Ned Yost, one of only two managers to lead the KC Royals to a World Series title, will join the club's Hall of Fame before Saturday night's game against Boston at Kauffman Stadium.
Forgive yourself if you understandably expected Yost's induction to be the highlight of Kansas City's three-game weekend series with the Red Sox. The Royals, after all, had lost six games in a row and 13 of their last 15 and stood a franchise-record 53 games under .500 before Jordan Lyles, loser of more games than any other big league pitcher this season, threw the first pitch of Friday evening's opener.
And never mind Boston's recent struggles — the Sox had lost seven of their last 10, but at 69-65 were winners of 28 more games than their hosts, and still harbor hopes of landing a Wild Card spot.
So it was, then, that the only, thing KC fans really had to look forward to Friday was the big league debut of Nick Loftin, who the club made one of its September call-ups before the game.
But the Royals turned the tables on expectations. And then demolished them. Exploding with their finest offensive performance of an otherwise horrible season, and recipients of Lyles' best pitching of the campaign, they punished Boston all evening and walked away with an astonishingly easy 13-2 win.
The Royals hadn't beaten a team that badly all season — the 11-run margin is their biggest of the season and they hadn't scored that many runs in a game before Friday,
How did it all happen?
The KC Royals simply annihilated Boston at the plate Friday night
Maligned with good reason much of this disappointing season, Kansas City's bats were ablaze against the Red Sox. Bobby Witt Jr. and Salvador Perez began the attack with solo home runs in the first; Witt's, his 28th with 26 games left to play, almost assures him of becoming the franchise's first 30-30 player (he already has 38 stolen bases), and Perez's gave the eight-time All-Star his seventh 20-homer campaign.
Their blasts gave Lyles a 2-0 lead, but his teammates were far from done. They chipped away for four more runs in the second and Loftin, who worked Boston starter James Paxton for a walk in the second, expanded Lyle's cushion to seven when he doubled home a run in the third.
Then, a huge sixth inning gave Kansas City a 13-run lead that even its shaky bullpen couldn't blow. Perez accounted for two of those sixth-frame runs with his second homer of the night and Nelson Velázquez clubbed a two-run shot of his own, the sixth home run he's given the Royals since coming up from Omaha Aug. 10.
And although Witt and Perez ended the night with three hits apiece and Velázquez had two, the offensive wealth didn't belong to them alone. The Royals banged out 17 hits in all, including two each from Loftin, Maikel Garcia, and Freddy Fermin, Only Dairon Blanco and Samad Taylor didn't manage a hit, but they came in late and only Blanco reached the plate.
Boston barely touched KC Royals starter Jordan Lyles
Lyles controlled the Red Sox from the beginning. After holding only one team scoreless all year (he didn't allow the Tigers a run in a six-inning mid-July start), Lyles shut out Boston for 7.2 innings before Alex Verdugo nicked him for a two-run homer in the eighth. He finished the inning without incident before manager Matt Quatraro turned to Steven Cruz to finish the Sox off in the ninth.
Simply put, Lyles was excellent. He struck out seven, walked no one, and gave up only four hits. The effort shouldn't change the fact that at 4-15, and despite the one season remaining on his current two-year contract, he's someone the club should strongly consider not bringing back for 2024. But for at least this night, he was a joy to watch.
And so were his teammates.