Whit's hitting feat keys Royals in 9-run 1st

KC sends 14 to plate as Merrifield's HR caps frame, helps stretch win streak to 5

June 5th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- By the time came up to the plate for the second time in the first inning on Friday night, he had already singled, stolen a base and watched his team put up six runs on Twins starter Matt Shoemaker.

One swing put an exclamation point on the inning and the game, which was almost over before it began. Merrifield launched a three-run homer off Shoemaker on the first pitch, a hanging slider, to push the Royals to a nine-run inning and a 14-5 win at Kauffman Stadium -- in front of the largest crowd this season with 22,612 fans -- giving Kansas City its fifth consecutive win and second against Minnesota in this four-game weekend set.

Merrifield became the first player to have two hits, a home run and a stolen base in the first inning since Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson did it for Oakland in 1980.

“I think [Merrifield] is one of the most well-rounded hitters in the league,” manager Mike Matheny said. “A guy who’ll take a walk, shoot the ball the other way, move runners over, get his base hits, fights with two strikes, steal a base.

“The stolen base, something like that is amazing how it can just start to trigger good things to happen. … And Whit gets a chance to put an exclamation on it later in the [inning].”

What Merrifield started, the rest of the Royals’ offense continued.

Let’s break down the big offensive night by the numbers:

9: Runs in the first inning

The Royals sent 14 batters to the plate in the first inning, and it wasn’t until the sixth batter -- Kelvin Gutierrez -- and the 26th pitch of the frame that Shoemaker recorded an out. He was knocked out of the game after Merrifield’s homer, and later on, the Twins were forced to pitch infielder Willians Astudillo in the ninth inning.

The nine runs were the most the Royals have scored in the first inning since putting up 10 vs. the Orioles on May 8, 2018, at Camden Yards. They also scored 10 on Aug. 23, 2006, in a 15-13 loss to Cleveland, and they’ve scored nine four other times in franchise history.

Of the 14 batters, 11 reached on six hits, three walks, an error and catcher’s interference -- the fifth time this season Jorge Soler has reached that way -- and eight players scored a run.

“That was a lot of fun, that whole game,” said starter Brad Keller, who got two lengthy breaks after his first and second innings. “Putting up 13 runs in two innings, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. It was exciting, fun to be a part of. Our offense, from the very start, was out there swinging. Lot of fun to watch.”

14: Total runs scored

As Keller worked through five innings of two-run ball, the Royals scored four in the second inning and one in the seventh to bring them to 14, matching their season high set on Opening Day against Texas and their most in a game against Minnesota since Aug. 11, 2009 (a 14-6 win).

“It was relentless,” Matheny said. “Every single guy putting something together that looked right. Everybody’s sharing the wealth. You don’t see that very often when you talk about that kind of production in the first two.”

12: Total hits

Every starter had at least one hit except Hunter Dozier, who walked in the first inning and was hit by a pitch in the fifth. Once Matheny began subbing the regulars out in the seventh, their replacements joined in on the fun, too: Hanser Alberto doubled in the seventh, and Jarrod Dyson brought him home with an infield single.

The Royals had 10 players record a hit for the second time this week -- following Monday’s win over Pittsburgh. It had been 97 games since they last did that on Aug. 6, 2020.

7: Consecutive games with at least five runs

Since last Friday, Kansas City is batting .314 while averaging eight runs and 11 hits per game. This is the offense the Royals believed they had entering 2021, the one that flexed its depth through the lineup. It came out in full force against the Twins.

“We’ve known what we can do for awhile, and it’s come in spurts and we’ve seen flashes of it,” Merrifield said. “It’s just a matter of us doing it consistently and guys getting on a run and roll and hot streak.

“Our lineup is slowly starting to get to the point where we knew all along we could be. When we do that, it’s fun.”