KANSAS CITY — Royals left fielder Alex Gordon was convinced that fate intervened for him as he recorded his first four-hit game since last May.
Gordon came into Friday’s game against the Indians with a mission: Give a shoutout to a teenage boy named Charlie, who had been in cancer remission, but required brain surgery on Friday.
Gordon wore a yellow armband with “Charlie” written on it, a tribute to the boy he met years ago through his Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which helps support childhood cancer research. And it didn’t take long for Gordon to draw attention to the armband: Gordon homered in his first at-bat, part of a six-run first inning that helped propel the Royals to an 8-1 win, snapping their 10-game losing streak.
“He’s going through a tough time,” Gordon said. “I’ve known him for eight or nine years now — became good friends. With what he’s going through, I just told him tonight was for him. I told him I was going to wear something for him, so I hope he was watching.
“I didn’t tell him I was going to hit a home run, but I think it was kind of meant to be. I had goosebumps going around the bases. I wanted to make sure I tapped him and let him see it. It was pretty special.”
Each time Gordon got a hit — he had two doubles, a home run, and a single — he made sure to tap the armband.
“Probably one of the first kids I met [through the foundation],” Gordon said. “He comes to all the foundation stuff. We’re good friends now. It’s a little bigger than that. I came into the game just wanting to wear the armband to give him a shoutout. Hopefully that’s going to help him a little bit.”
Gordon nearly had the cycle. He tried to stretch his fifth-inning double into a triple, but was thrown out rather easily.
“Bad turns around the bases,” Gordon said, smiling. “When I was going around first, I kinda thought about it. You know what? Let’s try to get a triple. You’re never supposed to get the third out for at third base, but I wanted to go for it. I’m just not that fast anymore.”
Gordon’s 13th career four-hit game raised his average to .390 as he has carried over his late-season hot streak from 2018.
“That’s the one thing I went into the offseason wanting to do,” Gordon said, “just remembering how I felt at the end of the year just with my swing, my at-bats, my approach. I wanted to carry that over as much as I could into Spring Training and this year.”
As a team, the Royals did hit for the cycle in the first. Adalberto Mondesi followed Whit Merrifield’s leadoff single with a triple. Gordon’s homer made it 3-0, and later Chris Owings doubled in two more. In all, the six-run outburst in the first frame was the Royals’ biggest inning this season.
Career high for Keller
Royals right-hander Brad Keller struck out 10, establishing a career-high. The last Royal to strike out at least 10 in a game was left-hander Danny Duffy last June 9 at Oakland — Duffy had 10 as well.
Keller went 6 2/3 innings and gave up three hits and one run. His only mistake was a 3-2 four-seamer that Tyler Naquin jolted into the right-field seats in the second inning. He walked five, two of those intentionally.
That home run snapped Keller’s streak of consecutive homerless innings at 54, which was the longest active streak in the Majors.
Keller also established a career-high in pitches with 118. That was the most pitches by a Royal since July 2014, when James Shields threw 124 over six innings.
Keller had 105 pitches when manager Ned Yost sent him out for the seventh.
“I felt good [in the seventh],” Keller said. “I don’t think it bothered me much. My goal was to go out and pump strikes and prove to them I could go out there and pitch after 105 [pitches].
“Besides the five walks, the 10 punchouts were pretty good. Maybe if I don’t walk anyone I get deeper into that game. That was the one downfall.”
And Keller now has thrown six or more innings in nine straight starts, the longest active streak in the Majors.
“I mean he looked good, man,” Indians catcher Roberto Perez said. “He got ahead a lot on us and flipped that breaking ball behind in the count and we couldn’t lay it off. Tonight was his night.”