That the KC Royals, consistent achievers of more bad than good this season, imploded and blew a 6-0 seventh-inning lead at Colorado Sunday wasn’t especially surprising. The frame ended with the Royals behind, a position all too familiar to them this season.
What was surprising, however, was that it didn’t matter. Kansas City scored twice in the ninth and left Coors Field with an 8-7 victory and 2-1 series victory over the Rockies.
And right in the middle of it all was Whit Merrifield. Suffering the worst season of his career but enjoying one if his best games of this still young season, Merrifield went 2-for-6 and drove in two runs. He drilled a leadoff solo home run in the sixth to give the Royals a 3-0 lead, then drove home their sixth run with a sac fly in the seventh.
Had Merrifield’s bat been as disturbingly quiet as it has most of 2022, he wouldn’t have accounted for those two runs, and KC probably wouldn’t have won.
Merrifield, though, may be in the early stages of a resurgence. The signs are there.
Whit Merrifield is suddenly looking and hitting better for the KC Royals.
To understand where he’s been this year is to understand why Merrifield might be turning the proverbial corner.
The 2022 campaign has been a slump like he’s never seen, one so miserable that he hasn’t been on or above the dreaded Mendoza Line (.200) in over a month. So ineffectual had he become by late April that manager Mike Matheny ended Merrifield’s long tenure in the leadoff spot after his average dropped to .127 following an 0-for-4 night against the White Sox.
He entered May slashing .141/.190/.179. But his difficulties only grew more profound as the month progressed—he arrived in Texas last week slashing .135/.177/.163; he didn’t have a homer to his name, and had only six RBIs.
Saying Merrifield was struggling grossly understated the situation.
But now, saying Merrifield may coming around understates nothing.
Texas was more than hospitable to him in a three-game series last week—Ranger pitching allowed him five hits in 13 at-bats (.384), and his 3-for-4 performance Wednesday included his first home run of the season and moved Matheny to restore him to his customary leadoff slot the next day.
Merrifield’s improved bat then accompanied the Royals to Colorado, where his 6-for-19 (.315) included a pair of two-hit games. He also drove in five runs and hit his second homer.
Can Whit Merrifield be declared cured after his recent surge for the Royals?
Merrifield impressed during the final six games of Kansas City’s road trip. He hit .370, collected his first two homers of the year, and his seven RBIs were more than he’d managed all season.
Merrifield is suddenly hot. He appears more comfortable at the plate. He’s better than he was.
But he’s still under Mendoza—he returns to KC for the Royals’ eight-game homestand with the White Sox and Twins hitting .183. To proclaim Merrifield “back” and cured of his offensive ills, then, would be premature. There’s work left to be done.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Merrifield isn’t breaking out. To the contrary, he appears to be.
Let’s hope he is.
Time will tell whether Whit Merrifield is back.