Merrifield helps Royals trounce White Sox
CHICAGO — In the thick of the American League wild-card race, manager Ned Yost and the Kansas City Royals got what they wanted Sunday afternoon.
After losing five in a row, the Royals (59-58) took two of three against the Chicago White Sox to climb above .500.
“It’s big for us, really big,” second baseman Whit Merrifield said.
Merrifield and Jorge Bonifacio homered to lead the Royals in a 14-6 rout of the White Sox.
“We were really struggling coming in here and like I said last night, those types of (comeback) wins can help jump-start your momentum,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Momentum, it’s hard to get. It’s easy to stop it seems like, but it’s hard to get.
“We were kind of spinning our wheels there for a while trying to gain some momentum. What happened today was what I was hoping would happen after a (comeback) game like last night. We come out and put some runs on the board and have a good day.”
Merrifield drove in five runs and fell a double shy of the cycle. No. 9 batter Drew Butera had a career-high four hits for the Royals.
“I don’t care about Drew getting any offense,” Yost said about the catcher. “All I care about him is catching a winner, and four hits on top of that is just a little cherry on top of the pie. Had a great day offensively, but more important he had a great day behind the plate.”
The White Sox (45-70) had won four of their last five games. They were trying to win back-to-back series for the first time since mid-June.
Royals left-hander Jason Vargas (14-6) allowed three runs, struck out seven and walked two in six innings to match his career high for victories in a season. He also won 14 games in 2012 with Seattle. Vargas was 1-3 with a 6.94 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break.
“He found ways to keep himself loose and went back out and pounded the strike zone,” Yost said about Vargas handling the long game.
White Sox starter Derek Holland (6-12) made his shortest start of the season, allowing seven runs in two innings and snapping Chicago’s streak of four consecutive quality starts. He gave up seven hits, a home run and three walks.
“He’s got a tremendous work routine and ethic, but it just hasn’t been working out to this point over the last few outings,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “I know he’s very cognizant of that and he’s wanting to get back on track.”
The Royals, who are one game back in the AL wild-card race, scored four runs in the second, third and sixth innings.
Butera singled to load the bases in the second inning before left fielder Leury Garcia committed a throwing error to bring in the first run. Lorenzo Cain’s single drove in two runs before he advanced on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on Melky Cabrera’s single.
Bonifacio led off the third with his 15th home run, and Merrifield added his 14th, a three-run shot in the third inning.
Merrifield fouled out in his last at-bat, falling short of the cycle.
“One of these times it’ll happen,” he said. “With the game like it was, it was in my mind I needed to hit a ball in the gap. I made a pretty poor swing on a hanging slider.”
Tim Anderson hit a two-run homer, his 13th home run of the season, and Jose Abreu had an RBI single to cut Kansas City’s lead to 8-3 in the fifth.
“I’m not fully developed,” Anderson said. “The power’s going to come. I feel like there’s more there. As I continue to put good swings on balls, hopefully they keep carrying.”
Cain made a running catch near the wall in center field to end the inning with two on.
Bonifacio’s RBI single, Cheslor Cuthbert’s sacrifice fly and Merrifield’s two-run triple scored four more runs for the Royals in the sixth.
The White Sox put up a three-run spot in the seventh. After an error, Avisail Garcia had a two-run double and Nicky Delmonico added an RBI double.
Delmonico has reached base safely in 12 straight games to start his career, extending the team record. He stretched his hitting streak to 10 games.
Kansas City also had an impressive defensive play in the second. With two on, shortstop Alcides Escobar ended the inning with a running, underhanded catch in center field. Alex Gordon made a leaping catch to rob Delmonico of a two-run homer to end the game.
The Royals took a 7-6 lead in the teams’ season series.
NOTES: Royals RHP Jake Junis (4-2, 4.70 ERA) is expected to start Monday against Oakland. He is 3-5 with a 2.92 ERA with Triple-A Omaha. Junis will be filling in for RHP Trevor Cahill (right shoulder impingement), who went on the 10-day disabled list Thursday. ... White Sox 3B Matt Davidson (right wrist contusion) said he is still having issues swinging a bat and will be re-evaluated in the next few days. He went on the 10-day disabled list Aug. 8, retroactive to Aug. 4. He will join the team on its trip to Los Angeles but not play. ... 1B Jose Abreu is the first player in White Sox history to start his major league career with four straight 20-home run seasons, according to STATS LLC. He hit his 20th home run Saturday. ... The Royals rallied to beat the White Sox 5-4 Saturday for their 34th comeback victory of the season, tying them for third most in the majors with the Arizona Diamondbacks and one fewer than the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers. Kansas City is one comeback victory short of last season’s total.