July 15, 2024

Witt falls double shy of cycle, KC hits 5 homers and routs Twins 11-0 to avoid sweep

Kansas City Royals' Royals' Bobby Witt Jr. (7) celebrates a home run by Maikel Garcia during the second inning of the team's baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

By DAVE SKRETTA AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Bobby Witt Jr. finished a double shy of the cycle, Kyle Isbel and Maikel Garcia hit back-to-back home runs, and the Kansas City Royals routed Minnesota 11-0 on Sunday to avoid a second straight season-opening sweep by the Twins.
Salvador Perez hit a three-run homer and finished with four RBIs, and Nelson Velázquez had the last of five homers for Kansas City, which gave Brady Singer (1-0) plenty of run support on a day in which he hardly needed it.
Singer, trying to bounce back from a rough 2023, allowed three hits and a walk over seven innings. He struck out 10.
“The offense was incredible,” Singer said with a smile. “It makes it a lot easier to stay in the zone and trust yourself.”
The Royals got their homers from five different players, matching a franchise record last done on July 27, 2020, in Detroit. And the 11-run victory margin was their biggest since an 11-0 win over Pittsburgh on Sept. 13, 2020.
“To get out to a lead today was nice,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said, “just how we started the last two games.”
Bailey Ober (0-1) retired just four batters for Minnesota, allowing eight runs on nine hits and a walk. Kody Funderburk wasn’t much better, allowing two more runs on three hits and a walk while retiring five.
“He had a great spring,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of Ober, whose importance to the rotation has only increased after the club lost Anthony DeSclafani to season-ending flexor tendon surgery this week. “We have high expectations for him.”
Ober wasn’t able to replicate the way Pablo Lopez and Joe Ryan had shut down Kansas City, though. Its offensive outburst Sunday came after a club that lost 106 games last season managed only two runs on 10 hits and four walks — while striking out 19 times — in dropping the first two games of the season to its AL Central rival.
“It was a little payback today,” Quatraro said.
Perez provided the first big blow in the first inning, when he sent a three-run homer into the left-field bullpen. But it was a six-run second, highlighted by consecutive homers for Isbel and Garcia, that gave the Royals some breathing room. Witt added a triple to his first-inning single and Perez drove in another run before MJ Melendez knocked Ober from the game.
By the time new second baseman Adam Frazier added a two-run double, the Royals were cruising with a 9-0 lead.
Witt added his 434-foot shot in the third, and all that was left to see was whether he could hit for the cycle. Nobody had done it for Kansas City since Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett accomplished the feat on July 25, 1990, in Toronto.
In the fifth, Witt struck out on a slider by Daniel Duarte. With one last chance in the seventh, the 23-year-old phenom worked a 3-1 count against Cole Sands before fouling off a pitch and swinging hard through a 95-mph fastball to end the inning.
“I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself,” Witt said. “I got a couple of pitches I should have hit.”
The Twins have a day off before RHP Louie Varland starts the opener of a two-game series in Milwaukee on Tuesday.
RHP Michael Wacha makes his Royals debut Monday night to open their three-game set in Baltimore.