Royals win first series of the season after 4-2 victory over Tigers
For the first time this season, the Royals secured a series victory. They beat the Tigers 4-2 on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium in a game that lasted just two hours and 16 minutes, thanks in part to another efficient outing from starting pitcher Jakob Junis and the run-manufacturing skills of second baseman Whit Merrifield.
Junis limited the Tigers to two runs and eight hits in seven-plus innings. He struck out eight batters along the way, using his slider as the put-away pitch on each.
Merrifield jumpstarted the Royals' offense in the first inning. He rolled a ground ball down the line that took an in-between hop to Tigers third baseman Niko Goodrum. After the ball was deflected into left field, Merrifield sprinted effortlessly to second base for a double.
Minutes later, following Jorge Soler's strikeout, Merrifield took off for third base on Tigers starter Matthew Boyd’s first offering to Mike Moustakas. The steal played perfectly into the Royals’ hands; when Moustakas lofted a fly ball to shallow left field, Merrifield charged home to score the game’s first run.
“That’s my job,” he said. “That’s what I do. I get on and cause havoc, try to make it easier for these guys to drive me in.”
Merrifield hasn’t had the chance this season to flaunt much of his speed, which he turned into 32 doubles, six triples and an American League-best 34 stolen bases last season. Opponents have tempered it. He entered Sunday with four steals, tied for 26th in baseball with 13 others, and had been caught stealing twice. His double in the first inning was his seventh of the year.
But against Boyd on Sunday afternoon, the script flipped. Merrifield flaunted his fleet-footedness, matching his career high with three stolen bases in the game.
Merrifield’s aggressiveness sparked a three-run third inning, too. The Royals reached base four times in a row with two outs. Merrifield was the first, singling on a ground ball deflected again by Goodrum. He stole second base ahead of Soler’s five-pitch walk. When Boyd threw a high 2-2 curveball to Moustakas, Merrifield took advantage of a defensive shift to steal third base. Soler followed Merrifield’s lead for another uncontested stolen base.
Moustakas smacked a two-run double into the center-field wall one pitch later.
“Really heads-up by both of them. Especially Soler on the second one,” Moustakas said. “I thought, ‘Wow, that got me in a good position because (Boyd) wasn’t able to spike a slider then.’ I was able to get a good pitch to hit.”
Then Salvador Perez skied a fly ball to left field. Shortstop Jose Iglesias backed into the outfield to attempt a catch but lost sight of the ball. He dropped to the grass and covered his head as the ball landed a few feet to his left.
By the time Jones scooped it up, Moustakas had scored the Royals’ fourth run.
It was all the insurance they needed. The Royals, after taking three of four from the Tigers, improved to 11-23.