How one Royals player snapped a quirky streak — with help from homework — in a KC win

·3 min read

Ryan O’Hearn’s celebration had a little extra oomph ... and for good reason.

After crossing home plate, O’Hearn got a running start before leaping in the air to connect elbows with teammate Jorge Soler — a show of emotion 689 days in the making.

O’Hearn’s rare display of power at Kauffman Stadium power was certainly timely. His fourth-inning, three-run home run gave Kansas City the cushion it needed, boosting the Royals in a 5-3 home victory over the Detroit Tigers on Friday night.

The result extended KC’s win streak to three games, while also snapping a string of seven straight Tigers victories.

O’Hearn’s blast ended a curious drought. Before then, he’d gone 116 straight at-bats without hitting a home run at Kauffman Stadium, with his last coming on Sept. 3, 2019.

“Dang, that’s a long time,” O’Hearn said with a smile afterward. “But yeah, I knew it had been a while. It’s a big ballpark. I feel like I’ve hit a few balls here recently that were probably homers other places. But I smoked that ball tonight.”

Interestingly, O’Hearn’s previous 12 round-trippers — including seven this season — had come on the road before Friday’s connection.

This one left little doubt, sailing 422 feet into the Sonic Slam Seats in center.

“To leave this park in that spot for a left-handed hitter, that ball’s smashed,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “He’s been taking some good at-bats and hitting the ball hard. We needed that jolt.”

O’Hearn also said the hit was helped by some pregame preparation.

Hours before first pitch, while reading up on Tigers starter Wily Peralta, O’Hearn noticed that Peralta had only thrown one changeup to a left-handed batter in a 2-0 or 3-1 count all season.

That meant, after taking a borderline pitch to make the count 2-0, O’Hearn was able to narrow his focus.

“I was pretty much selling out for a fastball there,” O’Hearn said. “He threw it middle-away, up in the zone where I like it. I was just telling myself, ‘Don’t try to pull this ball and try to do too much.’”

The Royals, who led 4-1 after O’Hearn’s homer, kept that advantage with help from solid starting pitching and defense.

Starting pitcher Kris Bubic had a second straight strong outing, going six innings while allowing just a single run with four strikeouts and two walks. His changeup’s dipping action was especially notable, as the Tigers whiffed on eight of their 19 offerings at the pitch.

He also had help from those behind him. The Royals turned three double plays while he was in, which included a crucial one in the sixth when Nicky Lopez started a 6-4-3 turn that helped Bubic escape a bases-loaded, one-out jam.

“The defense was unbelievable tonight,” Bubic said. “Nicky was Derek Jeter basically, and Doz (Hunter Dozier) and Whit (Merrifield) and (Carlos) Santana doing the rest.”

Some long-slumbering Royals also continued to show signs of improvement. Dozier shot a triple off the right-field wall and drew a walk, while Soler also had two walks and a pair of line-drive outs at 104 and 106 mph.

Santana added a solo shot in the fifth, wrapping it around the right-field foul pole for his 16th homer of the season.

Greg Holland secured a two-run lead in the ninth for his seventh save.

The Royals, who improved to 40-55 on the season, will start Carlos Hernandez in Saturday’s 6:10 p.m. game. Rookie Daniel Lynch will be called up to start Sunday.

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