Royals

The Royals set a record and drilled Detroit. The biggest question was Mike Moustakas’ health

The Royals’ Mike Moustakas looked at his broken bat handle while standing on first base after hitting a single against the Tigers in the second inning Wednesday in Detroit. Moustakas exited in the seventh inning after sustaining what the Royals termed “right lateral knee irritation.”
The Royals’ Mike Moustakas looked at his broken bat handle while standing on first base after hitting a single against the Tigers in the second inning Wednesday in Detroit. Moustakas exited in the seventh inning after sustaining what the Royals termed “right lateral knee irritation.” The Associated Press

A bulky ice pack wrapped around his right knee, Mike Moustakas limped toward the shower late Wednesday night, stopping for a moment at the foot of his locker.

He swung his right leg around and rested the bulk of his weight on his good knee. He sought to downplay the ice on his leg and the discomfort underneath it.

“Tomorrow I’ll look to be in the lineup again,” said Moustakas, the Royals’ starting third baseman. “And just go from there.”

In a 13-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers, Moustakas had aggravated an old injury, battled the pain for seven innings, then exited early as the Royals set a franchise single-season home run record and secured a series victory at Comerica Park. In the afterglow of a productive night — and an odd road trip that featured four wins and two beatings — the only drama surrounded the status of Moustakas’ knee.

The Royals (69-69) had pulled within 2  1/2 games of Minnesota in the race for the second American League wild card. On Thursday, they will play host to the Twins in the first game of a pivotal four-game set. As he prepared to return home on Wednesday, Moustakas said he expected to play.

“We’re in the thick of this thing,” he said.

Moustakas had exited in the seventh inning after sustaining what the Royals termed “right lateral knee irritation.” Manager Ned Yost referred to the issue as “old news.”

The pain stems from an injury suffered on Aug. 23 in his final at-bat against the Colorado Rockies at Kauffman Stadium. As Moustakas ran to first base on a fly ball, he had a knee tendon that “just kind of rolled over and popped,” Yost said.

The Royals remained vague on the nature of the injury. But Yost said Moustakas did not sustain any structural damage. He missed two straight starts and returned to the field, eventually tying Steve Balboni’s single-season record of 36 home runs last week at Target Field in Minneapolis.

Relive each of Mike Moustakas' 36 home runs this season (so far). On Friday night in Minneapolis, the Royals third baseman tied Steve Balboni's single-season franchise record set in 1985.

On Wednesday, he tweaked his knee while scoring from first base on an Alcides Escobar triple in the second inning. The issue, Moustakas said, came when he rounded third base. It felt similar to the previous injury.

He battled pain and discomfort for the rest of the night. In the bottom of the sixth, he couldn’t track down a foul pop in shallow left field, coming up short while gritting his teeth. In the seventh, he hit into an inning-ending double play, failing to prolong a furious rally that featured four doubles and four runs.

“He continues to keep playing through it,” Yost said. “(He) wants to keep playing through it. And we’ll see how he is tomorrow.”

The sight of Moustakas moving around the diamond with a noticeable hitch in his step offered some measure of alarm. But before the concern mounted, and before the Royals’ offense blitzed the Tigers for 11 runs in the seventh and eighth innings, catcher Salvador Perez hit a rather notable homer.

In the top of the second inning, Perez saw a 1-2 fastball from Tigers starter Matthew Boyd and muscled a solo shot out to left-center field. The homer represented the Royals’ 169th this season, surpassing the team record of 168, set in 1987. Perez would add No. 170 during a seven-run eighth, finishing the night with a career-high 24 homers. The team total ranks 10th in the American League.

Context is key: By Wednesday morning, Major League Baseball teams had combined to hit 5,276 home runs in 2017. And the sport is on pace to shatter the all-time record of 5,693 homers in one season, set in 2000, during the height of the so-called Steroid Era.

The absurd power numbers have sparked widespread whispers of a “juiced” ball (MLB commissioner Rob Manfred denies any intentional changes to the ball) and elicited other theories for the league-wide derby. But whatever the reason, whatever the factors involved, baseball has found itself in a new era of clout. The Royals have ridden the cresting wave.

“It means a lot for us,” Perez said.

