Jorge Soler breaks out to help power Royals past Pirates

John Perrotto
Associated Press
Kansas City Royals' Jorge Soler (12) scores on a two-run double by Andrew Benintendi in the sixth inning of Wednesday's game in Pittsburgh. Soler doubled twice and drove in three runs to help the Royals to a 9-6 victory.

PITTSBURGH — Even with the Kansas City Royals’ strong start this season, Jorge Soler had been struggling to find it at the plate.

That changed Wednesday night as Soler had two doubles among his three hits and drove in three runs to lead Kansas City over the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-6 and improve the Royals' record to a major league-best 15-8.

Soler's doubles sparked three-run rallies in the first and sixth innings, the latter stretching the lead to 9-5. He came into the game hitting .186 with eight RBIs.

"I'm trying to do this every day, as long as I'm up to bat," Soler said. "Today I hit a couple of balls hard the other way and they fell in. Today was a good day."

Kansas City won for the sixth time in seven games and has a 2 1/2-game lead on the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central.

Salvador Pérez also had three of Kansas City's 12 hits. Hunter Dozier hit a two-run triple and Andrew Benintendi added a two-run double. 

Dozier was hitting .129 prior to Wednesday and Benintendi's batting average was .227.

"The top of the order has been carrying us at times and the bottom third did a nice job early on (in the season)," Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said. "It was the middle third that really came through this time. We saw it coming and Soler, Benintendi and Dozier all put together good at-bats."

Erik Gonzalez and Jacob Stallings hit back-to-back home runs for the Pirates, who had won three in a row.

Staked to a 6-0 lead, Kansas City starter Mike Minor lasted just 4 1/3 innings and gave up five runs — four earned — six hits and three walks.

"Pretty short, not great," Minor said of his outing. "We got the early lead, the offense did its job, the defense was making plays behind me and I couldn't do anything for them."

Kyle Zimmer (2-0) got the last two outs of the fifth, and Josh Staumont retired four straight batters for his third save.

Mitch Keller (1-3) walked five in 2 1/3 innings, allowed four runs and needed 83 pitches to get seven outs. Keller has 13 walks in 18 2/3 innings over five starts.

"He didn't execute his pitches and they continued to extend at-bats and he wasn't in the zone enough," Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. "He's working hard between starts and it's not paying off the way he'd like. I think there's some frustration there and you're seeing it."

Keller declined to speak with the media following the game.

After Soler doubled in the game's first run, Dozier hit a two-run triple to the 410-foot mark in left-center field.

A bases-loaded walk to Michael A. Taylor in the third inning and consecutive RBI singles by Pérez and Soler in the fourth extended the lead to 6-0.

Gonzalez hit a 453-foot shot to the bleachers in left-center. Stallings caught a break when the ball popped out of Taylor's glove when the center fielder banged into the top of the fence while trying to make a catch.

Todd Frazier's first hit with the Pirates, a two-run double in the fifth, cut the gap to 6-5. The two-time All-Star had been 0 for 14 since being called up from the alternate training site last week.

"It was kind of a kick in the stomach to give back five runs, but it was also a testament to our team's character that we were able to answer right back with three runs," Matheny said.

SENT DOWN

The Pirates reassigned OF Dustin Fowler, who was designated for assignment last week, to their alternate training site after he cleared waivers. He hit .171 in 18 games.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Prates: The team has no timetable yet for when 3B Ke'Bryan Hayes (left wrist stain) might resume swinging. … RHP Michael Feliz (cracked right middle fingernail) threw his first bullpen Wednesday since being injured. … RHP Chad Kuhl (right shoulder discomfort) has started playing catch.

UP NEXT

Royals: RHP Brady Singer (1-2, 2.95 ERA) faces RHP Michael Pineda (1-1, 2.42) on Friday in Minnesota. Singer notched his first win of the season in his last start, holding Detroit to one run in seven innings.

Pirates: RHP JT Brubaker (2-1, 2.01) opposing St. Louis RHP John Gant (1-2, 2.25) on Friday. Brubaker had a tough-luck loss his last time out against the Twins when he allowed two runs in seven innings.