PHILADELPHIA -- Kendrys Morales continues to be the hottest hitter in baseball.The designated-hitter-turned-right-fielder put a second-inning pitch from Aaron Nola into the right-field seats to cap a five-run inning for the Royals in their 6-2 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday. He added a second from
PHILADELPHIA -- Kendrys Morales continues to be the hottest hitter in baseball.
The designated-hitter-turned-right-fielder put a second-inning pitch from Aaron Nola into the right-field seats to cap a five-run inning for the Royals in their 6-2 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday. He added a second from the other side of the plate in the eighth for his third home run in the last two days and seventh in his past 13 games. Over that span, Morales is batting .565 (26-for-46) and has driven in 21 runs.
The three runs that crossed the plate on Morales' second-inning blast were all the Royals needed behind 8 2/3 innings of two-run ball from Danny Duffy, but they had already plated two runs earlier in the second on RBI singles from Duffy and Whit Merrifield.
"He's been great," Royals manager Ned Yost said of Morales. "It's worked out really, really good. We're in this little run of National League parks. The first couple of days it was kind of just being interested to see what would happen [with Morales in right]. And now it's just, 'Hey, it's worked out really well.'
"To get that hot bat in the lineup is great. And he has done OK out there. He hasn't hurt us. He's carrying us right now."
Duffy held the Phillies scoreless for seven innings after Peter Bourjos tripled and Maikel Franco singled him home in the first. A ninth-inning rally kept Duffy from his first career complete game and gave the Phillies their second run on a Cesar Hernandez RBI single.
"Duffy's got good stuff," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Boy, he's a tough pitcher. I liked what I saw from him. … Three infield hits, not much to talk about. But Duffy's tough. I like him."
"Obviously, it's cool to finish a game," Duffy said, "because those guys in the bullpen have picked me up so many times when I've been inefficient. So if I got the opportunity to, might as well try to save another day."
After taking two in St. Louis to begin the road trip, this win gives the Royals as many over their last four games away from Kauffman Stadium as they had in their previous 14.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Well, it worked: Duffy got his first Major League hit and RBI in the strangest of fashions. After 10 unsuccessful at-bats in the big leagues, Duffy came up with runners on first and third and one out in the second inning. Duffy squared to bunt, and then pushed his bat at a pitch and plopped a little flare over Nola's head for an infield single. It actually was a big hit at the time, as it plated the tying run. It also set the stage for Morales' three-run homer.
Was Duffy trying to bunt a flare over the pitcher's head?
"I think I tried to take it with me," Duffy said. "I don't know. Your guess is as good as mine. It got the job done. I looked into the dugout, and they were telling me to bunt. I'm obviously not here to hit, so it just worked. It just worked." More >
Nola bounces back: Nola left the game on a roll of 10 straight Royals retired. He sent down each Kansas City batter he faced after Morales' three-run jack. Of those 10, six went down by strikeout, including redemption for Nola, getting Morales swinging on a curve outside the zone. Although Nola allowed five runs in five innings, it stands as his best start since June 5. It was the first time he made it through five innings since that start.
"I felt like my old self," Nola said. "I felt like that's what I'm used to doing. That's what I usually do: command my fastball and my breaking ball and my changeup. Those last three innings are definitely a help for me."
Even in the five-run second, Nola said he felt better than he had in his past four outings. Besides that second inning, Mackanin thought Nola's start was "encouraging" -- a word he repeated a handful of times.
At 95 pitches, Mackanin was likely to pull his 23-year-old starter after five, regardless. But letting him leave on the note he did should only help his confidence going forward. Mackanin will meet with his staff later Saturday night to decide whether to let Nola make one more start before the All-Star break. As the rotation currently lines up, that would come Thursday in Colorado.
"I'd rather take the ball and keep going out there and make pitches," Nola said of his preference. More >
Two-hit Whit: That nickname continues to stick with Royals rookie Merrifield as he posted his 17th multi-hit game out of 39 total appearances. Merrifield jolted a double off the left-field wall that missed a homer by a few feet in the first. Merrifield then kept the inning alive in the second by serving a two-out RBI single to right to give the Royals a 2-1 lead.
The Bourjos and Franco show: The Phillies manufactured their first run on the backs of the two hitters they've relied on most recently. Bourjos tripled in the first inning and Franco drove him home on a dribbler that went off Duffy's glove. Bourjos led all NL hitters in the month of June with a .410 average. He added a third-inning infield single for his fifth multi-hit effort in his last eight games.
Franco twice went the other way for singles Saturday after doing the same in Friday's game. Since the Phillies hit the road at the end of June, Franco has hit .341 (14-for-41) and walked more times (eight) than he's struck out (seven).
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Nola is the first Phillies starter to allow five or more runs in four consecutive starts since Tyler Cloyd had a five-start streak in 2013.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The speedy Bourjos almost added a third hit to his night on a fifth-inning ground ball to Cheslor Cuthbert at third. After hustling down the line, Bourjos was initially ruled safe. But the Royals challenged and the call was overturned after a 45-second review to end the inning.
Royals: Right-hander Yordano Ventura (6-5, 5.00 ERA) takes the mound for the series finale at 12:35 p.m. CT at Citizens Bank Park. Ventura, in his first game back from an eight-game suspension, gave up seven runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings Tuesday against the Cardinals.
Phillies:Vince Velasquez (6-2, 3.38) will make his first home start since leaving his June 8 start against the Cubs after two pitches. In his return from the DL in Arizona, Velasquez threw five shutout innings and struck out seven. First pitch in the rubber match will be at 1:35 p.m. ET.
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Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.
Evan Webeck is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.