BOSTON — To hit a home run in the major leagues, a baseball player must possess a potent combination of tools. Enough hand-eye coordination to barrel a 95-mph fastball. Enough brute strength in the legs to launch a baseball 400 feet. Enough experience and acumen to solve the best pitchers in the world.
To hit one home run requires an astonishing degree of timing, vision, power and mechanics. To hit 30 in the season’s first 101 games demands a level of consistency, talent and raw power never seen before in a Royals uniform.
In 49 summers in Kansas City, no baseball player has hit home runs like one Mike Moustakas, a 28-year-old third baseman who clubbed his 30th blast of the season on Friday as the Royals edged the Boston Red Sox, 4-2, at Fenway Park. Not George Brett, the only Hall of Famer in team history. Not Big John Mayberry, the imposing slugger from the late 1970s. And not even Steve Balboni, the mustachioed owner of the team’s most infamous home run record.
All those men launched baseballs out of stadiums across baseball and left their mark on franchise history. Yet none can match the pace of Moustakas, who on Friday became the fastest Royal ever to 30 home runs, roping a three-run shot off Boston starter Rick Porcello in the top of the fourth inning.
The baseball curved around the famed Pesky’s Pole in right field and traveled an estimated 372 feet, disappearing into the seats. As a round of Moose calls echoed across Fenway Park, the Royals were positioned to run their winning streak to a season-high nine game.
The torrid run has pushed a team back into a playoff spot and matched a nine-game streak from last August. The current stretch has been sparked by an offense that continues to mash homers at a club record pace.
On Friday, Moustakas hit his 30th homer in his 364th at-bat of the season.
At this moment, it appears when, and not if, Moustakas will smash Balboni’s club record of 36, set in 1985. But for now, the focus remains on a Royals team that brushed off a 1-7 stretch in the middle of the July and responded by playing its most ferocious baseball of the season.
Salvador Perez added his 21st homer of the season in the top of the second, blasting a solo shot that sailed over the Green Monster in left field and smashed a car windshield in a nearby parking lot. Starting pitcher Jason Vargas surrendered just one run in six innings, logging his first quality start since June 30 against Minnesota.
The Royals awoke Friday morning in Boston expecting to face left-hander David Price, the former Cy Young winner, in the first game of a three-game series here at Fenway Park. The matchup promised drama. Kansas City carried an eight-game winning streak after a three-game sweep of Detroit. Price found himself embroiled in controversy after feuding with Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley, one of the Red Sox’s television commentators. The Price-Eckersley story line dominated the conversation in Boston on Friday. Yet Price was absent from the proceedings after being placed on the 10-day disabled list with elbow inflammation in the morning.
With one Cy Young on the mend, the Royals tackled another, facing Porcello, the reigning winner. Perez made him pay in the second. Moustakas changed the game in the fourth. The Royals held on in the late innings, crafting a ninth straight win.