Royals

Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez hit homers in 7-1 victory over the Angels

Mike Moustakas (right) hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first for the Royals on Friday night against the Angels. That would turn out to be all the runs the Royals needed on Friday night.
Mike Moustakas (right) hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first for the Royals on Friday night against the Angels. That would turn out to be all the runs the Royals needed on Friday night. jsleezer@kcstar.com

The baseball soared into the evening twilight, a missile launched at 104 mph, and moments later, Mike Moustakas patted the black patch on his right shoulder. He looked in the Royals’ dugout and pointed toward the sky.

As Kauffman Stadium came to its feet, saluting its third baseman, Moustakas paid tribute to Yordano Ventura. As he crossed home plate, completing his fourth home-run trot of this young season, the Royals were on their way to a total dismantling of the Los Angeles Angels, a 7-1 victory on Friday night.

The blast came on a 97 mph fastball from Angels starter JC Ramirez in the bottom of the first inning. It erased a 1-0 deficit and set the tone for the evening as the Royals crafted their most complete performance of the year to date.

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“I was looking for a good pitch to hit,” Moustakas would say. “I ended up getting a fastball that was middle.”

More than three hours later, Moustakas would leave the postgame food spread and appear in the Royals clubhouse. He had maintained his April power surge, easing concerns about a surgically-repaired knee. He had invigorated an offense looking for a spark. As he enjoyed a second victory in two nights, he nibbled on a serving of vegetables.

“Eating my broccoli,” Moustakas said.

This was the scene from Kauffman Stadium on Friday, where the Royals flexed their muscles, offered a glimpse of their winning formula and moved back to within two games of .500 at 4-6.

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Moustakas continued to rake. The defense was a weapon. Salvador Perez launched his league-leading fifth homer as the offense emerged from an early-season lull. The Royals opened the night with five runs in the first three innings. The run support was sufficient for starter Danny Duffy, who surrendered one run in seven innings.

Royals manager Ned Yost on Danny Duffy's gem

Duffy improved to 2-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.80 after three starts, requiring 103 pitches to navigate the evening. An RBI single in the top of the first from reigning MVP Mike Trout loomed as the only blemish. Duffy spent the rest of the night offering a glimpse of his dominating form, allowing just one hit across his final six innings.

“When you hit that kind of groove, it’s definitely not a bad feeling,” Duffy said.

He struck out six while giving up three hits. He backed up Jason Vargas’ superb outing on Thursday. He pitched, Moustakas said, like a true ace.

“He’s our ace,” Moustakas said. “What he did last year, he’s definitely capable of being in that Cy Young conversation.”

The performance, though, had begun with another blast from Moustakas, a moment that offered a touch of symmetry, for it was against these Angels last April that Moustakas’ 2016 season first began to derail off the tracks.

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In his first 19 games, he had clubbed seven homers, posting the hottest start of his career. For three weeks, Moustakas looked like an All-Star. Steve Balboni’s club record of 36 homers appeared in play. It was early, of course. But Moustakas was locked in.

But then Moustakas fractured his thumb while applying a tag on April 26 in Anaheim. He attempted to play through the pain, but the injury robbed him of his power. He landed on the 15-day disabled list, and on his second day back in May, he collided with Alex Gordon in Chicago and shredded a ligament in his knee.

A once promising season was gone. Moustakas is trying to make up for lost time in 2017. He homered on opening day in Minnesota. In 10 games, he has batted .297 and cranked four home runs. If not for Perez and Houston’s George Springer, he would be atop the American League leader board in the category. On Friday, he added a walk to the ledger, scoring two runs while recording two RBIs.

“We need him to do what he’s doing,” Duffy said. “He’s doing a great job. I told him when he hit that bomb, that first hit that he had this year [in Minnesota]. I was, ‘Dude, welcome back. We need you.’ 

In the moments after the victory, Moustakas attempted to downplay the parallels between his two Aprils. It’s early, he said.

“I’m just trying to see the ball and put the barrel on the ball — make solid contact,” he said. “The start obviously feels nice to be hitting pretty good right now. But again, it’s a long season.”

