Royals’ Ned Yost talks about Jorge Soler record and the team’s win
Ryan O’Hearn’s pinch-hit walk-off home run, the second in franchise history, gave the Royals a fitting end to a night that featured another much-anticipated historic home run.
O’Hearn’s first-career walk-off home run served as the encore after Jorge Soler broke the franchise’s single-season home run record earlier in the night on the way to a 6-5 series-opening win over the Detroit Tigers in front of an announced 12,644 people plus 300 dogs in attendance for Bark at the Park at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Royals (50-89) rallied and scored two runs in the eighth to take a one-run lead, and rallied again after Ian Kennedy couldn’t convert a save opportunity. Instead of putting a bow on the win, Kennedy gave up three ninth-inning hits, the third hit an RBI single that tied the score.
Alex Gordon’s throw from left field to home plate cut down Willi Castro trying to score the go-ahead run for the Tigers (40-96). Royals catcher Nick Dini applied the tag for the final out of the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Royals pinch-hit Brett Phillips for Humberto Arteaga, and Phillips lined out to left field. O’Hearn then pinch-hit for Dini and drove the first pitch from Tigers reliever Zac Reininger to left-center field for his 11th home run of the season, his fourth in his past nine games.
“When you’re pinch-hitting, you’ve gotta be aggressive,” O’Hearn said. “It was a first pitch heater out over the plate. I just freaking blacked out. I don’t know. Swung hard and it was good. Yeah, that was awesome.”
Soler went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and three RBIs. He gave the Royals a 3-1 lead on his record-breaking, three-run home run in the third inning.
“There’s a lot of emotions going on right now,” Soler said with catching coach/quality control coach Pedro Grifol translating from Spanish to English. “Maybe when I get home it will sink in. But it hasn’t yet.”
Soler broke Mike Moustakas’ single-season franchise home run record of 38. Soler’s 39th home run put the Royals ahead with two outs in the third. The Royals were able to retrieve the ball for Soler, who said he’ll likely put it in a special place in his home.
“I didn’t really feel the pressure when I got to 38 because I knew we had a lot of games left,” said Soler, who tied Moustakas’ mark on Friday. “The only time I felt any pressure was those 10 days I didn’t hit a home run (after hitting No. 37). But once I tied the record, the pressure was off because of the number of games we had left.”
The Royals remained in front until relievers Scott Barlow (one run) and Kevin McCarthy (two runs) gave up a total of three runs in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively.
McCarthy caught a tough break when Jeimer Candelario’s deep fly ball to the wall in right field hit off the glove of right fielder Whit Merrifield and fell in for a one-out double which put runners on second and third.
The next batter, pinch hitter Christin Stewart, singled to right field to drive in the tying run with one out. A sacrifice fly by Brandon Dixon gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead in the eighth.
Soler hit a one-out single to right field with Adalberto Mondesi (walk) on base in the eighth. After Hunter Dozier was called out on strikes for the second out, Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire turned to the left-handed Soto to pitch to Alex Gordon.
Mondesi stole third and Soler second on the same pitch of Gordon’s at-bat. Gordon hit a high chopper that allowed Mondesi to score and Soler to move up to third as Gordon went diving head-first into first base despite the shortstop not even attempting to throw him out.
Left-handed reliever Gregory Soto’s wild pitch with Royals newcomer Ryan McBroom at the plate gave Soler that chance to score from third. The Royals led 5-4 going into the ninth.
“You know it’s coming, but you still want to see it,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Soler breaking the record. “It’s just such a tough game. You never know. You just don’t know. You don’t know what can happen that can derail your attempt at breaking a record. He’s got it now. Every home run from here on out is going to break the record. That’s cool. That’s something worth seeing.”
The Royals and Tigers continue their series on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium. Right-hander Jakob Junis (8-12, 4.93) is scheduled to start for the Royals, while right-hander Edwin Jackson (3-8, 9.35) will start for the Tigers.