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Merrifield's hit streak a bright spot in KC loss

@FlannyMLB
July 28, 2020

After the Royals roared back from a four-run deficit to win Monday night, they had to feel good when Whit Merrifield’s three-run blast in the third inning gave them an early lead Tuesday against the Tigers. But that was all she wrote for Kansas City’s offense. The Tigers shut down

After the Royals roared back from a four-run deficit to win Monday night, they had to feel good when Whit Merrifield’s three-run blast in the third inning gave them an early lead Tuesday against the Tigers.

But that was all she wrote for Kansas City’s offense.

The Tigers shut down the Royals from there, capitalizing on a four-run third to score a 4-3 victory, evening the series at one game apiece.

Box score

“Kind of the opposite of what happened [Monday],” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “We got down early then and came back, and we kind of saw the opposite of that today. We had a lot of game left, but unfortunately we couldn’t put anything together.”

Merrifield, who has now hit in 15 straight games against the Tigers, hit his three-run shot just over the fence in left-center on a 0-1 fastball from Tigers right-hander Rony García, who was making his Major League debut. Merrifield also had three hits, including a home run, on Monday.

KC sends LHPs Griffin, Montgomery to IL

Kansas City right-hander Kyle Zimmer got his first Major League start for the Royals and was sharp through his first five hitters, retiring them all.

But a walk to Jeimer Candelario and a double gave the Tigers some life in the second inning. Zimmer caught a break when Austin Romine scorched a 106-mph liner that Merrifield snared behind second base.

“My game plan going out there was just go out there and get as many outs as I could,” Zimmer said. “I was just trying to be efficient. I was hoping to get a couple more outs in the third … but it was exciting. Fun to show up at the field and go through a starting routine like the good old days.

“I thought I made some good pitches to Candelario. They weren’t called … but the ball hit to Whit, maybe that was the baseball gods helping me out.”

In a scary moment, Zimmer hit JaCoby Jones in the helmet with a fastball to lead off the third. Fortunately, Jones was OK. But Matheny, after a talk with Zimmer on the mound, went to the bullpen, bringing in rookie Tyler Zuber. Matheny said afterward that he was ready to go to the ‘pen regardless of the hit-by-pitch.

“It slipped out and I obviously wasn’t trying to hit anyone,” Zimmer said. “You never like to see anyone hit in the head.”

Zuber then gave up a pair of decisive two-run homers, one to Jonathan Schoop on a changeup and one to Christin Stewart on a fastball.

“I wanted [the changeup] to be a little more inside,” Zuber said. “It caught too much of the plate. I felt like it was down. It was an OK pitch. It wasn’t great. And he hit it, put a good swing on it, and it went out.

“[Stewart] ambushed it and got a good swing on it.”

Meanwhile, Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi continued his rough start to the 2020 season, going 0-for-4 as his average dropped to .095. He also booted a routine double-play ball off the bat of Miguel Cabrera.

And in the ninth, Mondesi hit an infield popup that was dropped near the pitcher’s mound. But he got caught too far off the first-base bag and was thrown out while diving back.

“Yeah, he’s pressing,” Matheny said. “No question. You can see that. It’s in his mind, not wanting to get to two strikes at the plate, and then that gets in his mind. It’s only natural then that you try to be overaggressive and quicker than you need to in the field.

“We’re just going to continue to talk to him and get him to continue to breathe a bit. He’s such a natural player. There are things he’s just not happy with. I know he wanted to be on second base with that popup. Things just kind of seem to snowball when you get on a bad run.”

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