KC Royals: Club plays “pick up” to perfection Friday

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals did what bad teams must do before becoming good teams Friday night. When the big guns were quiet, the rest of the club picked them up.

Coming into Friday night’s game against Minnesota, Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler and Salvador Perez, the top of the evening’s lineup, had accounted for 60 percent of the KC Royals’ home runs, 42 percent of their RBIs, and were together batting 38 points higher than the club ‘s .251 average. But they were suddenly quiet against the Twins.

Combined, the trio went 1-for-11, with Perez’s eighth-inning single their lone hit. Merrifield did walk to lead off the game, but quickly found himself run down on an attempted steal of second base.

No matter, though…the rest of the crew, especially three Royals from whom little had been heard yet this season and a group of sharp pitchers, picked up the uncharacteristically quiet Merrifield, Soler and Perez. The result was a 3-2 win over the Twins, marking the club’s first back-to-back victories of a campaign now 20 percent complete.

This certainly wasn’t the kind of win the Royals rang up the previous night, a 13-2 blowout of the Cubs that supplanted the earlier 14-6 shellacking of Detroit as Kansas City’s finest combined display of hitting and pitching so far. Nevertheless, the win was important–the KC Royals did something teams have to do when they’re striving to become winners.

They picked up the big guns when the guns misfired.

Merrifield, unsurprisingly the best Royal so far this season, entered the game leading the team in home runs (four), RBIs (11) and batting average (.298). Perez, five points behind Merrifield at .293, had two homers and seven RBIs, while Soler had three home runs, six RBIs and a .275 average.

On a not-so-good club like the Royals, their poor Friday night could have spelled the team’s 11th loss in 15 games. But others stepped up.

Nicky Lopez, Nick Heath, and Ryan McBroom accounted for the three Kansas City runs. Unlike Merrifield, Soler, and Perez, they came in hitting .192, .200 and .259, respectively, and had one homer and four RBIs between them.

Lopez and Heath figured prominently in KC’s first run. After Maikel Franco doubled to start the third, Lopez sacrificed him to second; Heath then singled Franco home to tie the game at 1. But Merrifield and Soler struck out to end the potential threat.

Lopez collected an RBI in the fifth when he knocked in Alex Gordon with a single that made it 2-2; Brett Phillips walked to put Lopez in scoring position but, as they’d done two innings before, the Twins killed the threat by retiring Merrifield and Soler.

The next inning gave McBroom his chance to pick up the club’s stars and he came through with a solo home run to make it 3-2. That was all the KC bullpen needed (more on that later).

For the game, Lopez, Heath, and McBroom were 3-for-6, a good performance that was just enough. And for Heath, it was a nice follow-up to Thursday night when he collected his first major league hit and RBI in the same at-bat.

The Royals’ pitching staff, more good than bad this season, was good again…quite good. Jakob Junis made his second post-COVID-19 start of the season and, despite giving up a pair of solo homers, didn’t let the potent Twins get away in his 4.2 innings.

Junis almost made it through the fifth but gave up a single to Jorge Polanco, threw a pitch past Perez that allowed Polanco to advance, then completed Miguel Sano’s at-bat with an intentional walk before giving way to Greg Holland.

Holland got Eddie Rosario on a grounder to end the inning, then retired the Twins in order in the sixth. His 1.1 unblemished innings earned him his second 2020 win.

Josh Staumont, suddenly a staple of the Royals suddenly good relief corps, struck out two in his two-thirds of an inning, but left when he appeared to tweak something following through on a mound made slick by a Kauffman Stadium rain. Scott Barlow gave Minnesota nothing in the ensuing 1.2 innings, and Trevor Rosenthal, showing signs of becoming Mike Matheny’s closer once again–he fulfilled that role when the two were together in St. Louis–finished off the Twins in order in the ninth for the save.

On another night, quieting Merrifield, Soler and Perez might have been enough. But Friday evening in Kauffman, their teammates picked them up and the KC Royals won a close one. The Royals may not be a good team yet, but that’s what good teams do.

Next. For Kyle Zimmer, the time to shine is now. dark

The big guns won’t always have big nights for the KC Royals. Others need to pick them up when they don’t, and that’s what happened Friday night.