Any time Royals manager Mike Matheny is asked about Jorge Soler‘s lack of production to start the season, he gives a small smile before emphasizing Soler will be just fine. There have been signs that he’s close to showing off his power in the middle of the lineup that the club knows he possesses.
On Wednesday night, the signs turned into results.
Soler went the opposite way for two hard-hit doubles and a single, resulting in three RBIs in the Royals’ 9-6 victory over the Pirates, salvaging a two-game series split at PNC Park and snapping a seven-game losing streak in Pittsburgh dating to June 28, 2009.
Soler gave the Royals the lead in a three-run first inning by winning an 11-pitch battle with a double to the left-center wall off starter Mitch Keller, who threw 47 pitches in the first. Then, Soler added a single in a two-run fourth inning to expand the lead.
The Royals ended up needing almost every one of those runs as left-hander Mike Minor gave up five runs (four earned) through 4 1/3 innings, but Soler added some insurance with another double in the sixth, followed by Andrew Benintendi’s opposite-field two-run double for three extra runs.
If a hitter needs momentum to break out of a slump, spraying hits to the outfield wall is one way to do so. Hitting just .186 entering Wednesday, Soler leads the Royals’ regulars in hard-hit rate at 58.8 percent, which ranks seventh in the Majors (minimum 75 plate appearances). But a lot of those rockets have been tough-luck outs. In Tuesday’s loss, the hardest hit of the game was Soler’s 114.7 mph lineout to left field.
The Royals haven’t been concerned, though, largely because Soler has been squaring up balls. His timing has come around lately, too; He struck out 17 times in the first two weeks of the season, compared to nine in the last two weeks.