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Whit’s hot bat sends Matheny to 600th win

Royals.comAugust 16, 2020

After a sluggish showing offensively in a Game 1 loss to the Twins on Saturday afternoon, the Royals needed someone to step up in Game 2 with a big hit.

Who else but Whit Merrifield, the MLB hits leader the past two seasons?

With the score tied at 1 in the fourth inning, Merrifield — who already had two hits and an RBI — blasted a three-run home run. That was the key blow in the Royals’ 4-2 victory at Target Field in the second of two seven-inning games.

It was Royals manager Mike Matheny’s 600th career win.

“That’s cool. Um, yeah. That’s good,” Matheny said, seemingly forcing a smile.

Merrifield jumped on a first-pitch changeup from right-hander José Berríos and launched it over the left-field fence, his fifth homer this season.

“This is the second time we’ve seen Berríos [this season],” Merrifield said. “I’m familiar with him, seen all his pitches. Saw a changeup out of his hand and I thought it was a good pitch to hit.

“He hadn’t thrown me a changeup today but he did last week, and I knew it was in his arsenal.”

Matheny continues to marvel at Merrifield’s approach at the plate.

“Big spot there,” Matheny said of Merrifield’s homer. “He just takes such a nice short swing and [doesn’t] try to do too much. I think that’s a lesson for all our guys. Some guys think home run and then they actually slow their swing down by trying too hard to do that. But he takes a nice short path to the ball. In a park like this, if he gets the head out, he can do damage.”

Meanwhile, Royals starter Danny Duffy tossed five solid innings, giving up two hits and two runs (one earned) while striking out eight. Going five innings gave the bullpen a break after Game 1, when opener Ian Kennedy went two but Jakob Junis, who was going to piggyback Kennedy for multiple innings, was shut down because of back spasms. That forced Matheny to use four relievers.

“We needed that from Duff right there,” Matheny said. “We needed him to get through five. He really showed us something there to get through that last inning.”

Duffy got nicked for a run in the first when Mitch Garver reached on an error, went to second on a single, then to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Marwin Gonzalez.

Duffy also gave up a sole home run to Nelson Cruz in the fourth, but the lefty retired 15 of the final 17 batters he faced.

“I missed my spot on a lot of heaters,” Duffy said. “But I had some punch behind that fastball, and I could get away with some mistakes.”

After Duffy, Matheny turned to the power portion of his bullpen — right-handers Josh Staumont and Trevor Rosenthal, who combined to strike out five over the final two innings.

“That’s just smash-mouth baseball,” Matheny said. “My best against your best … fun to watch.”

Copyright © Meridian Media, 2021. All Rights Reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced without Meridian Media’s express consent.

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