Soler eyes AL home run crown with Nos. 46, 47

KANSAS CITY — The Royals have never had an American League home run champion.

That seems likely to change. Royals slugger Jorge Soler blasted his 46th and 47th home runs in a 4-3 loss to the Twins on Saturday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium — taking over the AL lead.

Soler had been tied with Angels star Mike Trout, whose season ended recently because of injury. The next closest to Soler is the Astros’ Alex Bregman, who entered Saturday with 41 home runs, and Twins slugger Nelson Cruz, who hit a go-ahead solo shot in the eighth inning for his 41st.

Soler jumped on a 2-2 fastball from Twins right-hander Cody Stashak in the first inning and sent a screaming line drive over the center-field wall, giving the Royals a 1-0 lead. Statcast estimated that his 46th blast traveled at 112 mph.

He then ripped a two-run shot to left-center in the seventh off Tyler Duffey. That jack was at 111 mph and went a projected 420 feet. Soler’s 47 homers tie him with Rafael Palmeiro for the most in a season by a Cuban-born player.

“Cannon shots,” manager Ned Yost said of the home runs.

Added Royals first baseman Ryan O’Hearn, “It’s just really loud when he hits the ball. I’ve never played with anyone so strong.”

Soler wasn’t conceding he had won the home run title, though.

“It’s not over yet,” Soler said through interpreter Luis Perez. “There’s still one more game left, but I feel really good about what I’ve done.

“You never know. I think it’s a safe lead, but you never know.”

Soler had been sitting on No. 45 since Sept. 16, though he said the drought wasn’t weighing on him.

“It wasn’t really heavy,” Soler said. “[Feeling pressure] happened a couple times during the season, but I feel like it stops. I want to hit [the home runs] and it puts a little more pressure on me, but they just come [eventually].”

Soler’s family, including his father, Jorge Sr., was in attendance.

“Yeah, everybody is still here this weekend,” Soler said. “I said, ‘Hi,’ and pointed at them both times.”

Tying a countryman such as Palmeiro was special as well.

“It means a lot,” Soler said. “There’s a lot of pride in tying him at 47. It means a lot for the organization, for my family and the people of Cuba.”

Yost believes Soler may be just scratching the surface of his talents.

“He’ll just continue to grow,” Yost said. “I told him when he hit that home run, I thought he was becoming a singles hitter. He was just racking up singles and doubles for awhile there. But he’s going to be a guy who hits .295 to .300 with 120 RBIs and 40-45-50 homers. He’ll continue to get better in terms of plate disciple and pitch recognition.”

Right-hander Glenn Sparkman started for the Royals and delivered his best outing since Aug. 13, when he held the Cardinals to one earned run over six innings. This time, Sparkman went five innings and he gave up five hits and two runs. He walked one and struck out four.