It took a few games into the season but I finally talked my daughter, Riley, into going to Kauffman Stadium to watch the Royals play for the first time this season.
She was luckily off work on Wednesday, April 10, so we headed to ‘The K’ to watch a chance for history to happen when Whit Merrifield came to the plate.
I, though, was a lot more excited about the possibility of Whit setting the team record. I’m sure my daughter couldn’t care less, but she tagged along so I couldn’t complain.
Regardless of the outcome of the game against Seattle or whether Whit got a hit or not, I was happy to be there.
I grew up idolizing George Brett and all the things he did in Kansas City. So for a chance to watch a player that already tied the team record with hits in 30 straight games was quite a feat to accomplish.
Brett had his record-setting performance in 1980, the year he hit .390 and was one of the first players to challenge hitting more than .400 since Ted Williams did so in 1941.
The difference between the two hitting streaks for the Royals was that Whit’s actually started last year.
He had hits in the final 21 games and then after a six-month break. He then came out hitting this spring.
He got to the record on Tuesday night and then finally broke the record the next night in a loss.
Brett was there on Wednesday to watch Merrifield break the record and the day prior sent a handwritten note to the man chasing his mark.
Brett wanted the record broken.
Merrifield got the historical hit in one of the more surprising ways — a bunt single.
Prior to that, he was 0-for-3 in the contest.
He isn’t one to bunt a lot, but when he came up to bat in the seventh inning he laid down a perfect squeeze bunt down the third base line.
The hit allowed Terrance Gore to score. The Royals would ultimately tie the game late and then in very Royals-fashion this year, the bullpen found a way to lose the game.
“It surprised me and it surprised them,” manager Ned Yost said after the game on Wednesday. “It was a perfect bunt. Whit doesn’t bunt that much, but he laid down a beauty.”
Playing a day game on Thursday, April 11, the hitting streak came to an end, while the losing streak continued for the Royals.
Merrifield had six chances at extending the streak another day. He went 0-for-6 and in his final at-bat, he struck out in the 10th inning. It ended the game and hitting streak.
But he wouldn’t have had that chance to extend that streak if it wasn’t for the woeful bullpen I previously mentioned.
The Royals, for those who didn’t follow, was one out or one strike depending on how you look at it, from snapping a 9-game losing streak.
Instead, Brad Boxberger did his best Brandon Maurer impression — thanks to my buddy Mike Walls for this analogy — and blew a two-run lead and even had two strikes on Mitch Haniger before giving up a game-tying, two-run triple. Then, a home run in extra innings kept the Royals losing streak going.
Along the way, Whit’s streak passed those belonging to Mike Sweeney (25 games, 1999), Brett (25 games, 1982-83) and Jose Offerman (27 games, 1998).
The 31-game hitting streak became the longest in Major League Baseball since Dan Uggla — who once played summer baseball in St. Joseph — hit in 33 straight in 2011.
It was the longest multi-season hitting streak since Jimmy Rollins hit safely in 38 games between the 2005-2006 season.
Merrifield still had a ways to go become the second player since World War II to hit in 40-plus games — the only one to accomplish that feat is Pete Rose. The record held by Joe DiMaggio of 56 will never be broken for a variety of reasons — specialized relief pitchers or scorekeepers who aren’t friends with players — but it was fun to see Whit chase after a historical mark.