DETROIT — When this 10-game road trip started, Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier did not have any career multihomer games. Now he has three.
And when this trip began, there wasn’t a ton of chatter about Jorge Soler getting close to Mike Moustakas’ single-season club home run record of 38. But Soler blasted seven home runs on this trip and now has 35 on the season.
Dozier and Soler each had two-homer games Sunday, powering the Royals to a 10-2 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park and a split of the four-game series.
“I love it,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I need runs. I have to have runs. And they’ve been providing them in grand fashion.”
Whit Merrifield led off the game with his 14th home run of the season — the eighth leadoff home run of his career. Two batters later, Dozier hit his 21st home run.
Soler belted his 34th home run, a two-run shot in the third with Dozier, who had tripled, on board.
Dozier and Soler then hit back-to-back jacks in the eighth inning. Soler also had a two-run double in the ninth.
“He’s the hottest hitter in baseball right now,” Dozier said of Soler. “We were just talking about it. What he’s doing is video game stuff. If I get on base, he’ll get me in somehow.”
Dozier had his first multihomer game in Minnesota on Aug. 2. He delivered another here on Thursday.
“It’s just a crazy game,” Dozier said. “I feel really good in the box, but I have been feeling really good for a while … you can’t really control the results all the time.”
After his first two at-bats produced a home run and a triple, the Royals dugout started thinking Dozier would hit for the cycle — the last Royal to do so was George Brett in 1990.
“Doze hit the home run in the first, then he just missed a home run,” Yost said. “And he came into the dugout and said, ‘How far from a homer was that?’ I said, ‘Two feet.’ And he went, ‘Aw, man.’ But I said, ‘Stop. Something special is going to happen to you today. I’m not going to tell you what it is.’ I mean, he already had a homer and a triple and I’m thinking that this kid is going to hit for the cycle. No way around it. But then he hit the homer again and messed all that up.”
Added Dozier, “I wasn’t thinking about [the cycle]. I just wanted a couple of more hits. At the end of the day, I’d rather have the homers.”
Meanwhile, Soler continues to near Moustakas’ mark. On Saturday afternoon, Soler told MLB.com he wasn’t paying any attention to the record.
But that was three homers ago.
“Obviously, the record is there and every player always wants to break a record,” Soler said through interpreter Pedro Grifol, “but that’s not what I think about. Right now, I feel really, really good. I’m recognizing pitches as soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, and that’s my key.”
On Saturday, Yost said he wouldn’t start noticing Soler chasing the record until he got to 35 home runs. In less than 24 hours, that happened.
“I am paying more attention to it now,” Yost said. “What’s he have? Thirty-four or 35? I mean, he’s going to get the record. It doesn’t matter if I’m paying attention to it or not.”
One thing also is certain — Dozier and Soler are feeding off each other from the Nos. 3-4 spots in the order.
“[Dozier] hits right before me, and if he hits one, I want to hit one, too,” Soler said. “Before the first at-bat, I told Dozier, ‘Let’s see if we can go back-to-back in this inning.’ We didn’t do it that inning, but we did it in [the eighth inning].”
Royals right-hander Jakob Junis clearly didn’t have command of his out pitch: his slider. But Junis nonetheless grinded through six innings and gave up just two runs.
Of Junis’ 85 pitches, 31 were sliders. But only 11 of those sliders produced either swinging or called strikes.
Junis allowed just six hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out six.
“I told [Junis] after the sixth, ‘You did a great job. Now go take your skates off,’” Yost said. “And he said, ‘Skates?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you’ve been skating on thin ice for three innings.’ He was hanging sliders and really battled. But he never stopped competing. I was really proud of him. It’s not easy to pitch when you don’t have your best stuff.”