KANSAS CITY — Royals super utility man Whit Merrifield has admitted that he really wasn’t even aware he ended the 2018 season on a 20-game hitting streak.
“I was pretty much thinking about getting my average to .300 and winning the hits title and the stolen-base title,” Merrifield said. “It wasn’t until sometime in the offseason when someone made me aware of it.”
Merrifield is intensely aware of it now. His first-inning single in Monday’s 13-5 loss to the Mariners off Felix Hernandez extended his hitting streak to 29 games — one shy of the club record of 30 set by George Brett in 1980.
“I’d be lying if I said I’m not thinking about [the streak],” Merrifield said. “It’s a pretty cool thing.”
Merrifield’s hitting streak also is the longest in the Majors since Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman’s 30-gamer from August-September of 2016.
Getting a hit in his first at-bat, which Merrifield has done in the last two games, is a relief.
“It kind of helps you settle in a little bit and play baseball and not worry about anything else,” Merrifield said. “Getting it out of the way early is ideal.
”The Royals, though, have dropped seven straight after a 2-0 start.
“I’m more concerned where we’re at as a team,” Merrifield said. “But this is a good team and I think we can turn it around. It’s still early.”
Bailey and bullpen get rough treatment
Royals right-hander Homer Bailey couldn’t hold early 2-0 and 4-2 leads. And then the avalanche showed up.
Bailey left the game with none out and two on in the sixth, trailing 5-4. When the sixth inning ended, the Royals trailed, 12-4.
Seattle’s Edwin Encarnacion hit two home runs in the inning. And the Royals’ lost their seventh straight after a 2-0 start to the season.
Bailey gave up three home runs and surrendered seven runs altogether in five-plus innings, though he did strike out seven batters.
“I felt really good about sending him back out in the game in the sixth,” manager Ned Yost said. “I looked up at his line at the end of the game and I was shocked he gave up seven runs.”
But it was the bullpen once again that imploded. Left-hander Tim Hill and right-hander Kevin McCarthy were once again ineffective. Hill gave up two runs in the sixth, McCarthy gave up three. Both recorded just one out
“I’m just trying to throw strikes in those situations,” McCarthy said, “but it’s just not working out.”