OAKLAND -- Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales collected three hits and notched his 500th career RBI, and first baseman Eric Hosmer chipped in with a ninth-inning home run to help the Royals secure a 4-2 series-opening victory over the A's at the Coliseum on Friday.
It was a two-run first inning against A's starter Rich Hill that jump-started the Royals, who got six innings of two-run ball from Edinson Volquez. The right-hander worked around a season-high four walks and allowed just four hits in that span, one of them a solo home run to Stephen Vogt in the second -- the first of the season for Oakland's catcher, who finished with three hits.
Hill gave the A's only 4 1/3 innings, yielding three runs on nine hits and three walks with six strikeouts. Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain collected one of two hits in the first off Hill with a run-scoring single, and Hosmer's ensuing double-play ball brought in another run. Kansas City improved to 8-2 on the season, while the A's, who have lost four straight, fell to 4-7.
"We realize this is going to be a tough road trip for us, coming to Houston and coming here," Hosmer said. "Coming off last year, a lot of teams are going to be coming for us and we're just trying to match the energy. We've done a great job of that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Escobar walk kick-starts Royals: Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar isn't exactly the most patient leadoff hitter in the big leagues, which is why his game-opening walk was so critical. It's the first walk this season for Escobar and he came around to score on Lorenzo Cain's single as part of a two-run inning. More >
Two too many free passes: Including Escobar, two of the three hitters who drew walks against Hill came around to score, magnifying the left-hander's control issues. Hill needed 106 pitches to record 13 outs before the A's were forced to turn to a bullpen that entered the day with an American League-leading 36 innings pitched. It's the second time in three starts in which Hill -- signed by the A's to a one-year, $6 million deal this winter -- has not been able to complete five innings.
"The two walks in the first were something that came back to bite me," Hill said. "When we have to go to the bullpen in fifth inning, I just didn't do my job tonight." More >
Volquez closes strong: Volquez settled into a nice groove after giving up Khris Davis' RBI single in the fourth that trimmed the Royals' lead to one run. The Kansas City right-hander retired eight of the final nine batters he faced before turning things over to the bullpen. The only A's batter to reach during that stretch came by a walk, but it didn't hurt. In fact, none of the four walks allowed by Volquez scored and only one advanced to second base. It's just the second time in 16 starts dating back to last season that Volquez has issued more than three walks.
"The game plan was for me to get more ground balls," said Volquez, who struck out two after fanning 10 in his previous start against Minnesota on April 10. "I get in trouble when I strike out people so I went to more contact and stayed longer in the game. That was the idea but I walked four guys."
Damage control: Credit the A's bullpen with keeping the club within striking distance. Hill left two baserunners for right-hander Fernando Rodriguez, who walked catcher Salvador Perez before inducing an inning-ending double-play ball off the bat of Christian Colon. Rodriguez was in need of his own assist in the sixth after putting runners on first and second with two outs, and he got it from lefty Marc Rzepczynski, who fanned Hosmer. A's relievers have inherited the most runners in the Majors without allowing one to score, with 20.
"That was an unbelievable piece of hitting by Hosmer. Doolittle made a great pitch up and in, fastball. No one hits that ball out to center here at night, especially on a pitch like that." -- Vogt
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Oakland right-hander Ryan Dull, who worked 1 1/3 innings with two strikeouts, is the first A's pitcher since at least 1913 to begin the season with seven consecutive hitless outings.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Kansas City right-hander Chris Young will start Saturday's game in Oakland, scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CT. He is still seeking his first win of the season. Young hasn't made it past the fifth inning in either of his previous two starts and was tagged for six earned runs over 4 2/3 innings in his most recent outing against Houston.
Athletics: The A's will have ace Sonny Gray on the mound Saturday for the middle matchup of this three-game set against the Royals, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PT at the Coliseum. Gray has a 2.70 ERA in his first two starts, most recently totaling 6 1/3 innings with three runs allowed against the Angels on Monday.