Everything finally went the Royals way for a change. They dominated from start to finish to pick up their third straight win on the road, led by Whit Merrifield’s bat and Homer Bailey’s right arm.
Then an injury scare popped up with one of the club’s young rising stars and building block for the future, shortstop Adalberto Mondesi.
Merrifield crushed a pair of home runs as Bailey tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings the Royals hammered the Mariners 9-0 and clinched their first road series win Tuesday night in front of an announced crowd of 12,697 at T-Mobile Park. They’ll have a chance to sweep the three-game set on Wednesday afternoon.
Merrifield went 3-for-4, scored three runs and drove in a career-high six RBIs, while Jorge Soler hit his 20th home run of the season and Nicky Lopez collected three hits. Bailey registered his longest outing of the season and the second-longest by a Royals pitcher this year.
Merrifield, who hit 12 home runs in 158 games last season, has already hit 10 this year.
“We play in the biggest park in the league,” Merrifield said. “You’re not going to hit a lot of homers at our park. That’s just the reality of it. Guys put up big homers at other parks, and that’s not the reality of our park.
“I think I’ve hit eight of the 10 on the road, I’m just taking advantage. Swing is feeling good. I’m putting the barrel on the ball. When I do, I can maybe hit some homers.”
The one unsettling development came in the fifth inning when the Royals (25-48) took their 23-year-old budding star Mondesi out of the game with groin tightness.
Mondesi had gone 1-for-3 with a stolen base and scored a run. The Royals, who have been without starting third baseman Hunter Dozier since May 31, listed Mondesi’s status as day-to-day.
Lucas Duda entered the game and bumped Merrifield from first to second base and Lopez from second to shortstop.
“It just tightened up on him, and then he felt it when he was swinging,” Yost said on Mondesi. “He felt when he was swinging. He struck out in his last at-bat, and I’m like I’m not taking no chances here so we got him out.”
Bailey (6-6) has not allowed a run in his past two starts (13 2/3 innings). During that stretch, he’s struck out 12 and allowed seven hits and five walks.
The first two Mariners batters of the game, Mallex Smith and J.P. Crawford, hit high loud fly balls to the warning track in right field, but Bailey settled in as the game.
He got out of one-out situation with two on in the second when Merrfield snagged a line drive and stepped on first base to double off the trail runner for an inning-ending double play.
Bailey retired 14 of 15 batters during one stretch before giving up a single in the bottom of the eighth.
“Early on I wasn’t very sharp, had a little bit of luck with that double play,” Bailey said. “Then I just I kinda got some feel from the rest of the guys. They really showed up with their at-bats and defensive plays. Once we got a lead, I just kinda felt like lock it in because sometimes with leads like that they can get away from you.”
The Royals wasted no time getting into the scoring column against Mariners starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi. They started the night off with three consecutive singles. The third, swatted back up the middle by Alex Gordon, scored Merrifield and Mondesi.
Six of nine batters reached base safely the first time through the batting order (five hits, one walk) against Kikuchi.
In the third inning, Soler smashed a 1-1 breaking ball on the outer half for his 20th home run of the season. That made him the fastest player in franchise history to 20 home runs in a season (73 games).
The Royals tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning on Merrifield’s ninth round-tripper of the season. After Lopez’s second hit of the day and a Billy Hamilton double, Merrifield crushed a 3-1 pitch into the left field stands.
In the sixth, Lopez doubled on a heads-up baserunning play. He hustled on a ground ball up the middle and beat the throw to second with a head-first slide. He advanced to third on a ground out and scored on Merrifield’s sacrifice fly for the Royals’ seventh run.
Merrifield’s second home run of the night, a two-run shot to left-center field, pushed the total to nine runs in the eighth inning.
Notes: Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier went 2-for-5 with a run scored, a double and 2 RBIs in the second game of his minor-league rehab assignment for Northwest Arkansas. … The Royals announced Tuesday afternoon that they’d signed 26 of 41 players they’d selected in this year’s Major League Baseball Draft. Fourteen of their top 15 picks, including No. 2 overall pick and national high school player of the year Bobby Witt Jr., have signed contracts. They also announced they’d signed non-drafted free agents Brad Bonnenfant (pitcher, University of Nevada), Donavin Buck (pitcher, University of Arkansas-Little Rock) and Jack Gethings (shortstop, Fairfield University).