Thanks to aggressive play, the Royals scored three runs on ball that traveled 105 feet

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Pete Grathoff
·2 min read
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The barrel of Whit Merrifield’s bat split in two after making contact with a pitch during Saturday’s game in Minnesota, and that started one of the more unlikely plays you’ll see this season.

Leading 5-0 in the fourth inning, the Royals were looking to add to their advantage when they loaded the bases ahead of Merrifield’s plate appearance. The ball left the shattered bat traveling 65.3 mph, making it the 50th hardest-hit ball of the game.

Because the Twins had the infield in, the ball eluded the second baseman who deflected it, causing it to travel slowly into the outfield grass.

Royals shortstop Nicky Lopez was on first base and he noticed how the Twins reacted.

“I saw him break his bat, so it was softly hit and it got through and I know the infield was playing in, but when I touched second I noticed that they weren’t really running full speed to the ball,” Lopez said, “so I didn’t break stride. I just kept going and picked up Vance (Wilson, third-base coach), and Vance wheeled me in.”

Yes, Lopez scored all the way from first base on a ball that traveled all of 105 feet.

Royals manager Mike Matheny said Lopez’s mind-set on the play was atypical.

“The ball finds its way through and Nicky was thinking home, which is really abnormal when you start at first base and the ball’s not in the gap,” Matheny said.

Matheny added: “That’s how I hope we’re defined as a club, is that we’re just searching and scraping and scratched for the next 90 feet no matter what. And that puts pressure, and that pressure eventually leads in our direction.”

Left fielder Andrew Benintendi was on third base when Merrifield came to the plate, and said it was an usual play by Lopez.

“That’s a long run for the center fielder to make and, you know, credit to Nicky for running hard the whole way and for Vance wheeling him in there,” Benintendi said.

“It’s a hustle play. It’s thing that gets a team fired up ... I’ve never seen that before.”

Lopez saw only one problem with his dash home.

“A couple innings later, I felt the strain of that dive, barrel roll into home plate,” Lopez said with a smile. “You can’t even call it a slide. So I’ll work on that. I bet Rusty will have early work for me sometime soon.”

The Royals won 11-3.