said. “I kind of wanted to try to stick the fastball down and away, but it’s easy to look back at it now and be like, ’Oh, I should’ve done this, should’ve done that.’”
Manager Mike Matheny described Dyson’s at-bat as “one of the best at-bats of the year,” regardless of what the outcome was. Kansas City has been searching for that type of at-bat with runners in scoring position and found it in Dyson, who’s in his second go-around with the Royals.
“Those are those grinding at-bats that we talked about and then to be able to knock in a couple runs, you go out of your way to celebrate with him,” Matheny said. “That one really drove [Eovaldi] up to about 35 pitches that inning, then you have them on their heels and you know they’re tired, you know it’s hot, it’s been a long inning; those are the times when you make those big innings happen.”
Kansas City loaded the bases again in the sixth, this time with two consecutive singles and a walk that followed Merrifield’s sixth homer of the season. When Dozier stepped up to the plate, he found himself in the same situation as Dyson did in the third: bases loaded and two outs.
Dozier provided like Dyson did three innings before him. He connected for an RBI single that provided enough insurance as Boston attempted a comeback with its respective bases-loaded situation in the eighth.
The 36-year-old isn’t the everyday player he once was, but he’s helped set the tone for a young group that is navigating its way through inconsistencies. His patience at the plate set an example of how a player can contribute to a game in more ways than one.
“I have to show my leadership from being around for a while,” Dyson said. “I just tell the guys, ‘You got to stay positive no matter what’s going on. If your average is not where it’s at, you still have to stay positive every at-bat. In this game when you’re going bad, sometimes you have to lie to yourself and tell yourself it ain’t that bad.’”