If there is one positive thing we have learned about the Royals this season, it is that Ryan O’Hearn LOVES hanging dong.
Ever the exhibitionist, O’Hearn stroked a solo dong in his second trip to the plate, smoking a 91-MPH Adam Plutko heater into the shrubbery in right center. Excited at the prospect of another dong shot, O’Hearn cranked another one out in the sixth, this time another Royal was in the mix with Hunter Dozier having reached on a single to lead the inning off against Plutko in his final inning of work.
These were the eighth and ninth hung dongs on the season for O’Hearn. This would be respectable for any Royals rookie, as the club is a historically dong-starved one, but O’Hearn’s dong parade has occurred in 24 games. This breaks the [warning: arbitrary endpoint statistic coming up] previous Royal rookie record of most dongs in their first 24 games set by the mighty (and possessor of a deadly allergy to walks) Mark Quinn.
The Royal who actually started the scoring off this afternoon was Jorge Bonifacio, who whipped his lumber out at a heater in and stroked a dong of his own in the second.
With a 4-0 lead heading into the top of the eighth, Hunter Dozier inserted himself into the dong show, hanging his fourth dong in his last 11 games, stroking one deep to left, crossing over against Jon Edwards. Not to be outdone by his long-time minor-league teammate, Dozier’s dong was probably the most impressive of the afternoon. It was definitely the longest, going 413 feet at 109 MPH and peppering the seats, leaving Cleveland fans running for cover. Dozier is lacing balls right now.
For all this talk of the Royals’ dong-loving ways, Jakob Junis did his own admirable dong-denial in seven strong frames of work, painting the corners and playing keep away with Cleveland’s wood. A prolific dong ceder in the most grotesque ways possible, Junis allowed just three baserunners—two by way of singles, and another by his club single-season record 14th hit batsman. He got Cleveland whiffing on balls six times in his seven innings.
Junis gave way to Brian Flynn, who kept the Cleveland nine off the board for another inning before handing the bump to “Free” Wily Peralta for the bottom of the ninth.
In the top of the ninth, Adalberto Mondesí singled and Alcides Escobar smoked one off the wall in left, setting up an opportunity for Whit Merrifield to keep his 22-game on-base streak alive, but Merrifield went down swinging after falling behind 0-2 before working the count full against Neil Ramírez in an octopitch ordeal that felt like it was going to extend his streak.
Peralta attempted to shut the door on the Central-leading but otherwise disappointing Cleveland ball club, but things did not go according to plan. After recording one out, Peralta served up a dong to Francisco Lindor—his 30th on the year and 18th of his young career against the Royals—and a subsequent single to Michael Brantley. Coming with one out, Brantley stood on the bag at first as the possible AL MVP José Ramírez stepped to the plate. Ramírez worked a four-pitch walk, though both the third and fourth pitches scraped across the lower barrier of the strike zone, borderline calls the onus of which did not lie entirely upon Peralta’s shoulders.
The Ramírez walk precipitated a visit from the dugout, but that visit did nothing to prevent a second straight four-pitch walk, this time to Edwin Encarnacion. This free pass brought Ned Yost trudging back onto the field, fingering Tim Hill on his way to the bump.
With a 5-1 lead and the bases juiced, the southpaw sidearmer came into face Yonder Alonso who was pinch-hit for with Yandy Díaz. Hill did was Hill does, inducing a rocket of a one-hopper to second, which Whit Merrifield corraled and whipped to Mondesí at short on a 4-6-3 double play to get the Royals out of the jam.
The win puts the Royals’ [obvious] best win streak on the year at a surprising six games. Junis got the win, Plutko took the loss, and Tim Hill got the save.