Royals score six runs in the seventh to beat the Marlins
Through six innings it certainly looked as if a fastball that was a few inches too far inside might haunt Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy.
That pitch veered just far enough inside and caught a piece of the batter with the bases loaded and thus forced in what turned out to be the only run scored in the game’s first six innings.
Instead, the Royals won for the sixth time in their past seven games, this time by breaking the game open with a six-run seventh inning. Hunter Dozier, Alex Gordon and rookie Ryan McBroom drove in runs during the inning and the Royals beat the Marlins 7-2 in front of an announced 13,112 at Marlins Park on Saturday night.
Royals slugger Jorge Soler (2 for 3) hit his 41st home run of the season in the ninth inning. He extended his single-season franchise record.
With the win, the Royals (53-90) clinched the series victory with the Marlins (50-91) and have now won three consecutive series (at least three games in length) for the first time since July 21-30, 2017.
They’ll head into Sunday’s series finale trying to complete a series sweep.
“I didn’t think that that would be the difference in the game,” Duffy said of the hit by pitch. “I knew offense — our guys, we’ve all got each other’s backs — they were able to put some good at-bats together in that inning and really make it hurt. So, it was a good day overall.”
Duffy (6-6) gave up the game’s first run in the bottom of the second when he hit Smith with a pitch with the bases loaded. Duffy walked back-to-back batters with two outs and a runner on to load the bases, and his 1-2 pitch grazed the elbow pad of Smith on the way into catcher Nick Dini’s mitt to give the Marlins a 1-0 edge.
“I commanded the ball, I thought, inside pretty well,” Duffy said. “The (Lewis) Brinson at-bat before the pitcher, in the moment I felt like they were good pitches. But I went back and looked and they were off. The one that he leaned into was almost a strike, but that’s part of the game. You try to get a win anyway you can. Obviously, I don’t fault anyone for that.
“He had that pad on. If he didn’t have that pad on, it might not have got him, honestly. It was a really close pitch.”
Duffy walked four and hit a batter through five innings. He’d held the Marlins to just two hits during that same span, but working around the walks drove his pitch count up to 85 by the end of the fifth.
He allowed one run on two hits and four walks in six innings. Duffy also struck out five in his second start since coming off the injured list (hamstring strain).
The Royals went into the seventh inning down 1-0. Marlins starting pitcher Caleb Smith held them scoreless and limited them to four hits and two walks. Smith also struck out eight in six innings.
“He’s tough, man,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Smith. “He’s got good numbers. He kept pounding us in with fastball-slider. I knew that we were going to have to continue to battle, just keep battling. Duffy gave us an opportunity to not have to score a bunch of runs to get back in it, only giving up one.”
Bubba Starling (2 for 4) started the inning with an infield single, and pinch hitter Cheslor Cuthbert walked. Whit Merrifield’s single dropped into left field where Marlins outfielder Austin Dean misplayed the ball off the bounce.
As the ball skipped a few feet past Dean, Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele alertly sent Starling home from second for the tying run.
After Adalberto Mondesi failed to get a pair of bunt attempts down and then struck out swinging, the Marlins intentionally walked Soler to set up the force out at every base.
Dozier (2 for 4) lined an RBI single through the right side of the infield and into right field to give the Royals a 2-1. The next batter, Alex Gordon, drew a bases-loaded walk to force in the third run of the inning.
McBroom, playing in just his fifth major-league game, smashed a three-run double toward the right-field corner and gave the Royals a 6-1 lead.
“We have a very lethal offense,” McBroom said. “Once one of us or two of us get rolling, the rest of the guys go ahead and start hitting as well. Guys were just on base and made my job easy.”
McBroom (2 for 5, two doubles) admitted that for a second he thought that double might be his first home run in the majors, but it didn’t stay up long enough for that. He quipped that he’d have to hit the weight room on Sunday.
The Marlins scored a run in the eighth against reliever Jacob Barnes, but left-hander Timmy Hill came in with one out and two on and got an inning-ending double play. Hill pitched 1 and 2/3 scoreless without allowing a hit to earn the save.
Soler’s homer in the ninth closed out the scoring.
The Royals and Marlins wrap their series on Sunday afternoon. Left-hander Mike Montgomery (3-7, 4.42) will start for the Royals, while right-hander Sandy Alcantara (4-12, 4.26) is scheduled to start for the Marlins.