KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The grin spread across Ned Yost's face inside his office. It was Monday afternoon, a full day before a 9-5 victory over Cleveland that boosted the Royals' record back to .500, and a reporter had mentioned the perception that Kansas City manager is "stubborn" because he refuses to shuffle his batting order.
"How am I stubborn?" he asked, his tone riding the line between mockery and incredulity. "Because I won't do what people that don't really have any experience doing this want me to do? And that makes me stubborn?"
When the response was affirmative, Yost appeared almost gleeful. He shook his head and smiled. "Well," he continued, "it doesn't matter. I'm going to do what I know what is right. I'm not going to bow to any pressure to move guys because writers or fans or radio people want me to."
A day later, Yost had even more reason to grin. In the first half of a two-game set with the Indians, Omar Infante, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler -- his much-maligned hitters batting second through fourth -- drove in four runs in a third-inning rally. Hosmer also clobbered a two-run shot in the fifth inning. Alex Gordon launched a solo shot in the eighth, and Mike Moustakas soon followed with a two-run blast.
The offense buoyed Jason Vargas (6-2, 3.30 ERA), who baffled Cleveland until the eighth inning. He tired and allowed three runs in his final frame, but still held the line as the Royals (32-32) worked to reverse a troubling trend. Prior to Tuesday, they had only won six of their 21 games against opponents from the American League Central.
The Indians stormed into Kauffman Stadium with nine wins in their last 10 games. They had amassed 17 runs the night before, and on Tuesday started a pitcher who had overwhelmed the Royals in their last encounter. On April 24, a brisk day at Progressive Field, Corey Kluber authored first complete game of his career, a four-hit mastering of his guests.
Two of those hits belonged to Jarrod Dyson. He received a start in the place of Nori Aoki on Tuesday. Dyson stroked a single to open the bottom of the first. Two pitches later, the inning was over: Infante bounced into a double play, and Hosmer rolled grounder over to second base.
The construction of the Royals lineup continues to vex observers. Infante entered Tuesday with one hit in his previous 21 at-bats. Hosmer was batting .167 during his last 26 games. And Butler has yet to break free from a season-long power outage.
And yet all three come to the plate more often than Gordon and Lorenzo Cain, the team's two most productive hitters. Yost refuses to budge. He believes juggling the batting order would disrupt the psyche of his players.
"I still have confidence that these guys are going to start hitting their career norms here pretty quick," he said. "And put some runs on the board."
In the third inning, the group rewarded him for his obstinacy. Moustakas opened the door with a one-out walk and Alcides Escobar slapped a single to left. The Indians provided some help -- when Dyson grounded into a potential double play, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera dropped the feed at second base.
Infante stepped in with the bases loaded. He dunked an RBI single into center. Kluber fell behind Hosmer, but still shattered his bat with a 3-1 slider. At first base, converted catcher Carlos Santana bobbled the baseball. The Indians could only record an out at first, and the Royals had their second run.
They doubled that total two pitches later. Butler shot a single through the right side of the infield, near an area vacated by second baseman Jason Kipnis' shift.
Considering Vargas' effort, the four runs were plenty. But Hosmer provided some extra comfort. He lifted a knee-high sinker over the fence in right-center field. He now has three homers on the season, and his manager now has more evidence for his stubbornness -- even if Yost doesn't see himself that way.
Cleveland scored twice against reliever Aaron Crow in the ninth to make the final score 9-5.
(c)2014 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)
Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services