KANSAS CITY — Hall of Famer George Brett said he would be rooting for Whit Merrifield to break his Royals record 30-game hitting streak.
Merrifield tied the 30-game mark that Brett set in 1980 with a first-inning triple in Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to the Mariners.
“Hey, we can use all the hits we can get right now,” Brett told MLB.com by phone earlier in the day. “I don’t want him to ever go 0-for-4. Get all the baserunners we can.”
Merrifield will go for the record on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium. Brett wouldn’t be somewhat sad to see his club record fall?
“Not really. I’m rooting for him,” Brett said. “He deserves it. He’s a good kid. He’s worked hard to get here. I like watching him play. … These streaks are hard. Thirty games is a lot. That means you can’t go in a slump or have one bad day for a month.”
Merrifield is honored to be even in the same conversation with a Brett record.
“It is special,” Merrifield said. “I just started thinking about that the other day. Just to be mentioned along with George Brett is incredible. It’s not something I take lightly. Even though I have gotten to know George because he has been around a lot, he’s still one of the greatest players to ever play the game, probably the best third baseman to ever play.”
Merrifield even had a nice surprise waiting for him at his locker after the game.
“He wrote me a nice note,” Merrifield said of Brett. “It was sitting on my chair when I got into the clubhouse. I asked [the Royals] to laminate it for me. I will put it in a special place in my home. To have one of the greatest players of all time writing a hand-written letter saying nice things about you, that doesn’t happen every day.”
And while some have noted that Merrifield’s streak should have an asterisk next to it because 20 games of the streak are from last year, Brett isn’t buying it. Brett recorded his in 1980 during July and August.
“No, I don’t think carrying it over diminishes it at all,” Brett said. “If he gets it, it would be fair and square. The toughest part for him is he’s had to hit in cold weather. No one likes to hit in cold weather. Tough to hit in those conditions, tough to contend with. I did my 30 games in the summer when it was nice and warm.
“And maybe he’ll start the season with 30 games in a row anyway.”
Brett’s own 30-gamer is a little vague to him. It was the same year, of course, when he was chasing bigger goals, like hitting .400 (he hit .390) and a championship (the Royals lost to the Phillies in the World Series).
“I remember it ended in Texas when I went 0-for-4 against Jon Matlack,” Brett said. “He was tough. I remember Jim Sundberg telling me in my first at-bat, ‘We’re going right after your [butt].’ And I said, ‘Bring it on.’ And they got me. I hit a couple of balls hard but nothing fell.”
The night wasn’t all special, though, for Merrifield as the Royals lost their eighth straight game. Merrifield even asked reporters postgame to wait a minute before asking about the streak.
Merrifield then said, “We’re 2-8. We’re frustrated. We know the fans are frustrated. We’re better than our record. Today was tough. The last eight games were tough. We’re confident. … We ask the fans to stay with us. Our record shows we’re 2-8, but we’re better than that.”