Jarrod Dyson Kansas City

Game 63 // Eighth Inning, Kansas City // The Butcher Boy

BOTTOM OF THE EIGHTH: ROYALS 7 (0) – 2 INDIANS

 

Behind home plate at Kauffman Stadium are three words that I’m sure are the result of some great prank, pasted into the ad space on the backstop by a group of middle-school gigglers, paying homage to the gods of sophomoric genius:

“Steaks With Hos.”

Steaks with hoes?

If I’m reading it right, the sign is like a remixed reprinting of the centerpiece at the heart of Will Ferrell’s last great film, the takeaway theme song from Step Brothers, two 40-year-old fictional siblings aboard a stolen yacht, realizing their delayed dreams of hip-hop stardom.

Huff & Doback’s first and only single, “Boat’s ‘n Hoes”.

…Boats and hoes, boats and hoes. I gotta have me more boats and hoes…

On second and third look, the sign appears to be accompanied by the cartoon head of Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, his hair mussed up in a black, fiery tangle. Oh. Steaks with “Hos”. Steaks with Eric Hosmer. Alright. Mystery solved. Laughs suppressed. Maturity returned from the kind of inferences only someone ten years younger would make.

 

Eric Hosmer Royals

 

But then again, shouldn’t whoever’s behind this ad know better? An easy substitute, making the pronunciation a no-doubter: Steaks With Hoz, in the vein of Carl “Yaz” Yastrzemski, Boz (from “Bosley”) Scaggs.

Whose company this is an ad for, I’m still unaware. Omaha Steaks, endorsed by Hosmer? A Google search reveals something more interesting: a sweepsteaks held by the Kansas City Steaks Company, awarding a single home-cooked meal for ten, grilled by Hosmer himself—described, with more top-class wit, as “A few hours of grilling, drinking and eating with some prime talent.”

So there you have it, and there I have it: Steaks with Hos. Never judge a book by its cover—a three-word title changing in an instant from crude to autographed cutting board, innuendo to home-cooked wholesome family meal.

Meanwhile, there’s a game going on. A great one, at that, not yet known to the home crowd at Kauffman Stadium, with the Royals down two, shut out by an Indians team surging past them in the AL Central standings.

It’s the bottom of the eighth, K.C. down 2-0, and Alcides Escobar up against Bryan Shaw. He connects on a ground ball up the middle, it shoots spinning off Shaw’s glove, and trickles over to Juan Uribe at third base—too late for a throw. Escober safe at first.

And with the replay showing, something odd, perhaps misheard, from one of the Royals’ TV guys: “There was no chance for Uribe to score Escobar at he smelt that knock.”

Beyond the usage of “score” we’re left with a phrase: “Smelt that knock.” And the effects of three-letter oddities still running amok in Kansas City, coming out through the MLB.tv feed like idioms from another language. “Smelt that knock.”

Google is of no help this time, though the assumed definition might go something like this: “Attempted to field that hit.”

 

Royals Indians July

 

The to-be chef Eric Hosmer comes up next, lofting a jammed-inside fastball into center field, just over second-base. And it’s two men on, no outs. The winning run at the plate. Christian Colon at the bat, pinch-hitting for Kendrys Morales, his name the closest the major-leagues come to the history of the Spanish conquistadors.

The fans start a chant, loudest in the upper decks, trickling down quickly to the first-row seats. Let’s go, Roy-als!! Simple, but enthused. Repetitive. Rowdy.

Colon squares up to bunt on a 2-0 count, the corner infielders creep in, and in a quick, surprise motion draws back the bat, slaps at the pitch, and there’s a scream in the broadcast booth: “and LOOK AT THIS!!”

It’s the rare execution of the “butcher boy,” done to perfection, beautiful like the best of all baseball plays. Colon pulls the sleight not on a slap single past cheating infielders, but instead slugs a deep line drive off on a line toward the warning track—well over Tyler Naquin’s head, like a failed off-side trap in soccer, a basketball double-team with the help defense out of position. Caught cheating. Otherwise known as the “slug bunt,” the butcher boy has reappeared and cleaved himself a hit, a butcher driving home a steak-chef. And with power-backed deception he’s tied the game, two Royals charging home to score. 2-2. A ballgame.

“Pull it back,” says one of the TV guys, about the technique, “and then… shock the house!!”

Colon tries to top off the hit with a sprint in to third base, coming up short with the RBIs counted but the triple thwarted. One out. Thrown out, just barely.

 

 

Across the stadium, the score tied, the fans rejoice for the healthy return of their defending champs, seeing again the rally routine they’ve made famous. Babies are held up by proud, happy parents, basking in the indoctrinating glory of a champion showing its colors once again.

On the first pitch of the next at-bat, Salvador Perez pops out. Two quick outs, and amid the party there’s some feeling of regret, letting an open window be closed too early. The table set, and a minute late cleared.

Then comes Alex Gordon. And the stadium rouses back up into its chants, with the organ leading a call-and-response with the fans, like the finale to Close Encounters—some basic, deep communication made with alien life: the crazed, riled-up fans of the Kansas City Royals.

In the Cleveland dugout, Terry Francona holds a cup of Gatorade in his hand, spitting a dark liquid onto the ground just above the dugout’s top step. Must be some new flavor of Gatorade. Must be.

Gordon walks, and Cheslor Cuthbert comes up to restart the rally—his name a parody of male census entry from 1845.

A big whiff on a fastball for a strike. Gordon steals with no throw from the Indians’ catcher. And Shaw gives up another walk, a full-count cutter to Cuthbert, just missed outside. Francona struts out onto the field, points a finger, takes the ball from Shaw. Pitching change, with Jeff Manship coming in.

Manship. Shame on his parents for not naming him Sports.

Paulo Orlando comes up, and the happiest fans in baseball smile into the zoomed-in lenses of the TV cameras, all things restored to positive in the K.C. night.

Manship delivers, and Orlando connects with a line drive to left. Gordon’s sent home. He slides. Perez receives the throw on a dead-strike whipped in from the Ramirez in the outfield. And he’s just under the tag. Safe. 3-2, Royals now ahead.

Orlando pumps his fist on second base, decibels double with Let’s go, Roy-als! at its maxed-out volume.

 

 

Whit Merrifield comes up, draws a walk—an outside fastball missed by no more than an inch.

And then, Jarrod Dyson. Ready to suck all remaining air from Manship’s panting, nervous lungs, an eponymous vacuum programmed for all-out suffocation.

The first pitch. Home run. Wow. Wow. Wow. Grand slam. Four runs come home to score. Ho-ly -f***. A Usain Bolt-like point-to-the-sky celebration, slapping forearms, hands raised with a tap on the helmet, high-fives for Dale Sveum at the top of the dugout steps, and a vintage Royals rally capped off by the kind of hit they never, almost never, hit. The small-ball wizards spellbinding an entire fanbase.

Salvy and Hosmer hug in a tango dance of joy. The cop beside the home dugout jumps for joy, his counterpart next to Francona keeping his cool, just barely. Silence on the TV mics. Let the crowd sing. A long-play record of unintelligible joy, the nightly soundtrack to the heartland’s heaven.

“There is joy in Mudville,” says one of the TV guys, finally, invoking “Casey At The Bat,” its plot flip-flopped into a winning ending.

There is joy in Mudville, indeed—the mighty Royals have struck gold.

 

 

 

Previously:

9th Inning: KCR vs. CHW

9th Inning: KCR vs. WSH

6th Inning: KCR vs. NYM

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