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Soler nears Royals HR record in wild extras win

O'Hearn's 2nd jack of the game in 10th foils Indians in finale
@FlannyMLB
August 25, 2019

CLEVELAND -- Here are three takeaways from the Royals’ pulsating 9-8 win in 10 innings over the Indians on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field. Soler inches closer to history Jorge Soler's longest home run drought of the season -- 10 games -- finally ended in dramatic fashion. The slugging designated

CLEVELAND -- Here are three takeaways from the Royals’ pulsating 9-8 win in 10 innings over the Indians on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field.

Soler inches closer to history

Jorge Soler's longest home run drought of the season -- 10 games -- finally ended in dramatic fashion. The slugging designated hitter blasted a two-run home run in the Royals’ five-run eighth inning, edging him closer to a franchise record.

Box score

Soler’s 36th home run tied him for second place on the Royals’ single-season home run list with Steve Balboni (1985). Soler, who sported "El Crudo" on his Players' Weekend jersey, now is within two of tying Mike Moustakas’ club record for homers in a season (38 in 2017).

Soler sent reliever Nick Wittgren’s 3-1 fastball a projected 437 feet, per Statcast, to left field. That broke a 3-3 tie. Soler swung and missed a 3-0 Wittgren fastball before finding his pitch on the next offering.

“The 3-1 pitch was a little better because it was closer to me,” Soler said through interpreter Pedro Grifol.

Soler admits he has been feeling “anxious” because he hadn’t homered since Aug. 11 in Detroit.

“It’s been about 10 games I know,” he said. “I usually feel one coming off the bat every four or five games.”

Part of the problem is that opposing pitchers simply have been pitching around him.

“They’ve been pitching me well this series and on this trip,” Soler said. “I don’t know that it’s where the pitcher wanted to throw it [today]. But I’m happy I got it.”

O’Hearn saves the day

That 8-3 Royals lead evaporated when the Indians pushed one run across on a homer by Franmil Reyes off Jacob Barnes in the eighth, and then shocked closer Ian Kennedy with four more in the ninth. Three of the runs off Kennedy came off Reyes’ second homer of the game.

But Ryan O'Hearn, who had hit his eighth homer this season in the third, smashed the go-ahead home run in the 10th off Nick Goody.

The two-homer game was a welcome sight for O’Hearn, who has struggled this season, hitting just .171. But O’Hearn, whose Players' Weekend nickname was "Brohearn," also has been victimized lately, hitting hard shots right at defenders, especially in this series. His average exit velocity is over 89 mph, above the MLB average.

"Yeah, it stinks when you're hitting the ball hard and it's going right at guys,” O’Hearn said. “You want to help the team, help score runs. It just wasn't happening. So today it was nice to come out and hit the ball hard again, and this time I helped out."

O’Hearn said the mood was positive in the dugout entering the 10th inning, even after the Royals had blown an 8-3 lead.

"I didn't have much time to think about it,” O’Hearn said. “As soon as the inning was over, I was the first guy up. I got in there, got my stuff, and got ready to hit. [Losing a big lead] can be tough, but it's part of the game. As far as I know, nobody was down or anything."

Royals manager Ned Yost had a premonition before the game about O’Hearn.

"The umpires have been frustrating him a little bit,” Yost said. “But I said, ‘You've got to keep your cool, play your game.' I said, ‘You're not going to have to worry about the umpires because you're going to have a great day today.’”

A good week for Lopez

Even after O’Hearn’s homer, there was still drama because Kennedy was replaced by right-hander Jorge Lopez, who has a 6.19 ERA, in the bottom of the 10th.

But Lopez was solid, tossing a 1-2-3 inning -- striking out two -- for his first career save.

“It feels great. ... I knew I had to be ready [in the 10th],” Lopez said. “I knew I had to trust my stuff. My expectation was that I was the last guy in the bullpen so I really had to execute pitches. I know they got some great hitters. But I had to attack.”

Lopez earlier this week threw five innings of one-run ball in a spot start in Baltimore.

“I have been trying to throw more sinkers than I did before,” he said. “I haven’t been throwing as many four-seamers. I feel comfortable with my sinker. That has helped.”

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.