Royals hit on all cylinders in homecoming win
Aoki, Infante enjoy three-hit games, Gordon belts three-run double
KANSAS CITY -- What better way to warm a Kansas City baseball fan's heart on a chill, windy, overcast afternoon than a satisfying Royals victory?
All of the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day at home is a nice touch but, really, there's nothing better than the hint of future glory in April for Royals fans who have been waiting decades for October baseball.
That's what a full house of 40,103 got on Friday with a 7-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. Never mind those sour notes of the first two games at Detroit, this was a rhapsody in blue.
The win featured three hits each by newcomers Nori Aoki and Omar Infante, plus a three-run double by old reliable Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain's two-run single.
In all, the Royals rustled up 13 hits, including three doubles and six walks.
"I knew our offense was ready to do something and the energy of the crowd today, I think really had us locked in," said winning pitcher Jeremy Guthrie.
Aoki and Infante triggered the first-inning outburst with back-to-back singles off White Sox right-hander Erik Johnson. Hosmer was hit by a pitch to load the bases and, after Billy Butler popped out, Gordon unloaded a long drive to right-center. The ball sailed just over the outstretched glove of right fielder Avisail Garcia and, no hesitation, all three runners raced across the plate.
The strong wind blowing toward right field may have been factor.
"It's pretty windy out there," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Once it gets up there, it takes off. I don't know if he [Gordon] necessarily hit it as well as he could, but once it gets up in that wind it takes off."
No matter, the Royals were ahead to stay, 3-1, and manager Ned Yost was giving Aoki and Infante their due.
"It was huge. That's why we made those additions," Yost said. "Guys that get on base, put the ball in play. I think Omar and Nori were on base seven times today which was big. That set the table for Gordy's big double. Hoz getting hit by a pitch in the first inning was big. It was a good offensive day for us."
Indeed the Royals came out of two losses at Detroit with a measly .191 average.
"I thought we hit the ball pretty hard in Detroit. We just never got that big hit," Gordon said. "When guys get on base, it's going to be a fun year when you've got Hosmer, Billy, me, Salvy [Perez] -- somebody's going to get a big hit and that's what happened."
There was another three-run burst in the fifth inning after the Royals again loaded the bases on two walks and Perez's single. This time, Johnson's wild pitch scored one run and Cain's single off the glove of second baseman Marcus Semien accounted for two more and a 7-2 lead. In fact, given the White Sox' comeback efforts, those two runs proved to be the difference.
"I just tried not to do too much -- stay up the middle, ground-ball single. I'll take 'em all day," Cain said.
Guthrie, on a miserable day for pitching, shrugged off the elements.
"It was just windy, never was really cold," he said. "Grip was not perfect but, aside from that, pitchers are fortunate that we're moving around, and we stay pretty warm."
After giving up single runs in the first and fifth, Guthrie encountered a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning when he issued two walks and Tyler Flowers singled.
"I probably left him in one hitter too long," Yost said. "I probably should have went and got [Kelvin] Herrera for Flowers, but I was hoping with the five-run lead there, he could get us through that inning."
Herrera inherited that dicey situation and gave up a two-run single to Adam Eaton before ending the inning with the score 7-4.
Yost made the franchise's first challenge under the new instant replay procedure in the seventh inning but lost. A video review confirmed umpire Ted Barrett's call that Jose Abreu was safe at first base on third baseman Mike Moustakas' throwing error. As a result, the White Sox had two runners on base with no outs against left-hander Francisley Bueno. Before the inning was over, a run scored for a two-run margin.
That proved enough for Wade Davis, who worked a scoreless eighth around a dropped fly ball by Aoki, and Greg Holland, who wheeled through a perfect ninth with two strikeouts.
The Royals' first victory of the season was on the board. They now have an all-time record of 23-23 in home openers, including 4-1 against the White Sox.
What remained of the sellout crowd after 3 hours, 37 minutes in the wind-blown cold trooped out of the stadium warmed by victory.
"Opening day at The K is always fun. It's always an energetic crowd and you always want to win for your home crowd, especially that first day," Holland said. "You kind of control your nerves a little bit, too, but it's always good to be out there in front of a bunch of fans that are cheering for you. It kind of helps energize you and stuff so I really enjoyed it."
Aoki's three hits were his first in a Royals uniform.
"Just getting that first win out of the way was big and especially doing it at home in front of our fans," Aoki said.
"You always want to try to give a good effort on a day like this," Guthrie said. "It's a special day to a lot of people and to us players as well."