With eight wins in their last 11 games, including four wins in their last four games, the Kansas City Royals are doing their best to hang around the postseason race. Friday night, the Royals continued their winning ways with a nine-run first inning against the AL Central rival Minnesota Twins (GameTracker). They put the game to bed early.
Kansas City sent 14 batters to the plate in the first inning Friday, and all nine runs were charged to righty Matt Shoemaker (eight earned). Nine of the first 10 batters reached base, and Whit Merrifield capped the inning with a three-run home run. The Royals had six hits, three walks, plus one catcher's interference in the inning.
Merrifield singled and stole a base to start the rally. According to Stats Perform, he is the first player with two hits, a stolen base, and a home run in the first inning of a game since (who else?) Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson on August 4, 1980. Henderson did it against the Royals, coincidentally enough.
Shoemaker is the first pitcher in Twins history to allow nine runs while getting no more than one out, so a case can be made this was the worst start in franchise history. As for the Royals, here are the biggest first innings in team history:
- May 8, 2018: 10 runs vs. Orioles
- August 23, 2006: 10 runs vs. Cleveland
- May 19, 1993: 9 runs vs. Athletics
- April 22, 1988: 9 runs vs. Orioles
- June 4, 2021: 9 runs vs. Twins
Amazingly, the Royals lost that August 23, 2006 game against Cleveland. They took a 10-1 lead in the first inning, but Cleveland kept chipping away and eventually won 15-13. It is one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history.
The rough outing gives Shoemaker a 7.28 ERA in 11 starts this season. Shoemaker is not the reason the Twins are having such a disappointing season, but he's certainly a reason, and he wasn't firmly locked into his rotation spot before Friday's game. The disaster start could force Minnesota to make a change in their rotation.