KC Royals: Middle of lineup sparks explosion at plate

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

After a quiet weekend in Cleveland, the KC Royals woke up against the Tigers Monday night. The middle of the lineup was a key.

The KC Royals’ bats, largely inconsequential in a 1-2 season opening series against Cleveland, exploded at Comerica Park Monday night. It took the Royals only four innings to double the meager five weekend runs they scored against the Indians; KC parlayed those 10 runs, including six in the fourth, into an easy 14-6 victory over the Tigers.

Fittingly, it was the middle of the lineup, where teams like to pack run producers, that keyed the club’s sudden attack.

Third baseman Maikel Franco, who entered the game hitting .183 after getting his first two hits of the young season Sunday, hit sixth in the order and led the way with four RBIs and his first two home runs of the season, including one in the Royals’ fourth inning burst. He also singled.

Then there was Ryan O’Hearn. The Royals activated him before the game and he made the most of his return from a positive COVID-19 test–hitting fifth, he singled in his first at bat, added a double and a walk and drove in two runs.

And cleanup man Salvador Perez, who looks early this season like he didn’t miss last season, slammed his second homer of the campaign and scored twice. He’s now hit safely in each of the first four games.

Collectively, the trio went 6-for-13 with four homers and drove in half the KC Royals’ runs.

All that isn’t to say, however, that Kansas City’s middle three did it all themselves. Only the lack of a triple prevented Whit Merrifield, who’s matched Perez with at last one hit in every game so far, from hitting for the cycle–he had a single, double and two-run homer, and added three RBIs.

Jorge Soler, moved by manager Mike Matheny before the game to the second spot in the lineup, hit his second home run, a two-run shot in the third.

And Brett Phillips’ two-run home run in the Royals’ last at-bat allowed the club to tie its single-game home run record of six.

The offensive outburst, the first of the season for the Royals, followed a disappointing weekend against Cleveland when the club was weak at the plate, struck out 40 times, couldn’t manage an Opening Night run, and scored just five over the final two games. The 10-5 lead achieved by Monday night’s six-run fourth frame provided sufficient cushion for a bullpen pressed into early duty after starter Mike Montgomery gave up five runs in the first and was gone after the second.

In his first big league appearance, Forrest Griffin relieved Montgomery and earned his first major league win, although he left the game in the fourth inning with an apparent arm issue. Kevin McCarthy took over and combined with Josh Staumont, Glenn Sparkman and Gabe Speier to limit Detroit to a run on four hits the rest of the way.

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Fueled by the 4-5-6 hitters, the KC Royals’ offense woke up Monday night. It was a welcome sight.