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Clutch W-hit: Merrifield delivers in Royals' win

Escobar scores go-ahead run, exits in 9th after being hit by pitch
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have been searching for a clutch hit with runners in scoring position and Whit Merrifield came through.

Merrifield delivered an RBI single, scoring Alcides Escobar from second, with one out in the eighth inning off White Sox reliever Bruce Rondon for a 5-4 win on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.

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KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have been searching for a clutch hit with runners in scoring position and Whit Merrifield came through.

Merrifield delivered an RBI single, scoring Alcides Escobar from second, with one out in the eighth inning off White Sox reliever Bruce Rondon for a 5-4 win on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.

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The Royals now have back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018. Escobar left the game in the ninth with a left-hand contusion after being hit by a pitch by Rondon in the eighth. X-rays were negative and he is listed as day to day.

Video: CWS@KC: Escobar hit in hand by pitch, exits game

"Yeah, it was a big one," Merrifield said. "We've gone a lot of games without a hit like that. It's been a struggle, myself included. Not been a good start for me for whatever reason.

"I think I just kind of said, '[Heck with] the results, just put the barrel on it.' It was big."

Blaine Boyer worked a scoreless ninth and got the save, his first since May of 2016 when he was with the Brewers. Closer Kelvin Herrera had worked three straight days. Boyer came into the game with a 16.88 ERA, but he now has back-to-back scoreless outings.

"There's been a lot of mechanical adjustments," Boyer said. "Somehow between Spring Training and Opening Day, I got all out of whack. Thankful for the patience of [pitching coach] Cal [Eldred] and [manager] Ned [Yost]. They had faith I would iron it out. I've been working on a lot of things.

"Frustrating that after 19 years in baseball … it's like you fell off a bicycle and don't know how to ride it again. But it's good. I feel great to be back to myself."

Video: CWS@KC: Cuthbert smacks two home runs vs. White Sox

Royals first baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, who had not homered since Aug. 20 and had not recorded an RBI since March 31, hit two home runs, including a three-run shot that gave the Royals a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning.

Right-hander Ian Kennedy started for the Royals, his first outing since taking a line drive off his right foot on Tuesday against the Brewers. Kennedy was sharp for the most part, striking out the side in the first and ending up with six strikeouts over five innings.

Kennedy gave up two soft runs in the fourth, on a walk, a bloop double to left and a two-run double by Daniel Palka on a ball that right fielder Jorge Soler misjudged at the wall in right.

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Royals missed a huge chance to take control of the game in the seventh when they loaded the bases on singles by Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez and Soler. Remarkably, they didn't come close to scoring. Cuthbert hit a weak grounder to third, creating a force at home. Jon Jay, who came into the game hitting .158 with runners in scoring position, tapped a ball in front of the plate, creating another force at home. Alex Gordon then struck out on a 3-2 changeup from Luis Avilan.

Video: CWS@KC: Avilan strikes out Gordon with bases loaded

Yost called it "deflating."

Added Merrifield, "That's how it's been going for us. It couldn't have gotten much worse. We've struggled with runners in scoring position, runners on third and less than two out and all that stuff."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Soler had his ups and downs defensively on Sunday. But he made a great play in the seventh, racing to his right to make a diving catch of Yoan Moncada's liner -- Soler motored 65 feet in four seconds and the catch was deemed a four-star play, according to Statcast™. It had just a 42 percent catch probability.

Video: CWS@KC: Soler makes great diving catch, Royals salute

"I thought it was fantastic," Yost said. "You know, he's a work in progress. But he's so much better than he was last year at this time. He works his tail off."

UP NEXT
Royals right-hander Jason Hammel (0-2, 3.38 ERA) starts the opener of a three-game series on Monday at 6:10 p.m. CT at Fenway Park. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0, 3.63) will take the mound for the Red Sox. Hammel gave up five hits and three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings on Wednesday against the Brewers. In two road starts this season, Hammel has posted a 3.15 ERA.

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

Kansas City Royals, Cheslor Cuthbert, Alcides Escobar, Ian Kennedy, Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler