One sign in the stands at Kauffman Stadium on Friday summed up right fielder Nori Aoki’s day.
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Aoki, the Royals’ leadoff hitter, collected three hits and walked once, while Omar Infante had three hits in a 7-5 win against the White Sox in the home opener.
They proved to be a dynamic duo at the top of the Royals’ order.
A year ago, Royals’ leadoff hitters ranked 13th in the American League in on-base percentage, while their No. 2 hitters were eighth. To remedy that, the Royals traded with the Milwaukee Brewers for Aoki in the offseason and signed Infante as a free agent.
“That’s why we made those additions,” manager Ned Yost said. “Guys who get on base, put the ball in play. I think Nori and Omar were on (base) seven times today, which was big.
“That set the table for Gordy’s big double.”
Alex Gordon’s bases-clearing double in the first inning scored Aoki, Infante and Eric Hosmer, and staked the Royals to a 3-1 lead. They never trailed again. The three runs were one fewer than the team had in its first two games combined.
Aoki was held hitless in the first two games in Detroit, so it was a relief to get off the schneid.
“Just getting that first hit out of the way was important, and I’d like to keep continuing doing the same thing,” Aoki said through translator Kosuke Inaji.
Infante’s second hit of the game plated Lorenzo Cain and gave the Royals a 4-1 lead in the second inning.
Despite struggling with a bone spur in his right elbow in spring training, Infante is batting .385.
Aoki’s three hits got his average up to .231, although he did make an error in the eighth inning, dropping a fly ball off the bat of Tyler Flowers.
Still, it was a happy home debut for Aoki.
“I know if I play a game like I did today, I can help the team win, so I’m really happy with what I did today,” Aoki said.
Not surprisingly, with the Royals’ top two hitters reaching base seven times, the Royals had their best offensive showing of the (admittedly) early season.
That made for one happy manager.
“It was a good offensive day for us,” Yost said.