As the temperatures continue to rise to steamy levels in July, the Royals have become exceedingly adept at making opposing pitchers hot under the collar.
They continued that trend, as well as their winning ways coming out of the All-Star break, Wednesday night.
The Royals put themselves in position to sweep their four-game series with a win Thursday afternoon and wrap up their homestand having won six of seven thanks to a 7-5 win over the Chicago White Sox in front of an announced 14,340 at Kauffman Stadium, where it was 94 degrees at first pitch.
“Things are clicking for us,” Royals All-Star Whit Merrifield said. “Pitching well. Hitting well. Playing good defense. Finding ways to win games that we didn’t find how to do early on. That’s the goal.”
The Royals have now outscored the White Sox 23-7 in the first three games of their series, and the Royals offense has averaged 7.2 runs per game in the first six games of their seven-game homestand.
Nicky Lopez (2 for 4, 2 RBIs) and Jorge Soler (2 for 4, 3 RBIs) combined to drive in five of the team’s runs, while Merrifield went 3 for 3 and Alex Gordon doubled and also enjoyed a two-hit night. Soler now has 67 RBIs this season.
“We have the talent,” Merrifield said. “The guys that haven’t been up here very long and figuring out to be successful.”
Merrifield, who reached base in all five plate appearances, extended his hitting streak to 15 games. He has the longest active streak in the majors. Of course, he set a franchise record earlier this season for the longest hitting streak (31 games), though that streak carried over from the end of the 2018 season.
Merrifield, who led the majors in hits last season, entered the night leading the majors with 125 hits and is now on pace for 214 this season.
“Another great day. It’s just what he’s been doing,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Merrifield. “He’s been as consistent as anyone in Major League Baseball the last couple of years with his performance day in and day out.”
White Sox starting pitcher Ivan Nova entered had allowed the most hits of any pitcher in the American League (137) as well as the highest opponent’s batting average (.322) in the majors. So it hardly qualified as a shock that the recently hot-hitting Royals (35-62) jumped out to an early lead.
Back-to-back two-out RBI singles from Soler and Lopez gave the Royals a 2-0 advantage in the first inning.
They added four more in the fifth thanks to three hits and three walks. Hunter Dozier’s bases-loaded walk forced in the first run of the inning, and Soler followed with a two-run single that marked the end of the outing for Nova (4-9).
Lopez capped the scoring with an RBI single smacked back up the middle off reliever Jace Fry.
The White Sox (42-50) cut into the six-run deficit in the top of the sixth thanks to a two-run home run by former Royal Ryan Goins.
Goins played 41 games with the Royals last season before being designated for assignment in late June. He elected free agency and signed a minor-league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
That home run accounted for the only two runs allowed by Royals starter Danny Duffy (4-5) in six innings. He allowed six hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out five.
Duffy recorded his 10th career win against the White Sox, the most against any opponent he’s faced.
“We’re getting to that point where we’re gaining the confidence again,” Duffy said. “Guys are playing great. The offense is doing a great job of going up there every time and having good at-bats, doing their job. We’re just kind of following them. As a staff just trying to take the baton and run with it.”
Merrifield added an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to give them their seventh run.
Royals relief pitchers Scott Barlow (1 1/3 innings), and Jake Diekman (2/3 innings) combined for two scoreless innings of relief.
Wily Peralta gave up a three-run pinch-hit homer to A.J. Reed with two outs in the ninth inning before closer Ian Kennedy entered and got Yolmer Sanchez to fly out to end the game. Kennedy now has 15 saves in his first season as a reliever.