The night will inspire optimism. On Thursday, the Royals avoided a sweep at the hands of the A’s while scoring just three runs. On Friday, they more than doubled their season scoring average and tied their highest scoring output of the year. Outside of a starting rotation that has posted a 2.70 ERA through 10 games, the Royals have not played well. But they weathered a 2-6 start and can secure another series victory with a win on Saturday.

“You can see the bats are starting to wake up,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Lorenzo Cain offered another multi-hit game, raising his average to .364. Brandon Moss added his second hit of the year in the eighth against Angels reliever Mike Morin, a graduate of Shawnee Mission South. Eric Hosmer, mired in an April skid of sorts, delivered a single to right in the eighth and made a terrific scoop on a throw from Alcides Escobar to end the seventh inning.

It wasn’t the only defensive highlight. Raul Mondesi sprinted into shallow center field and stole a hit from Yunel Escobar in the top of the eighth. Cain threw out Angels outfielder Kole Calhouse at third base in the first, a pivotal moment during a choppy start. The game had begun with two singles sandwiched around a walk, and the out helped Duffy calm down and settle in.

“The biggest play of the game,” Duffy said.

And when it was over, the Royals celebrated another victory with a clubhouse that had momentarily turned into a nursery. Moustakas held his daughter in the hallway. Cain cradled his son during a postgame interview. The tension that had surfaced in the aftermath of a 2-6 start had been released.

“Everything was going well tonight,” Cain said. “[We] hit a few homers. Guys were just staying up the middle and driving balls the other way, which is huge. I feel like when we’re locked in, we’re driving balls all over the field. If we continue to do that, we’ll be just fine.”

Kansas City Royals Brandon Moss talks about his lack of offense to begin the season.

Royals 7, Angels 1

Angels

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Y.Escobar 3b

4

1

1

0

0

0

.356

Calhoun rf

3

0

0

0

1

0

.293

Trout cf

4

0

1

1

0

1

.325

Pujols dh

4

0

1

0

0

0

.205

Marte 1b

3

0

0

0

0

1

.211

Simmons ss

3

0

0

0

1

2

.316

Maybin lf

4

0

0

0

0

2

.200

Espinosa 2b

3

0

0

0

0

0

.211

Maldonado c

2

0

1

0

1

0

.231

Totals

30

1

4

1

3

6

Royals

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Gordon lf

4

1

1

0

0

1

.195

Moustakas 3b

3

2

1

2

1

0

.297

Cain cf

4

2

2

0

0

0

.364

Hosmer 1b

4

0

1

1

0

0

.179

Perez c

3

1

1

2

0

0

.289

Moss dh

3

0

1

0

1

1

.077

Orlando rf

4

1

1

0

0

1

.156

A.Escobar ss

2

0

0

0

1

1

.206

Mondesi 2b

2

0

0

0

0

0

.138

Totals

29

7

8

5

3

4

Angels

100

000

000

1

4

0

Royals

212

001

01x

7

8

0

LOB: Los Angeles 6, Kansas City 3. 2B: Cain (2). HR: Moustakas (4), off Ramirez; Perez (5), off Guerra. RBIs: Trout (10), Moustakas 2 (5), Hosmer (4), Perez 2 (7). SF: Perez. S: Mondesi.

Runners left in scoring position: Los Angeles 3 (Trout, Maybin 2); Kansas City 1 (Gordon). RISP: Los Angeles 1 for 4; Kansas City 0 for 3. Runners moved up: Y.Escobar, Hosmer, Perez. GIDP: Perez. DP: Los Angeles 1 (Y.Escobar, Espinosa, Marte).

Angels

I

H

R

ER

W

K

P

ERA

Ramirez L, 2-1

5

4

5

5

2

3

75

7.20

Guerra

1

1

1

1

1

0

23

9.00

Morin

2

3

1

1

0

1

26

6.35

Royals

I

H

R

ER

W

K

P

ERA

Duffy W, 2-0

7

3

1

1

2

6

103

1.80

Moylan

2

1

0

0

1

0

35

0.00

HBP: Moylan (Marte). WP: Ramirez.

Umpires: Home, Ron Kulpa; First, Ed Hickox; Second, Chris Conroy; Third, Jerry Meals. Time: 2:37. Att: 26,838.

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