Less than 10 days ago, Eric Hosmer was hitting under .200. Today, he’s the hero. Welcome to baseball.
Hosmer hit the furthest home run I’ve ever seen a Kansas City player hit at Kauffman Stadium on Friday night, paving the way to a 3-1 Royals victory over the Cleveland Indians. But it didn’t always look like things were going to be that smooth.
Through the first four innings, things looked all too familiar. The Royals, or simply Salvador Perez, blew two separate scoring opportunities by striking out with two men in scoring position both times. In the top of the fourth, Edwin Encarnacion blasted a solo home run for the Indians, his fifth, to give Cleveland a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Whit Merrifield and Mike Moustakas hit singles to give the team yet another scoring chance. Immediately after that, Lorenzo Cain hit into a double play. Right when it appeared the Royals were going to squander their most promising scoring opportunity yet, Eric Hosmer stepped to the plate.
Earlier in the contest, Hosmer had singled to stretch his hitting streak to nine games. In that stretch are 13 hits, 11 of which are singles. While Hosmer had been seeing the ball better as of late, it seemed like most of his hits were ground ball singles, which wasn’t exactly jolting confidence into the hearts of Royals fans that he was really coming out of his slump.
Out of nowhere, Hosmer absolutely clobbered a first-pitch fastball into the upper tier of right-field fountains, giving the Royals a 2-1 lead. It was his third homer of the season, one that electrified Kauffman Stadium into the loudest it’s been all week. The Royals never looked back.
Hosmer’s 458-foot blast was truly polarizing. We all know that this guy has the ability to do stuff like this. He’ll go weeks hitting nothing but weak ground balls to the right side. Anything in the air off his bat is to the opposite field. And then, just randomly, he’ll murder a baseball by actually pulling it in the air. We’ve been saying it for years, but if he ever can figure out how to do that with any taste of consistency, he’s going to be one of the best players in the sport.
Aside from the homer, Jason Hammel was spectacular. He earned his first win as a Royal, improving to 1-3, by throwing six innings of three-hit ball. He struck out six and walked two, throwing 95 pitches to get his 18 outs.
Hammel out-dueled Cleveland ace Danny Salazar, who was far from his best on Friday night. Salazar allowed 10 baserunners in just 4.2 innings, his shortest outing of the year. He did strike out seven Royals, but his command was erratic. Kansas City used a surprisingly patient approach against Salazar to hike up his pitch count. It worked; he didn’t make it out of the fifth. He took the loss to drop to 2-3 on the year.
The Royals added their third run in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI double by Alcides Escobar. As a team, the Royals had 13 baserunners, though just three of them scored.
The Kansas City bullpen was electric. Scott Alexander needed just nine pitches to get through a perfect seventh, collecting three ground ball outs. Joakim Soria fell behind every hitter he faced, only to recover to strike out all three of them. And then in the ninth, Kelvin Herrera finally earned his fourth save of the season, his first since April 19, by working around a two-out double.
As a unit, the bullpen faced 10 batters. Only one reached.
The Royals are 10-18. Tomorrow, they’ll go for their first series victory since that sweep of the Angels back on Easter Sunday. Jason Vargas (4-1, 1.42 ERA) will oppose Josh Tomlin (2-3, 8.87), so the matchup would appear promising. It is a 3:15 pm CDT start on FS1.