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Merrifield aims to lead AL in hits, steals in '18

Royals super-utility man currently among leaders in both categories
September 20, 2018

DETROIT -- Royals super-utility man Whit Merrifield has a chance to lead the American League in two offensive categories this season -- stolen bases and hits.Merrifield, who led the AL in steals last year, is poised to do so again. After stealing his 37th bag in the Royals' 11-8 loss

DETROIT -- Royals super-utility man Whit Merrifield has a chance to lead the American League in two offensive categories this season -- stolen bases and hits.
Merrifield, who led the AL in steals last year, is poised to do so again. After stealing his 37th bag in the Royals' 11-8 loss to Detroit on Thursday, Merrifield is two ahead of Tampa Bay's Mallex Smith.
That much Merrifield knew. But he didn't know how close he is to being the AL leader in hits. With 180, Merrifield trails Boston's J.D. Martinez by one.
"I actually saw the hits total for the first time on the scoreboard in Pittsburgh a couple days ago," Merrifield said. "They showed the numbers. I knew I was kind of close to 200 hits, but I didn't know I was second to J.D. Then, of course, J.D. went out and got three hits that night."
Asked which category Merrifield would enjoy leading the most, he had to pause to think.
"Maybe at this point the hits would be [more] cool, because I had the stolen-base [title] last year," Merrifield said. "But at the same time, I know this might be my last year to win the stolen-base title."

Merrifield was referring to teammate Raul Mondesi, who has 26 steals in 65 games this season and appears to be capable of swiping 70-80 bases in a full season.
Merrifield has dreamed of reaching 200 hits in a season. It would take a sizzling finish to get there in 2018.
"That was a goal of mine at the beginning of the year," Merrifield said. "Getting 200 hits is still a milestone for a player like me. But really got some work to do there. Maybe it won't happen this year, but now I think I at least know it's attainable. That would definitely be something to work for."
And telling his grandchildren some day that he beat out Martinez in an offensive category would be special, Merrifield said.
"Not bad for a utility man," Merrifield said with a smile. "Any time I can go out and prove people wrong, it's always fun."

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