Bonifacio's three-run homer stings D-backs
KANSAS CITY -- Rookie Jorge Bonifacio smashed a three-run home run and rookie right-hander Jakob Junis tossed six strong innings as the Royals held on for a 4-3 win over the D-backs on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Junis gained his ninth victory, most by a rookie in the American League, by allowing five hits and two runs while walking two and striking out five. Left-hander Mike Minor worked around a leadoff double in the ninth to earn his sixth save and secure a series win.
"I didn't know that [rookie leader in wins], but it's pretty special," Junis said. "More than I could ever ask for in my rookie season."
D-backs right-hander Taijuan Walker was solid in his start through five innings, giving up three hits and one run. He walked one and struck out six.
Royals manager Ned Yost began the process of saluting several of the club's pending free agents, including Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar, by removing them mid-game to huge ovations. Fans could be seeing some of them for the last time in a Royals uniform.
Yost took out Hosmer between innings, expecting the fans to notice. When they didn't, he took the rest of his players out during an inning.
"It was my screwup," Yost said. "I figured that they'd pay attention and they'd throw the ball down and they would see it, and nobody knew what was going on. Being a real smart guy, I figured out real quick that I better wait for an out and everybody get locked back in the game, and it would be right."
D-backs setup man Archie Bradley took the loss after giving up the homer to Bonifacio, just the fourth home run Bradley has allowed this year.
"Just not my best stuff," Bradley said. "I felt good. Velocity was there, just wasn't really executing pitches. I got lucky and picked a guy off, and had the chance to get out of the inning, just made a bad pitch and the guy hit it. Frustrating, you know, I'm used to coming into games and kind of getting into stuff like that or shutting them down. Just kind of use as a learning experience going into what we have coming ahead."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The turning point: Bonifacio jumped on a 2-2 four-seam fastball at 97 mph from Bradley in the sixth inning and belted it a projected 410 feet, according to Statcast™, to left-center with two out. Cain had singled with one out and Ramon Torres also singled with two out, setting up Bonifacio's 17th home run, the most by a Royals rookie since Hosmer hit 19 in 2011.
"I was looking fastball there," Bonifacio said. "He was, all the guys before me, pounding the fastball, fastball, fastball. I was looking for that fastball right there."
Bonifacio appears to have established himself as a strong candidate to be the everyday starter in right field in 2018.
"I don't know about that," Bonifacio said. "I'll just come ready for Spring Training and try to make the team."
Pollock goes yard: D-backs designated hitter A.J. Pollock came up in the sixth with the score tied at 1 against Junis. Pollock worked the count to 3-1 and then pounced on a sinker, belting a home run to left-center that traveled a projected 433 feet, according to Statcast™. It was his 14th homer of the season.
PERALTA AIMS TO GET HEALTHY
D-backs outfielder David Peralta, who logged an RBI double in the fifth, left the game with tightness in his back and neck in the seventh inning. While Peralta dove for a ball in the previous half inning, the back and neck issue started much earlier in the day.
"I just felt some tightness today around my back and my neck," Peralta said. "We did some stuff before the game and everything was feeling better, but just during the game it was getting stiff so I didn't want to do anything crazy or swing and make it like really bad because the important day is Wednesday."
Peralta and manager Torey Lovullo expect him to be in the starting lineup on Sunday. Lovullo would like to get his starters a few at-bats before taking them out in preparation for Wednesday's National League Wild Card Game.
D-backs: Left-hander Robbie Ray will get the ball at 12:15 p.m. MST on Sunday against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium as the D-backs play their final tuneup before the postseason. Ray's outing is expected to be an abbreviated one so he can be ready if needed in relief against the Rockies.
Royals: Left-hander Jason Vargas (18-10, 3.94 ERA) will start the season finale against the D-backs on Sunday at 2:15 p.m. CT. Vargas is trying to become the first Royals pitcher to win at least 19 games since Bret Saberhagen in 1989. Vargas gave up one run and five hits over six innings in a 2-1 win over the Tigers on Tuesday.
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