Royals riding Soler’s power surge against Tigers

Jorge Soler extended his hitting streak to nine games and has reached base in a career-high 18 consecutive contests.
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Detroit Tigers will have to deal with Soler power in this four-game series at Kansas City.

Jorge Soler walked and homered in the Royals’ 10-6 victory over the Tigers on Thursday in the opening game of the series. Soler extended his hitting streak to nine games and has reached base in a career-high 18 consecutive contests. He is hitting .312 with a .435 on-base percentage and .538 slugging percentage.

Royals manager Ned Yost said Soler reminds him of Adam Dunn and Carlos Santana. Dunn walked 100-plus times in seven of his seasons in the majors before retiring with a career .237 batting average, but a .364 on-base percentage. Santana drew 113 and 108 walks in 2014-15 — batting .231 each year — with the Cleveland Indians and walked 99 times in 2016. Santana, who is with Philadelphia this season, has a career .247 batting average, but a .363 on-base percentage.

“If you make a mistake, they’re going to drive it out of the ballpark, but they weren’t (high) average hitters,” Yost said. “Soler has a chance to be a .280 to a .300-type hitter. He is continuing to grow as a player. To me, what’s important is you’re taking your walks, that means you’re not accumulating outs on pitcher’s pitches. He’s doing a great job of staying patient with a plan and getting a pitch that he can handle and not miss it.”

Detroit will be making some roster moves Friday. Reliever Chad Bell, who took the loss after giving up five runs on five hits, including Soler’s homer, and a walk in 1 2/3 innings Thursday, was optioned to Triple-A Toledo after the game. The Tigers will announce a corresponding move before Friday’s contest.

Miguel Cabrera could be going on the disabled list. He left for a pinch-runner in the sixth with a hamstring strain.

“A hamstring strain is nothing to sneeze about, so we’ll have to wait and see,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Left-hander Francisco Liriano will start for the Tigers in the second game of this series. He has made 18 starts and three relief appearances against Kansas City.

Liriano is 8-5 with a 4.23 ERA against the Royals with 88 strikeouts in 107 innings. He has faced the Royals twice this season and is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA, giving up four earned runs over 12 innings, while striking out nine.

In eight starts and one relief appearance at Kauffman Stadium, Liriano is 4-3 with a 3.74 ERA, striking out 35 in in 43 1/3 innings.

Liriano is 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in five starts this year. He is coming off a victory Saturday at Baltimore, giving up three runs on six hits with two walks and one strikeout over 6 1/3 innings. Liriano was named the Tigers pitcher of the month for March/April. He is limiting opponents to a .196 batting average, which ranks 10th in the American League.

The Royals will counter with right-hander Ian Kennedy, who is 1-3 with a 3.48 ERA in his first six starts. In 31 innings, Kennedy has surrendered 34 hits, including four runs, while walking 10 and striking out 28. Opponents are hitting .268 off him.

Among pitchers that have made at least 35 starts over the last two seasons, Kennedy’s run support of 3.94 ranks last in the American League.

This will be Kennedy’s first start of the season against the Tigers. He went 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts versus Detroit in 2017. Both victories came at Comerica Park, while he lost 6-3 on May 31 at Kauffman Stadium. In nine career starts against Detroit, Kennedy is 3-4 with a 4.01 ERA.

Kennedy is 0-2 with a 3.60 ERA in his first two home starts. He has won only one of his last 21 Kauffman Stadium starts.