Ned Yost on Royals' 8-5 win over Tigers: 'Grand slam was huge and Whit broke it open'
A mantra bearing an acute resemblance to the Royals’ 2015 postseason slogan has recently taken over the Royals dugout.
“Keep getting on until we get guys in.”
The words originated from hitting coach Terry Bradshaw. He sought to put a positive spin on the Royals’ early offensive woes: Through 19 games the Royals had stranded 139 men on base.
The number itself wasn’t earth-shattering. It ranked 17th in baseball.
But for a team such as the Royals, which entered Sunday’s series finale with the Tigers at Comerica Park batting .219 with runners on base, the number loomed over a 4-15 start. It was the key component in their being outscored 107-60.
Coupled with a flailing bullpen that owned baseball’s worst ERA, the Royals’ offense bore a hefty chunk of the blame.
Royals hitters figured Bradshaw’s words would take hold eventually. They just needed to internalize them long enough. Even starting pitcher Danny Duffy believed it was a matter of time before the phrase begot reality.
“All of us are so frustrated,” Duffy said Saturday, after the Royals lost for the 10th time in 11 games. “Whole lot of talent in this clubhouse. Whole lot of talent, whole lot of heart. Just not going our way right now. We’ll have to figure it out.”
The Royals finally did Sunday, beating the Tigers 8-5 and stomping out their offensive futility.
Mike Moustakas’ three-run homer in the seventh provided the final score, but outfielder Abraham Almonte’s one-out grand slam in the sixth inning gave the Royals a 5-2 lead.
“(General manager) Dayton (Moore) looks for those under-the-radar guys and he’s been a great addition,” manager Ned Yost said.
The Tigers tied the contest with three runs in the bottom of sixth — two off Royals starter Eric Skoglund, who pitched five-plus innings and allowed four runs in a no-decision, and one unearned run off reliever Kevin McCarthy — but the Royals battled back in the seventh inning.
Before that, Whit Merrifield led off the fifth with a homer that ended Tigers starter Francisco Liriano’s bid for a no-hitter. Cheslor Cuthbert followed him with a double down the third-base line; eventually Jorge Soler and Paulo Orlando drew back-to-back walks with two outs.
Then Almonte strode to the plate, seeking an elevated fastball. He launched the second pitch he saw, a 92 mph heater from Tigers reliever Alex Wilson, 425 feet to right field. As he cut a path around the infield, the Royals could count their first bases-loaded hit in 16 such at-bats this season.
The home run absolved Skoglund's early mistakes.
And it made Almonte, who went 6 for 13 in four games against the Tigers, a hero for the second time this series. He also knocked in the tying run for the Royals in Friday’s win, which snapped a nine-game losing streak.
“I’m getting more confident, seeing the ball better,” said Almonte, whom the Royals claimed off waivers from the Indians at the beginning of April and brought into the fold when Alex Gordon was placed on the disabled list a week on April 10. “I feel like I stay more focused in the approach that I take to the plate every at-bat.”
The Royals (5-15) return to Kansas City for a six-game homestand that begins Tuesday against Lorenzo Cain and the Milwaukee Brewers.
As they await the return of catcher Salvador Perez to their lineup, which could come as soon as Tuesday, they will try to retain this Bradshaw-motivated momentum.
“A ball falls here and there for us a couple games ago, this thing wouldn’t have been as bad as it was,” said Moustakas, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games. “That’s just how it is.
“The thing about this team, though, is we kept coming to work everyday, kept grinding, kept fighting. Able to get a big win the other day and then keep going into this.”