KANSAS CITY — Here are three takeaways from the Royals’ 8-2 win over the Rays in the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday, completing a sweep. The Royals won the opener, 3-2.
It was the Royals’ first traditional doubleheader sweep since Sept. 13, 2008, at Cleveland.
1. Tip of the hat to Sparky
Right-hander Glenn Sparkman, called up to serve as the 26th man and start the second game, turned in a beauty and by far his best outing as a Royal, just when manager Ned Yost needed it.
Sparkman came out throwing strikes with his four-seamer, slider and changeup, and he retired 10 of the first 11 hitters he faced.
Sparkman was notified Tuesday he would get the start and didn’t arrive in Kansas City until 1 a.m. CT from Nashville, where Triple-A Omaha was playing.
“My focus today was stay calm and relaxed and not let the game seem too big,” Sparkman said. “It helped getting that [run] cushion. I felt good. My fastball felt really good, both inside and outside.”
Sparkman gave the bullpen a rest by going seven innings and giving up just three hits and no runs. He walked one and struck out six and recorded his first big-league victory.
“He had everything going for him today,” Yost said. “He was on the attack. He was confident. He was efficient with his pitches.”
2. Key at-bat for Soler
Who knows how the game would have progressed if not for Jorge Soler’s stellar at-bat in the first inning against reigning American League Cy Young winner Blake Snell.
Whit Merrifield led off the inning with a sharp double into the left-field corner. He went to third on a balk with one out. But Hunter Dozier struck out on a changeup as Merrifield remained at third with two out.
Soler, though, picked up Dozier when he stayed with a 2-2 changeup from Snell and lined an RBI single to right field.
“That was a great at-bat,” Yost said. “Really got us going.”
Rookie third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez then powered a deep drive off the right-field foul pole for his first Major League home run, and the Royals had a 3-0 lead.
“The Soler at-bat,” Gutierrez said through interpreter Pedro Grifol, “was the life of the inning. That was the critical moment.”
Gutierrez said he knew he had enough distance on the home run but waited to see if it would be fair or foul. What was the sound like when the ball clanked off the metal pole?
“The sound of happiness,” Gutierrez said
Yost continues to be impressed with the rookie.
“He just doesn’t look like a guy who’s only been out there five games or so,” Yost said. “He looks very comfortable.”
Soler also had an RBI double in the third.
3. Key at-bat for Hamilton
The Royals were able to punch a hole in this game in the fourth against Snell after Cam Gallagher led off with a walk and Terrance Gore singled. A wild pitch moved each runner up a base.
Billy Hamilton got down 0-2 to Snell but worked the count full. Hamilton then lined a curveball to left over the drawn-in infield for an RBI single, and it was 5-0. The Royals added three more runs in the inning.
“Against a really good pitcher in Snell,” Yost said, “our boys did a good job.”