Soler belts 48th homer early as Royals try to send Ned Yost off with a win

Ned Yost’s final game as Royals manager came with a “win one for Ned” mentality for some players, but Yost’s focus before game remained on celebrating the accomplishments of his players.

The Royals host the Minnesota Twins in the regular-season finale for both teams. The Twins will get ready for the playoffs, while the Royals begin a transition period that includes the hiring of a new manager to replace Yost after 10 seasons as well as the transfer of ownership from David Glass to John Sherman.

While Yost prepares to pack up and head back to his farm in Georgia and make it his permanent base of operation, he tried to treat Game 162 the same as always. The club having held an on-field pregame ceremony honoring Yost’s achievements prior to Friday night’s game.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for a while, I’m glad it’s here,” Yost said in his not yet packed up office prior to the game. “I’m trying to make it as normal as I can. This time of year, even though I wasn’t retiring, it’s always been the same. It’s always a hectic getaway day. You’re trying to say goodbye to everybody and having your little meetings, trying to make sure you touch base with everybody.

“It’s been the same there in terms of that. (General manager) Dayton (Moore) usually speaks to the team, and he did that. I think we celebrated the fact that for the first time in the history of the Royals we have a home run champion. That’s really cool. It’s history. I don’t think a whole lot of people outside of Kansas City know the history of Whit Merrifield. That’s two years in a row that a right-handed hitter has led Major League Baseball in hits. I mean that’s history, man. That’s Major League baseball history. I wanted to celebrate that.”

Outfielder/designated hitter Jorge Soler moved into sole possession of the American League home run lead on Saturday with two home runs. In the first inning on Sunday, he added another to give him 48 this season, a franchise record, and move push him past Rafael Palmeiro for the most home runs in a single season by a Cuban-born player.

Merrifield entered the day with major-league leading 206 hits, eight ahead of the Boston Red Sox’ Rafael Devers. Merrifield and injured shortstop Adalberto Mondesi also entered the day tied for the lead in triple (10).

Yost delivered the lineup card to the umpires prior to the game, a task he usually leaves to third base coach Mike Jirschele. Yost exchanged handshakes and embraces with Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and members of the twins coaching staff and the umpiring crew before returning to the dugout to an ovation from the fans at Kauffman Stadium. Yost waved his cap to the crowd as he left the field.

“It means a lot for us to play hard for him and hopefully get a win for him and go celebrate on the field with a victory,” left fielder Alex Gordon said.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.