At 10-7, the Royals were off to a good start, and their momentum-grabbing comeback win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday night provided them with a boost heading into a road trip. With the next six games against Detroit and Pittsburgh, two of the worst teams in baseball, the Royals needed to come out and drop the hammer on these teams. If they wanted to contend deep into the summer, a hot start against April’s favorable schedule was a must.
They took care of business in their first opportunity Friday night, defeating the Detroit Tigers 6-2 in the opener of a four-game series. Mike Minor put forth his best start of the young season, and the bats did what they needed to do against one of the more promising pitching prospects in baseball.
Minor didn’t allow a hit in the first four innings. By the time Detroit got in the hit column, they were down 6-0. Robbie Grossman did hit a two-run homer in the fifth, which I believe is his 90th career home run against the Royals, but it ultimately didn’t matter much.
Andrew Benintendi went oppo for a second-inning homer, his first as a Royal. Ryan O’Hearn, who was just called up today, yanked one just over the right-field wall in his first official at-bat of the season two innings later. And then in the fifth, the Royals busted it open with four more runs. Nicky Lopez hit an RBI groundout. Whit Merrifield dropped one in the opposite field for an RBI single. And Jorge Soler, who continues to heat up, capped the rally with a two-run double into the left-field corner. 6-0.
Minor’s final line doesn’t do him justice for how good he was. He was yanked with two outs in the fifth, throwing 102 pitches to get his 17 outs. But he struck out nine and walked just two, earning his second win as a Royal. He is 2-1.
With Greg Holland headed to the DL, something I wanted to see more of is Kyle Zimmer outings. He was given the eighth inning tonight and absolutely blew through it, getting the Tigers 1-2-3 with a pair of strikeouts. Aside from one inning, he’s been nails this year. He needs to get more playing time, and I think he’s earned a spot in the back-end of the bullpen.
Tyler Zuber got the final out in the sixth in relief of minor. Jake Brentz continued his strong start to the year by collecting a pair of strikeouts in a scoreless seventh. Zimmer got the eighth, and Josh Staumont came in throwing 102 mph to get the last three outs. Maybe he’ll take closer duties with Holland on the DL.
Benintendi was particularly impressive. He reached base three times - two hits and a walk, and he made a spectacular outfield catch early on that gave everybody Alex Gordon flashbacks. Merrifield, of course, had two hits for his seventh multi-hit game this year.
The Royals are 11-7 on the young season. It took them 18 games to get win No. 11. For some perspective, they didn’t get to 11 wins until game 26 in 2020, game 31 in 2019, game 34 in 2018, and game 31 in 2017. This team is off to a very nice start.
Tomorrow, they’ll go for three wins in a row behind the right arm of Brady Singer. Opposing him is Tigers’ Opening Day starter Matthew Boyd. First pitch is at 12:10 pm CDT.