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Load bases, hit home run, then do it again

Royals achieve homer feat for just 2nd time in franchise history
@alysonfooter
May 8, 2019

HOUSTON -- The Royals have endured their share of tough times so far this season, but on Tuesday night, they were able to relax a little bit, sit back and enjoy the show. Kansas City reached double digits in runs for the third time this season, knocking three home runs

HOUSTON -- The Royals have endured their share of tough times so far this season, but on Tuesday night, they were able to relax a little bit, sit back and enjoy the show.

Kansas City reached double digits in runs for the third time this season, knocking three home runs -- including two grand slams -- in a 12-2 rout of the first-place Astros at Minute Maid Park.

The game was close for exactly two innings, at which time the big story was Jorge Soler's monster solo homer, which traveled a projected 435 feet, according to Statcast, that forcefully bounced off the batter’s eye in straightaway center.

Box score

But Soler was upstaged by two teammates who accounted for the majority of the Royals’ runs, via two grand slams: one in the third inning by Ryan O'Hearn off Astros starter Collin McHugh and Whit Merrifield's slam in the seventh off lefty reliever Framber Valdez.

It was the Royals’ second double-digit win of their current road swing. Last weekend in Detroit, they piled on the Tigers in their only win of that series by a score of 15-3. Lefty Danny Duffy fired 6 2/3 strong innings with five strikeouts for his first win of the season.

Grand slams mean 30% off pizza

“We know we have a good offense,” Merrifield said. “We think it’s an underrated offense. We’ve had some guys get off to some good starts. We have had guys get off to slow starts that are good hitters. When those guys can get hot and get going, it’s really going to lengthen our offense, and pitchers aren’t going to like when we come to town. We’re pretty confident with what we’ve got.”

O’Hearn’s ‘home’ run

O’Hearn, born in Tampa, Fla., moved to northern Texas when he was around 13, and he played college ball at Sam Houston State, located around 90 miles from Houston. While he wasn’t technically playing in his hometown on Tuesday, he was close enough to where friends and family were able to attend the game.

He estimated that 10 of his college teammates and their families were in the stands when he connected for his first career grand slam.

But that’s not the coolest part of this story. One of the more prestigious college tournaments in this area is the Shriners College Classic, played at Minute Maid Park in early March every year, which features some of the country’s best baseball programs.

O’Hearn hit two home runs in one game his junior year at the College Classic in 2014. Royals scouts were watching.

“That was the first time I had ever talked to the Royals,” O’Hearn said. “In this tunnel here. Pretty cool.”

Kansas City selected O’Hearn in the eighth round of the MLB Draft that year.

Whit finishes a double shy of cycle

Merrifield, who couldn’t recall ever hitting a grand slam at any level including the Minor Leagues, acknowledged he was aware toward the end of the game that he needed a double to complete the cycle. Had Billy Hamilton reached base in the ninth, Merrifield would have gotten a shot at it -- against an Astros position player, Tyler White, who was pressed into pitching duty with the blowout loss almost complete.

Hamilton flied out, so Merrifield had to “settle” for a 4-for-5 night that included two singles, a third-inning triple and the grand slam, while he matched a career-high five RBIs and three runs scored.

“It’s something that’s really hard to do,” he said, referring to the cycle. “I was hoping to get another at-bat there at the end off of the position player. That would have been a good chance.”

Merrifield did just fine against the other Astros pitchers, though. He had two at-bats against Valdez, who had allowed Merrifield’s single in the sixth. That helped set up the more dramatic hit -- the homer -- in the next frame.

“I faced him the at-bat before, saw his curveball and fastball,” Merrifield said. “He threw me a first-pitch curveball last at-bat and I saw it pretty good. It was just a little bit down. I was kind of hoping he’d throw it again. He went 1-0, saw the curveball out of his hand. It was a hanger and I got the barrel to it.”

Yost reaches milestone win

MLB authenticators and the Astros’ historian scurried into the visiting clubhouse following the win, first to authenticate, and then to deliver the ball that represented the final out of the game. That was a request of the Royals, who will undoubtedly deliver that ball to Ned Yost. The win Tuesday was the 700th of his Kansas City managerial career.

Expressing a desire to hit the Tex-Mex spread waiting for him in the clubhouse lunchroom, Yost kept his comments brief on this milestone. But the round number did seem to resonate with him, just a little.

“If this was about numbers, I probably would have retired a couple years ago after we won a World [Series] championship [in 2015], or the year after,” he said. “It’s not. It’s about taking this organization back to a championship-caliber status. What keeps me going is I love the young players and I love working with [general manager] Dayton Moore.

“It’s special that we could accomplish 700 wins together and continue to accomplish as many more as we can.”

“He’s a calming force for us,” Merrifield said. “Things haven’t gone great, but he’s always been positive, kept us working hard and continuing to move forward even though things haven’t gone the way we hoped to this point. He’s been great about that, we’re lucky to have him.”

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.