One can be fun, but two is just a blast. And the two big, young right-handed power hitters in the middle of the Royals’ lineup certainly had a blast in the final game of their series in Detroit.
The Royals’ No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler, smashed two home runs apiece and went back-to-back in the eighth inning as the Royals hammered the Detroit Tigers into submission in the late innings of a 10-2 win Sunday afternoon in front of an announced 19,790 at Comerica Park.
The Royals (43-76) salvaged a split of the four-game series after having lost the first two games. The win also meant the Royals went 3-6 on the 10-game road trip, with one suspended game in extra innings against the Boston Red Sox still unfinished.
Soler moved to within three of tying Mike Moustakas’ single-season franchise record for home runs (38, set in 2017), and he hit seven during the three-city road trip.
Dozier clubbed six homers during the 10 games away from Kauffman Stadium, including three multi-homer games. He now has 22 homers this season.
Asked whether Dozier provides extra motivation or if the two feed off one another, Soler responded with quality control/catching coach Pedro Grifol translating, “Of course, he hits right before me, and if he hits one, I want to hit one, too. Before the first at-bat, I told Dozier, ‘Let’s see if we can go back-to-back in this inning.’ We didn’t do it that inning, but we did it in a later at-bat.”
Soler collected five RBIs to bring his team-leading total to 87, while Dozier now has 66. Both sluggers had three hits apiece, and they’ve surpassed their respective career highs in both home runs and RBIs.
Soler’s 120 games played are a career high, and Dozier has nearly doubled both his home runs (11) and RBI (34) from last season in the same number of at-bats (362).
Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis (8-10) turned in his 11th quality start of the season and moved within one of his win total from last season. He allowed two runs on six hits and didn’t walk a batter in six innings to pick up his second win of the road trip.
Coming on the heels of Mike Montgomery’s seven-inning scoreless outing Sunday, the Royals had back-to-back starters pitch at least six innings without a walk for the first time since Eric Skoglund and Heath Fillmyer did it on Sept. 18-19.
By the end of the third inning, the top three-fourths of the Royals lineup — Whit Merrifield, Dozier and Soler — had homered. Merrifield (2 for 5, 2 runs, 3 RBIs) started the game with his second leadoff homer of the series. He’d started off Friday night’s game with an inside-the-park home run.
Dozier followed Merrifield’s lead with a solo homer in the first inning. He hit five home runs on the 10-game road trip, while Soler’s third-inning two-run laser over the center field wall marked his sixth homer in the past nine games.
“He’s the hottest hitter in baseball right now,” Dozier said of Soler. “We were just talking about it. What he’s doing is video game stuff. If I get on base, he’ll get me in somehow.”
The Royals led 4-2 through three innings with the Tigers (35-80) having scored one run in the first and one in the third. Dozier missed a home run in his second at-bat when he rocketed a triple off the center field wall. He’d gotten halfway to hitting for the cycle with the homer and the triple out of the way in just two at-bats.
“Doze hit the home run, then he just missed a home run,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “And he came into the dugout and said, ‘How far from a homer was that?’ I said, ‘Two feet.’ And he went ‘Aw, man.’ But I said, ‘Stop. Something special is going to happen to you today. I’m not going to tell you what it is.’
“I mean, he already had a homer and a triple, and I’m thinking that this kid is going to hit for the cycle. No way around it. But then he hit the homer again and messed all that up.”
The score stayed 4-2 until the eighth inning when Dozier and Soler went back-to-back for the first time since they did it against the New York Yankees on May 26.
Merrifield tacked on a two-run single in the ninth, and Soler capped his day with a two-run double.
“It just goes to show you that you can look at our record all you want, but we’ve got a couple guys that are going to be mainstays in this lineup, I mean middle of the order bats when we get to the point where we can contend,” Yost said of Soler and Dozier. “That’s important to have.”