Offensive Outburst Fuels Royals to Opening Day Victoryby Ryan Blank April 2, 2021 2 comments
In the ninth-longest game in franchise history, the Kansas City Royals completed two separate comebacks en route to an Opening Day victory over the Texas Rangers, 14-10. The game was a battle of the offenses as both team’s bats were on fire from the start. History was made in just the first inning of action.
The matchup between the teams was the first since 1906 that each team scored four-plus runs in the first inning on Opening Day. Additionally, the last time two teams scored five-plus in any inning on Opening Day was in 1929 between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Phillies.
Kicking It Off With A Bang
On the mound for the Royals was Brad Keller, who was making his second consecutive Opening Day start. From the first batter, Keller was in trouble. It all started with back-to-back doubles from Isiah Kiner-Falefa and David Dahl to lead off the inning. Keller then walked Joey Gallo to load the bases for Nick Solak, who hit a soft infield single back to the pitcher to drive in the first run.
Nate Lowe cleared the bases in the next at-bat with a three-run double and would later score the fifth run of the inning off of an Eli White single. Texas had scored five runs before an out was recorded. However, the defense stepped up to get Keller escaped the inning without further damage.
Newly-acquired left fielder Andrew Benintendi scaled the netting along the left-field line to make the play for the first out. Michael A. Taylor threw out a runner at home on a single into center for the second, and Keller got a groundout for the third.
Comeback Number One
For Texas, Kyle Gibson started on the bump. The first inning was the Royals’ first comeback of the game as they scored five runs of their own. A leadoff single from Whit Merrifield was followed by Benintendi’s first hit a Royal, putting runners on first and second base. Carlos Santana loaded the bases with a walk and Salvador Perez recorded his first RBI on the season with a bases-loaded walk.
A passed ball from Rangers catcher Jose Trevino allowed Benintendi to score from third. On the same at-bat, Jorge Soler walked to load the bases and rookie Kyle Isbel recorded his first career hit and RBI with a single into right field in his first MLB at-bat. In his first at-bat with the Royals, Taylor came up to the plate and knocked in his first RBI with Kansas City.
With only one out in the bottom of the first inning, the Royals cut the deficit to one run. Gibson was pulled after recording one out and surrendered five runs on four hits and four walks. Taylor Hearn replaced him and Nicky Lopez, who was called up due to the Adalberto Mondesi injury, knocked in the game-tying run with a sacrifice fly.
Hearn got out of the inning with a pop-out from Merrifield and the game was tied, 5-5, at the end of the first inning.
In the second inning, Keller continued to struggle, allowing the first batters to reach base. Lowe drove in his fourth run of the game with a single to left and the Rangers regained the lead, 6-5. After only pitching an inning and a third, Keller was pulled after allowing six runs on eight hits and three walks. Kyle Zimmer came in to replace him.
Zimmer walked his first hitter and struck out the last two hitters to get the Royals out of the inning. In the bottom half of the second, the Royals did not score a run. In the third inning, Carlos Hernandez replaced Zimmer on the mound.
Hernandez loaded the bases with no outs and Gallo drove in his first two runs of the season with a two-run single, extending the Texas lead to 8-5. The Royals responded as Taylor launched his first home run as a Royal. Lopez came up and beat out the throw to first for an infield single and crossed the plate later in the inning off of Santana’s first hit and RBI as a Royal, cutting the lead to 8-7.
Hernandez found his rhythm in the fourth, recording the first “three up, three down” for Kansas City. In the bottom of the inning, the Royals offense continued to roll. Soler led off the inning by crushing a ball over the centerfield wall to tie the game, 8-8. Following the first “Soler Smash” of the season, Dozier walked and Isbel got his second hit, putting runners on first and second.
Comeback Number Two
Taylor came to the plate and gave the Royals their first lead of the game with his second RBI single for a 9-8 lead. Merrifield added a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 10-8 at the end of the fourth.
The Royals let Hernandez continue to catch his stride, and he finished with eight-straight outs before being replaced by Jesse Hahn. That fifth inning was the first of the game without a run scored as the Royals stranded a runner on first. The Rangers added a run in the sixth with an RBI groundout from White.
In the seventh inning, the Royals extended their lead to 13-8 as Soler recorded his second RBI of the game after being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Dozier drove in a run with a ground ball out and Isbel drove in another run with an RBI-infield single. Multi-hit Whit capped it off for the Royals with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the eighth. In Thursday’s game, the Royals set a new franchise record with 14 runs scored in an Opening Day game, and all of the starters in the lineup scored.
The Rangers would add one run in the ninth inning and Wade Davis entered to finish the game with his first save as a Royal since returning on a one-year deal this offseason.
The one bad thing to happen in 2021’s inaugural game for the Royals was third baseman Hunter Dozier leaving the game early with a right thumb contusion. He is listed as day-to-day. He may return to the lineup on Saturday as the team has a day off on Friday.
Kansas City spent a lot of money this offseason to boost the lineup and fixing any glaring holes. It seems to have paid off as the lineup dominated throughout the game. Three players recorded a home run, eight different players recorded an RBI, and they completed two comebacks to get the victory. The outfield was playing elite-level defense with multiple outfield assists and big-time plays.
The two standout players were Taylor and Isbel. In his Royals debut, Taylor went 3-for-5 at the plate with a home run and three RBIs. He became the fourth Royal in franchise history to record three-plus hits and three-plus RBIs on Opening Day. In the field, Taylor had two outfield assists, gunning two runners down at the plate including a double play to end the third inning.
As for Isbel, he went 3-for-5 at the plate with two RBIs in his Major League debut. He became the first Royals hitter to drive in a run in his first major league at-bat since Dusty Wathan in 2002. The team’s top outfield prospect was dominant in Spring Training and proved why he belonged on the Opening Day roster with a terrific performance.
In addition, the bullpen came up big, pitching 7.2 innings, allowing only four runs and six hits while striking out 16 batters. Hernandez gets his first career win and Davis gets his first save in a Royals uniform since September 28, 2016.
Kansas City will be back in action on Saturday at Kauffman Stadium in the second game of of the series against the Rangers. The game starts at 1:10p.m. CST.