By Jeffrey Flanagan and Jordan Bastian
MLB.com |@FlannyMLB |
KANSAS CITY -- Rookie Whit Merrifield tripled and hit his first Major League homer, and Edinson Volquez tossed seven shutout innings as the Royals held on for a 2-1 win over the Indians on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals, who won their third straight after losing eight in a row, are now just two games back of the American League Central-leading Indians.
Volquez overcame a shaky start in which he walked the bases loaded in the first inning. He walked four overall, but gave up just two hits and struck out three. He gave the Royals their third straight fantastic start -- Danny Duffy threw six shutout innings on Saturday and Yordano Ventura gave up one run over seven innings on Sunday.
"I keep [that] in mind," Volquez said. "That's what you want to do. As a team, some guy goes eight or seven innings and you're up the next day. That's what you want to do. You want to go seven or eight, too. Keep the game alive to give you a chance to win."
Indians starter Carlos Carrasco labored through six innings, allowing 10 hits and a walk. But he gave up just two runs and struck out eight.
"Early on, he really had to [battle]. He really kind of bobbed and weaved his way," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "There was a lot of traffic early and, for the most part, he got out of it. As he got into the third or fourth inning, he started pitching in more effectively and that opened up the plate."
Jason Kipnis cracked his eighth homer for the Indians. According to Statcast™, the homer traveled an estimated 415 feet with an exit velocity of 103 mph. It also came off a 98-mph fastball from Kelvin Herrera, making it the fastest pitch Kipnis has ever hit for a homer.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Two-hit Whit strikes again: Merrifield has earned the nickname as he has multi-hit games in 10 of his 21 career starts. The homer and triple were career firsts for him. The home run, which nearly cleared the Royals' bullpen in left field, traveled an estimated 409 feet from the plate with an exit velocity of 101 mph, according to Statcast™. More >
"I just told [GM] Dayton [Moore], 'This kid is not a flash in the pan,'" Yost said. "His swing works up here. It's very compact. It's very short. He covers the plate really, really well. He has a good sense of timing on breaking pitches. He just gives you really, really good at-bats."
Route inefficiency: Merrifield got his night rolling by yanking a full-count fastball from Carrasco to right field, where Tribe outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall broke in too far on the fly ball. The poor route led to the ball carrying over the right fielder's head, opening the door for a leadoff triple. Merrifield then scored on a single to shallow right by Alcides Escobar.
"He was saying he was having a tough time seeing [the ball] out of the stands," Francona said. "And then, when he did break, he broke the wrong way. That's usually a ball that he makes. I don't think he saw it real well off the bat."
Runners galore: The Royals actually had a chance to do much more damage against Carrasco. They had seven hits and a walk in the first three innings, but scored just the one run in the first inning.
Missed chances: The Indians had opportunities despite just two hits off Volquez. The Royals starter issued three of his four free passes in the first inning, for example, but the Tribe could not push a run across. The Indians had nine baserunners against Volquez, but went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
"His stuff's really good," Francona said of Volquez. "Every once in a while, he'll lose the plate a little bit like he did in the first inning. We just weren't able to cash in. There were some double plays. Some of it is his stuff."
"It'll happen. I know it's hard for him right now and I know he's frustrated, but it'll break free. He's too good a player." -- Francona, on catcher Yan Gomes, who grounded into two double plays, struck out and is now batting .169More >
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
It was ruled that Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the top of the fourth, but Francona challenged the call, believing Naquin was safe at first base. After a swift replay review, the initial ruling was overturned. The Royals escaped any damage in the inning, though.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Right-hander Josh Tomlin (8-1, 3.48 ERA) is scheduled to start the second game of this three-game series at 8:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium. Tomlin is 4-0 with a 2.91 ERA in five road starts this season.
Royals: Right-hander Chris Young (2-6, 6.37) will face the Indians on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. CT. Young was skipped in the rotation last Saturday so Duffy could pitch at U.S. Cellular Field and Young could pitch at Kauffman Stadium, where he's 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA this season.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.