AL Central

Strong Pitching, Four-Run Second Inning Lead Kansas City Royals to I-70 Series Opener Victory over St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals Aledmys Diaz (36) is safe with a double as Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar places a late tag in the sixth inning of a baseball game in Kansas City, Mo., Monday, June 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

Backed behind early scoring and eight innings of two-run ball from Danny Duffy, the Kansas City Royals picked up a 6-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night in the first of four I-70 Series games to be played.

Both teams came into the game with a 39-35 record and a combined 14 games out of first place. But the excitement was present for the first matchup between Missouri’s two teams in over 11 months.

“When you have the interstate rivalry like this, there are little things within the 162 game schedule that as a player gets you excited and pumped up,” said Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. “It gets the extra adrenaline going for us, and the series is fun to play every year.”

Matt Holliday opened the scoring with a two-run home run off Duffy that traveled 418 feet centerfield, his 15th blast of the season. But aside from Holliday’s mark and a two-hit night from Aledmys Diaz, the Cardinals only registered three hits and couldn’t move a runner past second base after the second inning.

Kansas City answered with a two-run first inning, loading the bases on a Matt Carpenter error before a two-run single from Kendrys Morales, who finished the night with four hits and two RBIs.

“Any time a team comes out and puts a couple of runs on the board, for us to newer offensively is huge,” said Hosmer, who also collected a drove in a pair of runs. “Getting Kendrys hot again makes the lineup deep, and gives us a lot of power down the lineup.”

The Royals forced Adam Wainwright to work deep into counts, as the Cardinals starter gave up six runs, four earned, in a pair of two-out rallies that amounted to 69 pitches through the first two innings. Wainwright only pitched into the 5th inning, but retired nine of the last ten hitters and compiled seven strikeouts.

“You have to approach [Wainwright] to where maybe he is going to make one mistake in an at-bat,” said Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield, who reached base for the 13th time in 14 games. “You have to take advantage of it, and if you don’t your going to have to hit his best pitch.”

On the flip side, Duffy settled in to toss seven scoreless innings after Holliday’s home run, finishing the night with eight strikeouts and no walks.

“Duffy has been everything we could ask for on this team,” said Hosmer. “He’s a team guy, and any role you ask him to do, he’ll take it on and give it everything he’s got.”

The bullpens insured no more scoring on either side, accompanied by three innings of work between Seth Maness and Trevor Rosenthal for the Cardinals, and a scoreless ninth inning for Kansas City’s Joakim Soria.

The St. Louis Cardinals lead all-time series 50-37 since the start of interleague play in 1997. The I-70 series continues in Kansas City tomorrow at 7:15 p.m. with Michael Wacha and Yordano Ventura expected to take the mound.

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