Merrifield leads Royals to split Saturday doubleheader

Lynn Worthy
The Kansas City Star (TNS)
Kansas City Royals outfielder Whit Merrifield (15) is greeted by teammate Cam Gallagher (36) after belting a three-run homer in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader at Target Field.

MINNEAPOLIS — Whit Merrifield felt like he let opposing pitchers get away with a few pitches they shouldn't have in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. So he came out swinging in Game 2.

The Kansas City Royals outfielder and leadoff hitter doubled on the first pitch of the game and kept pouring it on from there. He went 3 for 4, hit the game-altering three-run homer in a tie game and drove in all four of his club's runs in a 4-2 victory.

With Merrifield driving the offense, the Royals split the twin bill at Target Field after losing the first game by the same score. Royals manager Mike Matheny, in his first season with the club, picked up his 600th career win. His .552 winning percentage (600-486) is fourth highest among active managers.

Merrifield came within a triple of hitting for the cycle for the second time this season. Catcher Cam Gallagher reached base three times with a walk and a pair of hits, while second baseman Nicky Lopez also collected two hits and a walk for the Royals (9-12).

"I was upset with my aggression in the first game," Merrifield said. "I felt like I let some balls go by that I wasn't ready to hit. I made that mental adjustment going into Game 2 and got some good pitches to hit and put some good swings on them."

Merrifield swung at the first pitch in all three at-bats against Twins starter José Berrios and he smashed two for extra bases. He fouled off the first pitch he saw in his second at-bat before he hit the second for an RBI single.

Merrifield's fourth-inning, three-run home run, also on a first pitch, tipped the game in the Royals' favor. Adalberto Mondesi reached on a fielder's choice and Gallagher laid off a 3-2 slider to draw a walk and set the table for Merrifield.

Merrifield's fifth homer of the season moved him into a tie with Jorge Soler and Miakel Franco for the team lead. Franco homered in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader.

Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and one walk, and he struck out eight in five innings to earn his first win of the season.

The Royals left the bases loaded without scoring a run in the first inning, then Duffy ran into trouble right out of the gate.

An error by first baseman Ryan O'Hearn allowed the first batter to reach. After a single and a wild pitch, Duffy faced the heart of the Twins' batting order with runners on second and third with no outs in the first inning.

Duffy limited the damage to one run on a Marwin Gonzalez sacrifice fly that drove in Mitch Garver. The Twins made Duffy throw 27 first-inning pitches.

The Royals evened the score in the second inning on a Merrifield RBI single that drove in Lopez. The score remained deadlocked at a run apiece until Merrifield's homer in the fourth.

Duffy, who made his fifth start of the season, settled in after the first inning. He retired 12 of 13 during a stretch from the end of the first into the fifth. His one miscue came on a solo home run by Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz in the fourth.