Whit’s hitting feat keys Royals in 9-run 1st

KANSAS CITY — By the time Whit Merrifield came up to the plate for the second time in the first inning on Friday night, he had already singled, stolen a base and watched his team put up six runs on Twins starter Matt Shoemaker.

One swing put an exclamation point on the inning and the game, which was almost over before it began. Merrifield launched a three-run homer off Shoemaker on the first pitch, a hanging slider, to push the Royals to a nine-run inning and a 14-5 win at Kauffman Stadium — in front of the largest crowd this season with 22,612 fans — giving Kansas City its fifth consecutive win and second against Minnesota in this four-game weekend set.

Merrifield became the first player to have two hits, a home run and a stolen base in the first inning since Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson did it for Oakland in 1980.

And what Merrifield started, the rest of the Royals’ offense continued.

The nine runs were the most Kansas City scored in the first inning since putting up 10 against the Orioles on May 8, 2018, at Camden Yards. The Royals sent 14 batters to the plate, knocked Shoemaker out of the game with just one out after Merrifield’s homer and did not stop when the first inning ended.

As starter Brad Keller worked through five innings of two-run ball, the Royals scored four more in the second inning and one in the seventh to bring them to 14, tied for the most runs they’ve scored this season with Opening Day against Texas.