KANSAS CITY — Royals catcher Salvador Perez (El Nino) summed up the Royals’ 5-4 walk-off victory over the Indians on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium this way: “That was crazy. I think it was one of the best games of the season to me.”
And most inside a happy clubhouse felt the same after rookies Ryan O’Hearn (Brohearn) and Hunter Dozier (Doz) — who are close friends and work out in the offseason together — hit back-to-back opposite-field home runs off closer Cody Allen to launch this season’s Players’ Weekend.
It’s the first time in Major League Baseball history that two rookies hit back-to-back home runs in the ninth inning or later to win a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“It was just an incredible game,” Royals starter Brad Keller said. “Fun to be part of. I’ve never seen back-to-back homers to win a game.”
Perez had staked Keller and the Royals to a 3-0 lead with a three-run homer in the first inning. Keller left after five strong innings, having also survived a bizarre 30-minute delay in the fourth inning when a water pipe broke near the Royals’ bullpen and flooded the right-field warning track.
Reliever Brandon Maurer (Maurer Power) surrendered a 3-2 lead when he gave up a two-run homer to Yonder Alonso, his second home run of the game, in the eighth inning.
But then, O’Hearn went after Allen’s first pitch in the ninth and jacked one into the left-field bullpen.
“[Alex Gordon] kind of came up to me and said, ‘Straight fastball. Good fastball. [Allen’s] secondary stuff is sharp,'” O’Hearn said. “I just wanted to be aggressive.”
O’Hearn’s heroics certainly helped flush his mood from Thursday when his ninth-inning throwing error allowed the Rays to walk off the Royals.
“I was done with [that game] when I left the field [on Thursday night],” O’Hearn said. “I got to be better in that situation. But I loved it that I was right back in the lineup today.”
Dozier blasted a 1-1 fastball from Allen just over the wall in right-center field.
“I knew he liked to throw his fastball,” Dozier said. “I didn’t know if I had the distance, and that’s why I was sprinting around the bases because I knew I had to get to third if it hit off the wall.”
Afterward, manager Ned Yost was beaming about his two rookies.
“Both of these kids, they’ve got a long way to grow, but they’ve got a nice ceiling,” Yost said. “That’s what they do so well: they work so hard, they’re learning, they want to learn, they’re seeking information, and they’re getting their feet wet up here, which is fun to see.”
Yost continues to be impressed with O’Hearn’s opposite-field power.
“Just another big opposite-field home run, and obviously it was key at that point,” Yost said. “Even bigger was Dozier’s home run to win it, because we were just about out of pitching. I wasn’t really sure what we were going to do after we tied it up, but I didn’t have to think much about it.”
Keller gave up two runs and struck out five.
“The pipe breaking cost him 30 minutes and that’s like an inning making him sit,” Yost said. “To get us through five innings in the fashion that he did with the lead is another example of how great this kid is for this organization.”