HOUSTON (AP) — The first time Ryan O’Hearn ever talked to the Kansas City Royals about the possibility of one day playing for them it was at Minute Maid Park when he participated in a tournament here as a junior at nearby Sam Houston State.
In his return to the stadium on Tuesday night with 10 of his college teammates in the stands, he hit his first career grand slam to help the Royals to a 12-2 rout.
“I can’t really describe it,” he said. “I was thinking, I don’t remember the last time I hit a grand slam in the minor leagues or anything. I maybe had one before. But it was pretty cool to do it here. This isn’t really home but it kind of feels like home because I went to college here.”
Whit Merrifield added a grand slam and Danny Duffy (1-1) allowed six hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings for his first win this season in his third start after missing the early part of the season with a shoulder injury.
Merrifield, who had four hits and finished a double shy of the cycle, tied a career high with five RBIs. Jorge Soler added a solo homer as the Royals snapped a two-game skid and won just their fifth road game this season.
“O’Hearn has worked so hard and has struggled,” manager Ned Yost said. “A big grand slam in his home state is kind of cool. And Whit’s story from what he’s been able to accomplish since he’s been here has just been amazing.”
Kansas City led 2-0 in the third inning when O’Hearn hit his first career grand slam into the seats in right field off Collin McHugh (3-4) to push the lead to 6-0 and give the Royals their first grand slam this season. Billy Hamilton doubled with no outs in the fourth and Merrifield chased McHugh with his RBI single that left Kansas City up 7-0.
McHugh allowed seven hits — six for extra bases — and eight runs in three-plus innings to lose his third straight decision after winning his previous three. McHugh has allowed 24 hits and 25 runs in his past four starts, all Astros losses.
“Those games hurt today because nobody likes to get their teeth kicked in; they hurt furthermore because it cuts into your pen,” manager AJ Hinch said. “It’s concerning because we’ve tried to figure out how to get him right and get him back to being effective.”
Merrifield’s grand slam came off Framber Valdez with two outs in the seventh inning to make it 12-1 as the Royals had two grand slams in a game for the first time since 2004.
The Astros entered the game having hit 11 home runs in a three-game winning streak, but had trouble getting their offense going on Tuesday night. They had managed just two hits before Alex Bregman’s solo homer to left field with one out in the sixth inning made it 8-1.
Michael Brantley followed with a single, but Carlos Correa grounded into a double play to end the inning. Correa went 0 for 4 to end a career-long 16-game hitting streak.
Soler put the Royals up 1-0 in the second with his homer to straightaway center field off McHugh.
Merrifield tripled to start the third and scored on a double by Adalberto Mondesi to make it 2-0. Alex Gordon walked before Hunter Dozier grounded into a force out that left Gordon out at second before Soler walked to load the bases and set up O’Hearn’s slam.
Dozier started at third base on Tuesday for the first time since April 20 after serving as the team’s designated hitter for most of the past three weeks while dealing with tightness in his lower back. He hit an RBI triple with one out in the fourth to extend the lead to 8-0.
Tuesday’s win was Yost’s 700th with the Royals. He said he doesn’t take too much stock in milestones such as this one, but he does value every win as he tries to get the Royals back on track after last year’s 104-loss season.
“If this was about numbers I probably would have retired a couple years ago after we won a world championship or the year after,” he said. “It’s not. It’s about taking this organization back to a championship-caliber status.
“What keeps me going is I love the young players and I love working with (general manager) Dayton Moore. It’s special that we could accomplish 700 wins together and we’ll continue to try to accomplish as many more as we can.”
Royals: RHP Jorge Lopez (0-3, 5.09 ERA) will start for Kansas City in the finale on Wednesday. Lopez allowed five hits and four runs in a season-high seven innings in a 4-3 loss to Detroit in his previous outing.
Astros: RHP Brad Peacock (2-2, 5.28) is scheduled to start on Wednesday for Houston. Peacock will look to bounce back after giving up eight hits and seven runs in 3 2/3 innings of an 8-2 loss to the Twins.
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