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Royals exploit Cabrera’s absence with safety squeeze

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — It would have been a tough play for a seasoned first baseman. 

For Jarrod Saltalamacchia   who on Monday made just his seventh appearance at first base this season and 13th since 2007  well, it was asking too much.

It was the sixth inning and the Tigers were trailing the Royals 1-0. Saltalamacchia was inserted at first base after Miguel Cabrera left the game with a strained left biceps in the top of the fifth. 

Tigers starter Daniel Norris gave up a one-out double to Alex Gordon. Gordon went to third on a wild pitch and Norris walked Alcides Escobar.

At that point, manager Brad Ausmus summoned Alex Wilson to face No. 9 hitter Raul Mondesi.

Mondesi pushed a bunt towards Saltalamacchia. It was a safety squeeze. It looked like he had a play on Gordon at the plate, but Saltalamacchia’s first move was to look to second base. Escobar was already sliding into the bag.

By that time, he didn’t even have a play at first. Run scored, everybody safe.

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“We talked about it when I made the pitching change, that he might try and bunt, drop down a squeeze here,” Ausmus said. “Salty’s just not used to playing first base like Miguel is, so a little bit is reactionary. If you asked him now, he’d say he should have gone home with the ball. 

“But that’s what happens sometimes when you’re out of position and not fully familiar with it at the major-league level.”

Third baseman Casey McGehee wasn’t so sure Saltalamacchia had a play at the plate.

“It would have really close,” he said. “That’s what speed does, though. It puts pressure on the defense. You have to make some really quick decisions.”

Ausmus was asked why he chose Saltalamacchia to replace Cabrera, instead of Andrew Romine. 

“Because Salty can inject some power,” Ausmus said. “He's going to be hitting right in the thick of the lineup. He's played first for us a number of times before and he can get a hold of one and change the game with one swing of the bat.”

It ended up being the winning run in the Royals’ 3-1 win.

Twitter @cmccosky

With Ian Kinsler covering first base, Raul Mondesi reaches first on a bunt that scores a run in the sixth inning to make it 2-0 Royals.