Whit Merrifield hit a three-run home run, and the Royals came back from two deficits to beat the Indians, 8-6, at Progressive field on Tuesday night, snapping a seven-game losing streak.
Maikel Franco delivered a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning, and Nicky Lopez added another run with a hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded.
The Royals’ bullpen was superb, holding the Indians to one run over 4 2/3 innings, including two scoreless from Greg Holland.
Here are three ups and three downs from Tuesday’s game:
Whit goes yard: Merrifield has proven to be one of the most consistent hitters in baseball. He led MLB in hits in 2018 with 192 and again last season with 206. But Merrifield has been in a crazy slump, going just 10-for-his-past-65 (.154), dropping his average 54 points to .249. However, he has said he doesn’t feel like he’s in a slump, pointing to numerous line-drive outs. Merrifield took bad luck out of play in the third inning by drilling a 1-1 changeup from Triston McKenzie out of the park for a three-run homer, his eighth.
Zimmer keeps dealing: Somewhat quietly, Royals right-hander Kyle Zimmer, 28, has provided evidence that he can be a part of the nucleus moving forward. Zimmer came into the game with a 1.69 ERA in 11 outings. And Zimmer was solid again Tuesday. He came into the game with one out and a runner on second. He proceeded to get his first MLB pickoff, nabbing Mike Freeman at second base. Zimmer went 1 2/3 innings and gave up no runs while striking out three.
Good hustle: Merrifield’s homer came after some heads-up play from Nicky Lopez and Cam Gallagher. Lopez got the first hit off McKenzie with one out in the third on a pop fly to center — center fielder Delino DeShields slipped as he came in, and the ball dropped. Lopez hustled into second base and made an elusive slide for a double. Gallagher then patiently drew a walk, setting up Merrifield’s three-run shot. Gallagher also delivered a game-tying RBI double in the seventh.
Junis’ gopher balls: Royals right-hander Jakob Junis has had trouble keeping the baseball in the park. He gave up 32 homers in 2018 and 31 homers in ‘19. Junis gave up three more on Tuesday, totaling six in 21 innings this season. One of the home runs was to Francisco Lindor, who is now 18-for-36 against Junis over his career with five home runs.
All three home runs against Junis on Tuesday were on high fastballs.
Overall, Junis went 4 ⅓ innings and gave up seven hits and five runs. He walked none and struck out three.
Giving it back: The most distressing part of Junis’ outing was the homer to Lindor. The Royals, trying desperately to snap a losing skid and play with the lead, had shown some life with Merrifield’s home run, a three-run shot that tied the score at 3 in the top of the third. But in the bottom of the third, that good feeling was deflated when Junis gave up a two-run homer and the Tribe went back up, 5-3.
Bases-loaded blues: The Royals came into the game just 2-for-26 with the bases loaded this season, worst in MLB. They had a chance with them loaded with one out in the eighth, but Edward Olivares struck out. However, the next hitter, Nicky Lopez, was hit by a pitch, which forced in a run.