Merrifield breaks out of slump in timely fashion

Published 9:17 am Thursday, July 21, 2016

While enduring the first slump of his young major league career, Whit Merrifield of Kansas City broke out of it in timely fashion.

His leadoff double in the ninth inning set the table for the Royals’ 4-3 walk-off win over visiting Seattle on July 7.

Kansas City trailed 3-0 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Paulo Orlando set the comeback in motion with a two-run single.

When Merrifield came to the plate to open the ninth, the rookie was mired in an 0-for-17 slump. He doubled to left field. The next batter, Kendrys Morales, was plunked with a curveball, and Jarrod Dyson pinch-ran for Morales.

Another guy who had been slumping came through two batters later, as Salvador Perez drove a two-run, game-winning double to the center-field fence. Merrifield and Dyson came home as the Royals celebrated the end of a four-game losing streak. They moved within seven games of first-place Cleveland.

It was the third hit for Perez, who entered the game 0 for his last 23.

Two days later, Merrifield delivered two hits in the Royals’ 5-3 win over Seattle. It marked Merrifield’s 18th multi-hit game in 45 games. He’s the only major leaguer with 18 in fewer than 50 games. He entered the all-star break hitting .290.

“So we’re not talking about a great start for a rookie,” Kansas City play-by-play man Ryan Lefebvre said. “We’re talking about a great start for any player in the major leagues this year.”

Slumps happen all the time in baseball. It’s the nature of the game.

Merrifield is experiencing the worst one of his rookie season now, going 0 for 4 in the first game following the all-star break. His 8-for-40 batting in July – which dropped his average to .284 – sent him to the bench on July 16-17, as Christian Colon took over at second base.

The Royals are reeling as well. They stood 46-45 on July 17, in third place and 7.5 games behind AL-Central leader Cleveland. Kansas City was four games out in the wild-card race.

“There’s a lot of baseball left,” Merrifield told The Associated Press during the all-star break. “A lot of stuff can happen between now and September and October. A lot of games to be played, a lot of ups and downs.”