Royals manager Ned Yost figured this would be a good test for his young team.
In the last few games of Kansas City’s recent skid, Yost had seen his guys pressing. Perhaps no better example of that was talented shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, who had begun to expand his zone to swing at pitches he had little chance of hitting.
A game like Friday, then, could be considered part of a big-picture step — a chance to see if the Royals could maintain energy and keep their focus during one of the season’s toughest moments.
Mondesi, along with his teammates, ended up responding well, as KC took a 6-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox to break a six-game losing streak.
Perhaps no player entered Friday with more internal pressure than Mondesi. In Thursday’s 7-5 loss to Boston, he’d gone 0-for-5 with a career-high seven men left on base; in addition, he also entered Friday’s game in an 0-for-10 slump.
It all would only be a footnote after. Mondesi contributed three hits while also driving in the go-ahead run in the seventh, knocking a two-out single to center to score Billy Hamilton and give the Royals a 5-4 lead.
“Today was a new day,” Mondesi said. “I just needed to stay focused because I’m not going to fix anything in the past.”
A Jorge Soler double added an insurance run, and the bullpen held it from there, with Jake Diekman and Ian Kennedy both tossing scoreless innings.
The Royals showed some signs of resiliency starting in the third after falling behind 2-0. That was when Whit Merrifield, with two outs, sent a single to center to score teammate Nicky Lopez and cut the deficit in half.
“You’ve just got to break the ice a little bit. You’ve got to just kind of find ways to stop the bleeding, if you will, and gain a little momentum,” Yost said. “After they took the 2-0 lead, when Whit came back with the hit to make it 2-1, it made everybody feel better.”
It also was significant given the pretext. Merrifield had struggled some in big situations like Mondesi the previous game, going 1-for-5 while leaving six runners stranded.
“The good thing about baseball is when things aren’t going great, you don’t have to wait a week like football to play another game. You go out and play again the next day,” Merrifield said. “New game today, fresh game. It was nice to, the first time we threatened to push one across … that helped for sure.”
The Royals later appeared to take control with a three-run sixth while getting contributions up and down the order.
Merrifield and Alex Gordon started with singles before Mondesi laced a run-scoring double down to right.
After a strikeout, Ryan O’Hearn battled back from 0-2 to coax a walk, then Cheslor Cuthbert followed with an opposite-field single to score two and put the Royals ahead 4-2.
That lead would be short-lived.
Chicago answered with two in the top of the seventh, as Yoan Moncada completed the rally with a bloop double against Brad Boxberger that drove in Leury Garcia and knotted it at 4.
Mondesi came through with his clutch hit after that, as his Friday effort broke a season-high streak of six straight games where he had failed to record an RBI.
“I just tried to stay focused with my plan,” Mondesi said, “and just tried to put the ball in play.”
Homer Bailey contributed a quality start, going six-plus innings while allowing three runs with three strikeouts and one walk.
Before the game, when asked about his team’s positive signs this season, Yost said he had trouble thinking about that short term while in the midst of a losing streak.
“A win does wonders for you in these types of situations,” Yost said, “when you’re just beating your head against the wall.”
The Royals, while improving to 20-43, got some of that relief on Friday night after losing nine of their previous 10.