By the end, it was a promising end to a strange trip. Starter Jason Hammel yielded just two runs in six innings. Whit Merrifield set a career high with three doubles. Escobar pounded out four of the offense’s 18 hits against an overwhelmed Tigers staff.

By late Wednesday, the Royals packed their belongings inside the visitors clubhouse at Comerica Park and concluded their penultimate road trip of the season. In six days in Minnesota and Detroit, they had won four times, shaking off a 17-0 loss to the Twins and a 13-2 defeat here on Tuesday. They had made up two games in the wild-card race, and for once, they were on the other side of a rout, notching their largest victory since drilling Detroit 16-2 on July 26.

As their flight took off in Detroit, they were just 2  1/2 games out of a playoff spot. They will meet the Twins on Thursday. Any late playoff push will start over the next four days, which begged the obvious question: How healthy exactly is Mike Moustakas?

“It’s nothing,” Yost said, pointing out a clubhouse full of aches and bruises. “Sal’s grimacing and hit two freaking home runs. He fell down on his knee on one swing.

“It’s the same thing.”

Royals 13, Tigers 2

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield 2b

6

2

3

3

0

1

.284

Cain cf

3

1

1

1

1

1

.297

Orlando ph-cf

2

1

1

1

0

0

.175

Cabrera rf

5

1

2

0

0

1

.297

Soler rf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.154

Hosmer 1b

5

1

1

2

0

1

.315

Moss 1b

0

0

0

0

0

0

.199

Perez c

4

2

2

3

1

1

.266

Butera c

0

0

0

0

0

0

.252

Moustakas 3b

3

1

2

0

1

0

.280

Torres 3b

1

0

0

0

0

0

.250

Bonifacio dh

5

1

1

0

0

0

.253

Escobar ss

5

2

4

1

0

0

.243

Mondesi pr-ss

0

0

0

0

0

0

.130

Gordon lf

4

1

1

1

0

0

.196

Gore ph-lf

1

0

0

0

0

0

.000

Totals

44

13

18

12

3

5

Detroit

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Kinsler 2b

3

1

1

1

1

0

.236

Romine ph-2b

1

0

0

0

0

0

.242

Presley rf

5

0

1

0

0

1

.309

Castellanos dh

4

0

2

0

0

0

.255

Navarro ph-dh

1

0

0

0

0

1

.133

Hicks 1b

4

1

1

0

0

0

.313

Holaday ph

1

0

0

0

0

0

.429

Candelario 3b

2

0

1

0

2

0

.245

Mahtook lf

4

0

1

0

0

2

.276

McCann c

4

0

1

1

0

2

.260

Jones cf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.174

Machado ss

4

0

2

0

0

2

.291

Totals

37

2

10

2

3

9

Kansas City

020

000

470

13

18

1

Detroit

000

110

000

2

10

0

E: Moustakas (9). LOB: Kansas City 7, Detroit 11. 2B: Merrifield 3 (27), Cabrera (26), Hosmer (25), Escobar (27), Gordon (16), Castellanos (26). 3B: Escobar (4). HR: Perez (23), off Boyd; Perez (24), off Reininger; Kinsler (15), off Hammel. RBIs: Merrifield 3 (65), Cain (46), Hosmer 2 (82), Perez 3 (70), Escobar (43), Gordon (38), Orlando (3), Kinsler (40), McCann (42). SB: Jones (3). DP: Detroit 1.

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Hammel, W, 8-10

6

9

2

2

2

6

4.73

Moylan

1

0

0

0

1

0

3.86

McCarthy

2

1

0

0

0

3

2.62

Detroit

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Boyd, L, 5-9

6

7

4

4

2

4

5.93

Saupold

0

3

2

1

0

0

3.98

Labourt

1

0

0

0

1

1

3.00

Jimenez

 1/3

5

5

5

0

0

12.82

Reininger

 2/3

2

2

2

0

0

14.54

Greene

1

1

0

0

0

0

2.67

Boyd pitched to 2 batters in the 7th. Saupold pitched to 3 batters in the 7th. Inherited runners-scored: Saupold 1-1, Labourt 2-1, Reininger 2-2. PB: McCann (7). Time: 3:27. Att: 23,755.

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