The Royals won their seventh game in their last eight tries, punishing their division foe for the second consecutive night. Offensively, it was an impressive display all around. Whit Merrifield continued his ascent to baseball immortality. Kendrys Morales continued to crawl his way out of a subterranean slump. And the rest of the offense did their part as well as the Royals knocked around the entire Tigers’ pitching staff for 16 runs on 20 hits. All of those runs gave Edinson Volquez enough of a cushion to allow five runs through less than seven innings of work.
The team’s 16-5 victory kept them just a half game behind the Indians in the Central, and the lineup is looking like one that can support a less-than-stellar start.
Volquez once again found himself in trouble in the first inning, allowing a pair of runs, but then he settled in and worked five scoreless frames. He did wobble in the seventh, giving up three runs, but because of his team’s offensive explosion, it didn’t really matter.
Every Royals starter had at least one hit or one RBI, and all but two starters recorded multiple hits. It was bad enough for the Tigers that Andrew Romine eventually pitched out of the bullpen. Andrew Romine is not a pitcher, although he did allow a run to score, so he fit in pretty well with that group.
Any team in baseball could have picked up Merrifield this winter, for relative pocket change. They chose not to, and their loss is the Royals’ gain. Merrifield collected three more hits tonight, along with four RBIs, all coming with two outs. Considering Volquez ran into some Justin Upton-sized speed bumps in the seventh inning, those runs seemed even more important. Sure, the game got out of hand later, but at the time, those were big runs.
His double to left in the second inning put the Royals on top for good, and pushed their win expectancy 19 percentage points higher. The second-best WPA play of the game? A bunt single, because why would you expect anything else?
In his first 116 major-league plate appearances, Merrifield has an .852 OPS. Just to give some perspective, I’ll look at a stat line from some other completely random baseball player. Let’s say, I don’t know, Ben Zobrist. In his first season as this Ben Zobrist, 2008, he had an .844 OPS in 227 plate appearances.
I’ve said this before, but I don’t know what Merrifield’s future is. I do know his present is a whole lot of fun to watch.
Something else that’s been fun to watch has been a resurgence from Morales. After a game on May 24, Morales had a .561 OPS. He then sat out a few days to rest a sore finger, and since returning to the lineup, he’s had an .897 OPS in 74 plate appearances. He’s reached base in ten of his last eleven plate appearances. This is the Morales the Royals were expecting to see.
Morales is showing much better plate discipline lately, and while it’s going to take a Merrifieldian effort to get back to last year’s performance level, the Royals are going to be so much better off with this productive designated hitter in the middle of their order.
The Royals go for the series victory tomorrow afternoon, with Chris Young taking the mound on Father’s Day. Jordan Zimmermann will try to earn a split for the Tigers.