KANSAS CITY -- Whit Merrifield did some quick math before the bottom of the ninth began in the Royals' 5-4 walk-off win over the Blue Jays on Friday night. Trailing 4-1 and Merrifield due up seventh, he knew if he was going to bat again, it would be with a
KANSAS CITY -- Whit Merrifield did some quick math before the bottom of the ninth began in the Royals' 5-4 walk-off win over the Blue Jays on Friday night. Trailing 4-1 and Merrifield due up seventh, he knew if he was going to bat again, it would be with a chance to win the game -- and that's exactly what happened.
With runners on first and third and two out, Merrifield worked an at-bat against Blue Jays right-hander Jason Grilli to a 3-1 count. Grilli's next pitch, a 93-mph fastball middle-in, would be the last of the game as Merrifield sent it over the head of left fielder John Smith, and the Royals completed their first ninth-inning comeback of the season.
"You always want to get up with the game on the line," Merrifield said. "That's why you play the game. It's not always going to happen the way it did tonight, but it's fun when it does."
Before Merrifield's first Major League walk-off hit, he had flied out to right in the first inning and hit a line drive right at Josh Donaldson in the third. Statcast™ measured the ball's exit velocity at 105.6 mph. As Merrifield walked back to the dugout, he threw his bat into his opposite hand, knowing he couldn't have hit it much better.
"I felt like I had good at-bats all night so it was nice to come through when it mattered," Merrifield said.
Following a strikeout in the sixth, Merrifield hit a double under the glove of Smith, but the Royals, then trailing 2-1, couldn't drive him in. However, that eventually put Merifield in position for his ninth-inning heroics.
Down 4-1, the Royals mounted a two-out comeback as Brandon Moss walked and Alcides Escobar singled. At that moment, starter Jake Junis said the televisions inside the clubhouse cut out. When Alex Gordon singled to make it 4-3, the pitchers inside couldn't see it. The feed returned in time for Merrifield's at-bat, and they were confident he'd come through.
• Merrifield gets knocked down in celebration
As the hit sailed over Smith's head, Escobar trotted home and Gordon sprinted around from first with the winning run. Moss said he was worried Salvador Perez would rush the field too soon. While Gordon slid headfirst into home, the Royals mobbed Merrifield. Jorge Bonifacio chest bumped him mid-air, knocking Merrifield to the infield grass. The crowd at Kauffman Stadium roared in approval as the Royals returned to .500 for the first time since April 19.
Said Merrifield: "I try to soak in those moments as long as I can."
Wilson Alexander is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City.