On the night before they swept back into first place, the Royals’ clubhouse had transformed into part day care center and part dance party. This was late Tuesday, just before 11 p.m. The hit track “Panda” by Desiigner was turned up to ear-splitting levels. A small army of children killed time while their fathers rested after another victory. A dance contest broke out on one side of the room.
The whole scene offered a pretty succinct look at life for the Royals here inside their home ballpark. They are comfortable here. They fit the place. They know the nooks and crannies, the secrets and the beat. On Wednesday night, the party raged for another night in a 9-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium.
“We’ve talked about this a million times,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We love playing in this stadium. It’s built for our team.”
In other words, the Royals were constructed for nights like this. Salvador Perez crushed a three-run homer during a decisive four-run fifth inning. The offense tacked on another three runs in the sixth while routing Indians ace Corey Kluber. And the Royals moved to 35-30, back into a tie for first place with Cleveland in the American League Central.
“To say we’re streaky,” starter Ian Kennedy said, “it’s kind of crazy.”
The victory was Kansas City’s ninth straight at Kauffman Stadium, which only underscored the preposterous nature of the last 20 days. In the span of less than three weeks, the Royals won six straight at Kauffman Stadium — their first 6-0 home stand since 1988 — lost eight straight during a mind-numbing road trip, and then clipped off another five straight victories, including three back at home over the Indians.
The only constant in a season of streaks: The Royals have been a juggernaut at Kauffman Stadium, going 22-7 in their first 29 home games — the best home record in all of baseball.
You want an example of what this park can do? Ten days ago, Kluber, a 30-year-old former Cy Young winner, faced the Royals at Progressive Field in Cleveland and allowed just two hits and zero runs over six scoreless innings. On Wednesday, he tied a career high by allowing eight earned runs before exiting in the sixth inning.
“We were on the aggressive,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “We were on the attack early. You realize, when you’re facing a guy like Kluber, especially later in the game, he’s really tough. He’s a guy you want to attack later in the count, and I think we did a good job of that.”
The Kansas City offense piled up 11 hits, including two apiece from Whit Merrifield, Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain. Perez landed the most destructive blow, cranking a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. The inning was still alive because of some shaky moments from the Cleveland defense. Drew Butera doubled on a shallow pop fly to right-center — and then scored on a wild pitch. Hosmer reached on an infield single to third base. Two batters later, Perez came to the plate with two outs and two runners on.
One night earlier, Perez had delivered a go-ahead blast in the bottom of the eighth. On Wednesday, he added another, finishing 6 for 12 in the three-game series after clubbing his 11th homer of the year.
“As soon as I hit it, I got a good feel,” Perez said. “But we play at The K, so I just need to run hard.”
The offensive onslaught was enough to support Kennedy, who appeared in control for most of the night but was once again hurt by the home run.
In his last two starts — losses at Cleveland and Chicago — Kennedy had given up 12 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings, including a career-high four homers to the White Sox.
On Wednesday, he allowed a two-run homer to Rajai Davis in the top of the fifth and a two-run shot to Michael Martinez in the seventh. The former blast came after Kennedy failed to cover first base on a two-out grounder to Hosmer. For a moment, the mental mistake appeared costly. The Royals’ offense would render it a footnote.
“A brain fart,” Kennedy said.
So here are the Royals, a team that sits in first place despite an eight-game losing streak earlier this month, an offense that appears to ebb and flow depending on its locale. In certain moments, Yost cannot quite explain why his team seems to hit better here. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.
But during the eight-game road skid, the Royals produced just 13 runs. Back at Kauffman Stadium, they have managed 14 runs this week, edging Cleveland in two one-run games before busting out with nine runs Wednesday night.
The attack began in the bottom of the first, when Merrifield, Hosmer and Cain struck for two runs with a single and two doubles. Merrifield, who finished 2 for 5, scored two more runs Wednesday, running his total to 18 runs in 23 career starts.
By the end of the night, the Royals were back in first with a home series against Detroit beginning on Thursday. A long, strange year rumbled on. A week ago, they were mired in an eight-game losing streak. Now they appear back — again.
“It was nice to kind of return the sweep,” Hosmer said. “But at the same time, we’ve got another big series ahead of us. We got to continue to play good baseball.”