Royals beat Red Sox in extra innings on Jorge Soler homer
For a year, the Royals were questioned if they’d made the right choice.
Fans, especially, wondered if the move to send closer Wade Davis to the Cubs in exchange for a strong outfielder who had yet to really prove himself in the major leagues was worth losing an integral member of a World Series-winning bullpen.
On Tuesday night in Boston, 16 months after the December 2016 trade brought outfielder Jorge Soler to Kansas City, the Royals were rewarded for holding on to hope.
Soler struck a 74 mph curveball offered by Red Sox reliever Brian Johnson into the Green Monster seats in left field. The three-run homer in the 13th inning paved the way for the Royals’ 7-6 win at Fenway Park.
With a mighty hack that muscled the ball 357 feet over the wall, Soler absolved Royals closer Kelvin Herrera of his first blown save of the year.
“I wasn’t looking for a breaking ball,” Soler said in Spanish, in the moments after hitting his first game-winning home run in a Royals uniform. “He’s a pitcher who doesn’t throw really hard. I was looking fastball. I saw the curveball there and made a swing on it.”
The Royals had fought from the ninth inning on to re-take a lead they lost in the sixth, when starting pitcher Jakob Junis surrendered a solo home run to Mitch Moreland and an RBI single to Jackie Bradley Jr.
Until then, Junis held his own in his first career outing against the Red Sox. Over six innings, he gave up seven hits and two earned runs to the best-hitting team in baseball. He also struck out five.
Before the sixth, Junis had limited the Red Sox to just five baserunners. He’d allowed four hits and issued a walk through five innings. When the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs in the third inning, Junis turned to his vaunted slider and struck out Xander Bogaerts, the shortstop who on Monday hit the Red Sox’s sixth grand slam of the season.
“Junis gave us a heck of a start,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Made a mistake on Moreland, tried to go back-door slider and got it over the plate. Bradley fisted one against the shift, tied it up. A couple wild pitches, they take the lead. … (We) kept battling, kept fighting.”
After Junis left the game with the score tied 2-2, Andrew Benintendi scored the go-ahead run when Royals rookie reliever Brad Keller threw a wild pitch that rolled toward Mitch Moreland in the on-deck circle.
Alex Gordon provided the first glimmer of hope. He tied the game 3-3 in the ninth inning with his first homer of the season, off Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel.
Then Royals pitcher Kevin McCarthy provided three scoreless innings of relief. When he exited the game in the 12th, yielding to Herrera, the Royals had taken a 4-3 lead on Jon Jay’s sacrifice fly that scored Drew Butera in the top of the frame.
Herrera, who hadn't allowed a run in 11 appearances to start the season, made a mistake inside to Red Sox second baseman Eduardo Nuñez, who drove it over the Green Monster for another game-tying homer.
But Soler, who deposited his home run near where Nunez’s landed, provided the power Herrera needed for a victory. Brian Flynn earned the save.
The Royals improved to 8-21 and handed the Red Sox their eighth loss of the year.
“They would bend a little bit but they would never break,” Yost said. “That’s always been a hallmark of our team — these guys continue to battle no matter how difficult the times get.
“That’s why I’m always so proud of watching them out there fight. But it was good to get on the good side of one, too, when they’ve been fighting their tails off.”