Royals

As Jakob Junis shines, Royals pummel Padres with four homers in 8-3 win

The Star's 30-second ballpark tour: Petco Park

The Star's Rustin Dodd offers a glimpse at ballparks across America. This week: Petco Park in San Diego.
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The Star's Rustin Dodd offers a glimpse at ballparks across America. This week: Petco Park in San Diego.

His relief corps tired and depleted, his bullpen running on fumes, Royals manager Ned Yost sank into an office chair inside the visitors clubhouse office on Sunday morning and began to cycle through the names of his available arms.

There was no Joakim Soria, Mike Minor or Peter Moylan, he said. Each was out after extended use. Closer Kelvin Herrera and Matt Strahm were questionable, too, for the same reason. Two days earlier, rookie Eric Skoglund had lasted 1  1/3 innings against the San Diego Padres, exacerbating an issue caused by an ailing rotation. On Sunday, the bill was due. Rookie Jakob Junis would take the ball for his third career start. Yost’s concern was apparent. He was just hopeful for innings.

Junis offered the requisite length, and a little more, in an 8-3 victory over the Padres at Petco Park. As the Royals blasted four homers, including two from third baseman Mike Moutakas, Junis lasted seven-plus innings, allowing three runs and striking out six.

“It was exactly what we needed,” Yost said. “It was exactly what the doctor ordered. Seven innings from Jake and an off-day tomorrow.”

The Royals secured a series victories with two straight victories. Just five days after being roughed up for seven runs by the Houston Astros, Junis crafted the finest outing of his young career. He commanded his fastball. He utilized a biting slider, his best pitch. He became the first Royals rookie starter to log seven-plus innings since Yordano Ventura in 2014. The only damage came on three solo homers, including two by Cory Spangenberg. He returned for the eighth inning at 96 pitches before allowing a third homer and giving way to reliever Scott Alexander.

“We needed that today,” said Moustakas, who finished 2 for 4 with four RBIs. “Our bullpen has been used a lot. Our staff is hurting a little bit.”

Perhaps sensing the urgency, the Royals’ offense provided comfort from the start, putting up four runs in the first and crushing three homers against Padres rookie Dinelson Lamet, who possessed a mid-90s fastball but little polish.

Moustakas recognized a first-pitch changeup in the first, delivering a three-run blast with two outs. (“I definitely wasn’t looking for it, but I saw it up,” he said.) He added a solo shot in the ninth, finishing the day with a team-leading 17 homers. As the Royals concluded their 62nd game, Moustakas is now on pace to hit 44 homers, which would shatter the club’s single-season mark of 36, held by Steve Balboni.

“This game is hard,” Moustakas said. “I’m just trying to come in and find ways to get hits every day. I’ve been fortunate this year that things are going out of the park.”

Moustakas, of course, is not the only Royal who appeared at home in Petco Park, feasting on the lowly Padres. As a team, the Royals (28-34) cracked 10 homers in three games, including nine in wins on Saturday and Sunday. The power came from all over the lineup. On Sunday, Alex Gordon ambushed a fastball in the fourth, raking a solo homer to right field. and Eric Hosmer maintained his torrid production inside Petco Park, drilling a two-run homer out to right field in the fifth.

Hosmer’s booming shot came one day after he clubbed a game-tying homer in the eighth inning in a 12-6 victory. It also added to this trivial yet stunning statistic: In 11 games here in San Diego, including the World Baseball Classic and the 2016 All-Star Game, Hosmer has hit five homers.

By the end, the performance had left Yost in a mischievous mood. As he returned to his office following the win, he joked with reporters about Gordon’s second homer this season. He referenced the first career homer hit by speedster Terrance Gore on Saturday at Class AAA Omaha.

“Since him and Gore were tied for homers, it was important to him to get one more than Gore got,” Yost said, a deadpan expression on his face. “He went out and did it today.”

The original version of the joke actually came in the dugout at some point after Gordon’s homer. As he stood near his locker on late Sunday afternoon, Gordon sought to play the good sport.

“Good joke,” Gordon said. “But good thing I have more than just one home run in my career. So it’ll be alright.”

All things considered, a three-game sweep here at Petco would have been preferable against the rebuilding Padres (24-40). For now, the Royals remain six games under .500 and 5  1/2 games out of first place. Yet they can carry the momentum from a series victory into the rest of a nine-game road trip. The club will enjoy a day off in San Francisco on Monday before opening a two-game set against the Giants. It will conclude the stretch with a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim.

Before the power display, before Yost worried about the bullpen, Sunday had offered a matchup between two starting pitchers with fewer than five career starts. Lamet, a 6-foot-4, 187-pound right-hander with a blazing fastball, had allowed just three earned runs across 10 innings before being lit up for seven against the Arizona Diamondbacks last week.

The Royals matched that total in five innings, energizing a crowd that was disproportionately blue. And it would be more than enough support for Junis, who earned his first career victory as a starter and sincere plaudits from his veteran teammates. The Royals’ bullpen needed a lifeline in the form of innings. Junis offered seven.

“I know the bullpen has been used pretty good,” Junis said. “To give them a break going into an off day was huge.”

Royals 8, Padres 3

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield rf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.281

R.Torres 2b

4

1

1

0

0

0

.375

Cain cf

3

1

0

0

1

1

.265

Hosmer 1b

4

2

2

3

0

0

.314

Perez c

2

1

1

0

0

0

.274

Butera ph-c

2

0

0

0

0

0

.235

Moustakas 3b

4

2

2

4

0

1

.275

Escobar ss

4

0

0

0

0

2

.180

Gordon lf

4

1

1

1

0

1

.181

Junis p

3

0

0

0

0

3

.000

Alexander p

1

0

0

0

0

0

.000

Totals 35

8

7

8

1

9

San Diego

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Pirela lf

4

1

2

1

0

2

.500

Cordero cf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.286

Myers 1b

4

0

0

0

0

1

.256

Solarte 2b

2

0

0

0

2

1

.252

Spangenberg 3b

4

2

2

2

0

1

.271

Szczur rf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.200

Aybar ss

4

0

0

0

0

0

.208

Torrens c

4

0

1

0

0

0

.160

Lamet p

1

0

0

0

0

1

.000

Cordoba ph

1

0

1

0

0

0

.281

Valdez p

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

d’Arnaud ph

1

0

0

0

0

1

.233

Maton p

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

J.Torres p

0

0

0

0

0

0

1.000

Totals 33

3

6

3

2

9

Kansas City

400

120

001

8

7

0

San Diego

000

100

110

3

6

2

E—Aybar 2 (3). LOB—Kansas City 1, San Diego 5. HR—Moustakas (16), off Lamet; Gordon (2), off Lamet; Hosmer (7), off Lamet; Moustakas (17), off J.Torres; Spangenberg (2), off Junis; Spangenberg (3), off Junis; Pirela (2), off Junis. RBIs—Hosmer 3 (26), Moustakas 4 (38), Gordon (12), Pirela (5), Spangenberg 2 (10).

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Junis, W, 2-0

7

6

3

3

1

6

4.67

Alexander

2

0

0

0

1

3

1.37

San Diego

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Lamet, L, 2-2

5

6

7

7

1

6

8.50

Valdez

2

0

0

0

0

2

7.71

Maton

1

0

0

0

0

1

0.00

J.Torres

1

1

1

1

0

0

4.40

Junis pitched to 1 batter in the 8th. WP—Lamet 2. T—2:27. A—25,599 (42,302).

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