The Kansas City Royals took out their frustrations on the New York Yankees Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.
And Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. did as well, finally ending his chase for a 30-30 season.
Witt became the first Royals player to reach Major League Baseball’s exclusive club — 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a single season — as Kansas City beat the Yankees 12-5 at Kauffman Stadium.
“It’s special any time you get to be the first,” said Witt, whose 30th homer added two runs to a sizable Royals lead in the seventh inning. “It was pretty special for sure.”
With only this weekend’s series against New York remaining this season, the Royals bounced back a bit after a disappointing road trip. The Royals swept the Houston Astros to start that recent swing but squandered a mid-week series in Detroit. They were outscored 21-6 in three losses to the Tigers.
Friday presented a new opportunity. And the Royals took full advantage right away, scoring nine runs in the first inning. Every starter reached base and scored a run before the Yankees could record an out. Fourteen batters came to the plate and seven Royals recorded at least a hit.
Royals captain Salvador Perez opened the scoring with a two-run double. Next, outfielder Edward Olivares hit his 11th homer of the season. Perez finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
“You could see (Yankees starting pitcher Carlos) Rodon: He was working hard right from the get-go,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “Salvy squares that ball up and you are kind of off and running.”
The offensive avalanche continued. Nelson Velázquez, Nick Loftin and Matt Duffy collected singles, setting the stage for the Royals to bat around.
— Bally Sports Kansas City (@BallySportsKC) September 30, 2023
Royals outfielder Kyle Isbel hit a two-run double and infielders Maikel Garcia and Witt each recorded RBIs in their second at-bat of the inning.
When the dust settled, the Royals held a 9-0 lead.
“Ten straight guys reached base,” Quatraro said of the first inning. “It certainly set the tone and the guys were feeding off each other.”
The Yankees never recovered. Rodon allowed eight earned runs on six hits, dropping to 3-8 in his final regular-season start. Royals starter Jordan Lyles, on the other hand, improved to 6-17 this season. He protected the Royals’ lead despite allowing five runs in six innings.
Lyles surrendered a three-run homer to Yankees catcher Austin Wells in the fourth and, later, a double to superstar Aaron Judge. But those at-bats weren’t enough to erase the Royals’ lead.
“We got through some clean innings early on and made a mistake walking Judge,” Lyles said. “I tried to attack with fastballs and just missed. Base hit, homer and then we just tried to get back in the zone.”
The Royals are now 55-105. They must win their final two games to avoid setting a new franchise record for most losses in a season. The current record is 56-106, set by the 2005 Royals, so this year’s team would tie that mark with even one loss in their final two games.
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Here are more notables from Friday’s game:
Bobby Witt Jr. makes MLB history
Witt’s long wait to join the exclusive 30-30 club is over.
In the seventh inning, Witt crushed a two-run home run off Yankees reliever Keynan Middleton. He drilled an 88 mph changeup over the left-field wall. The blast traveled 423 feet and registered a 104 mph exit velocity.
“It felt good off the bat,” Witt said. “I saw it in the air, the way the ball was carrying to left tonight. It’s pretty special to do it in front of the home crowd.”
The Royals took a 12-5 lead with the blast.
Witt became the first Royal, and the 45th major-leaguer overall, to reach the 30-30 milestone. He joins Ronald Acuña Jr. and Julio Rodriguez as the club’s newest members this season.
“You’d think that was Game 7 of the World Series,” Quatraro said. “People are just so happy for him. Everybody has been anticipating it and waiting for it. It was very cool.”
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) September 30, 2023
There is a chance Witt could reach one more milestone before the season ends on Sunday. He needs one steal to become just the fourth MLB player to record a 30-50 season.
Royals produce historic first inning
The Royals recorded some rare statistics to begin the game.
They set a franchise record as their first 10 batters reached base. Each starter either recorded a base hit or walk in his initial plate appearance.
Historically, the Royals have scored nine or more runs in the first inning six times. The last time it happened was June 4, 2021, in a game against the Minnesota Twins.
Kansas City also became the first team this season with eight runs scored before an out is recorded. Garcia and Perez recorded two hits apiece during the opening inning.
Garcia had never achieved that milestone in the majors. Perez has now done so three times.
What’s next: The Royals continue their final homestand against the Yankees on Saturday night. Steven Cruz will start against Yankees pitcher Clarke Schmidt.