Whit Merrifield talks Royals win and inside-the-park home run
The post-All-Star break feel-good edition of the Royals kept the positive vibes rolling with their fourth win in five games on their home turf. They scored in a multitude of ways, got a lights-out pitching performance from Glenn Sparkman and played error-free defense.
The only rain on the parade of positivity came in the form of an injury that forced their budding star shortstop Adalberto Mondesi to leave the game with a shoulder injury. He’ll have an MRI to assess the severity of the injury.
Sparkman set a career-high with eight strikeouts and tossed a shutout in the first complete game of the season by the Royals’ pitching staff in an 11-0 romp over the Chicago White Sox in front of an announced 16,557 in the second game of a four-game set at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday night. The Royals (34-62) assured themselves at worst a split of the series.
“We were playing good baseball before, just not finding ways to win,” third baseman Hunter Dozier said. “I think right now we’re just finding ways to win. We’re pitching really well right now. We’re scoring runs. So we’re playing together as a team. Whereas before our pitching was doing really well but we weren’t scoring runs or vice versa.”
Sparkman (3-5) became the first starter to pitch a shutout since Jason Vargas on June 2, 2017, against the Cleveland Indians.
“He had everything working,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Sparkman. “He threw the ball extremely well.”
Mondesi (2-for-3) scored two runs in the first three innings before leaving the game, Dozier collected three hits, including his 14th home run of the season which traveled an estimated 447 feet, and Whit Merrifield (3-for-5, 2 RBIs) extended his hitting streak to 14 games. Merrifield also matched his 2018 season total for home runs (12) with a fourth-inning two-run inside-the-park home run.
Alex Gordon and Cheslor Cuthbert also had two hits apiece.
The Royals were already up 6-0 in the top of the fifth when Mondesi went on a full sprint and dove for a ball along the left-field warning track in foul territory. Mondesi did not come up with the catch, and he remained on the ground until after trainer Nick Kenney and Yost came out to check on him.
Dozier, who had also converged as did Gordon from left field, said Mondesi initially feared he dislocated his shoulder.
Mondesi, who leads the majors in triples (nine) and stolen bases (31), missed 11 games during a stint on the injured list earlier this season with a groin strain.
White Sox starter Dylan Cease, 23, entered the night having pitched just five big-league innings and never having thrown a pitch on the road. The Royals applied pressure early and the youngster got very little help from his defense. The White Sox committed two errors behind him, not including a throwing error he made on a failed pick-off attempt.
The Royals scored the first four runs of the night thanks to a pair of two-run innings.
Mondesi singled, advanced to second on Cease’s errant pick-off throw, stole third and scored on a fielding error by third baseman Yoan Moncada on the throw to third to try to catch Mondesi stealing. Dozier added an RBI triple to right-center field give the Royals a 2-0 lead in the first.
Both runs were unearned.
Mondesi started the second two-run inning with a single and then scored when a throwing error botched a potential double play. Five batters later, Bubba Starling’s RBI single to left field scored Jorge Soler, who reached on a fielder’s choice. Soler got ejected in the eighth inning for arguing balls in strikes with home plate umpire Tom Hallion.
Merrifield’s fourth-inning two-run inside-the-park homer made the lead six runs.
“Line drive down the line,” Merrifield said. “I had a feeling it would stay fair and I saw him dive and miss it. And I know that corner, it gets in that corner it will keep rolling and I knew I had a chance. I got to third and I saw Jirsch send me and my wheels started spinning, arms started flailing, I was getting tired.
“I slid in and I couldn’t see if my hand actually got to the plate. But I knew he didn’t tag me before that.”
Cuthbert’s seventh-inning RBI single with the bases loaded provided the seventh run. Billy Hamilton, who entered the game when Mondesi left, drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth and Gordon tacked on an RBI single. Dozier put the finishing touches on a four-run inning with a towering two-run homer.