Royals go big, then small to sweep Brewers

Soler belts tying HR before 2 bunts lead to go-ahead run in 7th, series sweep

May 20th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals began the 2021 season believing they had a deep enough lineup to beat teams in many different ways -- power, speed and situational hitting.

That all came together in the seventh inning of their 6-4 win and two-game series sweep of the Brewers on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals have now won consecutive games for the first time since a season-high five-game win streak from April 21-26, and after an 11-game losing streak ended last week, they’ve won four of six. 

Here’s how that crucial seventh inning played out:

First, cranked a no-doubter over the left-center-field wall to tie the game, 3-3. The projected distance, according to Statcast, was 442 feet, but off the bat, it looked like it might land on Interstate 70. That was the long ball of the inning.

Then, the Royals turned to small ball.

Kelvin Gutierrez singled to get on base for the fifth time in the last two days before giving way to pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson, who stole his 179th base with Kansas City to pass Frank White for fifth place all time in franchise history.

Michael A. Taylor -- who homered off Brewers starter Corbin Burnes in the second and robbed outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. of an extra-base hit with an exceptional catch in the sixth -- walked, and Cam Gallagher bunted up the first-base line to move the runners up to second and third base.

With Dyson on third, Nicky Lopez executed the squeeze play perfectly, and Brewers reliever J.P. Feyereisen couldn’t field the bunt cleanly as Dyson scored the go-ahead run.

“You’re not always going to hit four or five home runs a game,” Taylor said. “Being able to manufacture runs is huge, especially when you get late in the season. We have that ability to do that. Not only put together good at-bats and work a walk, but hit and runs, steal bases, move runners. There’s a lot of ways we can put runs on the board.”

The Royals’ four wins over their last six games have come against Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodón, Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, a quartet that combined to go 11-7 with a collective 2.10 ERA (35 earned runs in 150 1/3 innings) entering those starts.

Brewers starters Woodruff and Burnes have started back-to-back games 15 times since becoming teammates in 2018. This series marked the first time that Milwaukee lost both of those games.

And Kansas City did it by flashing the different strengths its lineup possesses: the ability to launch moonshots and lay down bunts.

“That’s what we got used to seeing in April,” manager Mike Matheny said. “You’re going to have these days, where you’re facing pitchers that we faced yesterday and Burnes today. Those guys have good stuff, and they’re not going to give up much.

“Lately, we needed to manufacture, and those are huge runs after Jorge gives us a chance by just wowing us. When he gets into one, it’s as impressive as maybe anyone in the league.”

Royals relievers Greg Holland and Josh Staumont kept the Brewers at bay from there, while the offense tacked insurance runs on in the eighth. Kansas City’s bullpen has been dominant over the last week, allowing two earned runs in its last 25 innings.

On Wednesday, four relievers held the Brewers to one hit after starter Brad Keller allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings, and Staumont navigated through an unearned run and trouble in the ninth to earn his fifth save. Staumont has appeared in five of the last seven games spanning eight days (including Monday’s off-day), but he still got through Wednesday without what he and Matheny called his best stuff.

“There’s going to be ups and downs, going to be days -- like you said, I threw five out of seven games -- where you feel like you’re getting kind of drug through the mud,” Staumont said. “But I could go five days without throwing now and about two in, I’m itching. So I can’t complain. ...

“If my name is called and I’m in there, you bet I’ll be giving it my all.”

The Royals showed flashes of their strengths during the 11-game losing streak that they found themselves in at the beginning of May. There were times where the offense flexed its depth, but the pitching fell short, and vice versa.

The past few days were a different story.

“We’re clicking as a team again,” Keller said.