Jakob Junis gets seventh win, snaps Royals losing streak
Just imagine the damage Jorge Soler would do if he played in Fenway Park on a regular basis.
Opposing pitchers’ legs would probably be shaking on the mound, and the green monster might need monthly maintenance appointments to repair the cluster of dents caused by high-velocity line drives crashing into it so frequently.
Soler showed just how inadequate the quaint ballpark in Boston is to contain him with a two-homer, 4-RBI performance that derailed Red Sox starter Andrew Cashner’s night and helped the Royals even up their series at a game apiece with a 6-2 win in front of an announced 36,360 at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.
“I’m used to swinging the bat hard,” Soler said with quality control/catching coach Pedro Grifol translating. “Kansas City, obviously, is a big ballpark. So when I get to a park like this, I feel a little more comfortable hitting the ball out of the ballpark because the park is smaller.”
The Royals snapped a 7-game losing streak with the victory. The teams will wrap up their three-game series with a rubber match on Wednesday night.
The game marked the third multi-homer game of his career, and the 4-RBI matched a career high for a game. His 31 homers this season are also a career high for the 27-year-old native of Havana, Cuba.
“It means a lot for me, for my family, for the organization,” Soler said of reaching 30 homers. “It’s like the magic number.”
Soler’s first homer of the night, in the fourth inning, made him the first Royals right-handed hitter to reach 30 home runs since Jermaine Dye in 2000. By the end of the night, he’d moved within seven homers of tying Mike Moustakas’ single-season club record (38).
A big factor in his success this season has been health. Soler, who entered the day with the fifth-most homer runs in the American League, has played in 115 games this season. He played in just 96 games combined the past two seasons with the Royals.
Last season, a broken bone in his foot curtailed his season.
“It’s everything,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Soler’s production. “Of course it’s approach. Of course, it’s health. It’s all of the above. He’s learning. He’s growing. He’s understanding what it takes to be a successful power hitter in an American League stocked with power hitters.”
Soler drove in four of the team’s first six runs thanks to a pair of home runs. Meanwhile, first baseman Ryan O’Hearn snapped out of an 0-for-15 funk with a solo homer, and Whit Merrifield went 2-for-4 with a run scored. Hunter Dozier also drove in a run.
Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis turned in a quality start and allowed just one run on seven hits and one walk in six innings. He struck out four on his way to his seventh win of the season.
A well-placed bloop single by Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi with two outs in the third drove in the game’s first run. Rafael Devers scored from second on the ball that fell in between right fielder Dozier and second baseman Merrifield.
Soler’s laser over the green monster, a two-run homer, gave the Royals (41-74) a one-run lead in the fourth inning. In the fifth, O’Hearn added to the lead his first home run in the majors since June 11. The solo shot ripped over the right-field wall gave the Royals a 3-1 lead.
With Junis nearing 90 pitches for the night, the Royals tacked on three runs in the sixth on blistering RBI single by Dozier and a two-run homer launched by Soler into left-center field and off the “engie” sign behind the last row of seats. Coincidentally, Engie is a power, natural gas and energy company.
Royals left-handed reliever Richard Lovelady allowed one run in two innings of relief, and closer Ian Kennedy, who hadn’t pitched since July 31, pitched a perfect ninth inning.
“You want to be the one who goes out there and throws a good game and kind of keeps them off the scoreboard, gives your team a chance to win and break that streak,” Junis said of snapping the losing streak.
“I think tonight was a good night for that. We hadn’t been playing very well lately. Offense and pitching staff hadn’t really been on the same page. Tonight, offense was great and pitching all the way up and down was good too.”
Right-hander Glenn Sparkman (3-7, 5.58) will start Wednesday for the Royals, while left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (13-5, 4.19) is the scheduled starter for the Red Sox.