KANSAS CITY — The ball Dairon Blanco lifted to left-center field in the bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday night traveled 395 feet. It would have been a home run in 19 ballparks. If it had gone over the wall, Blanco would have had the Royals’ first cycle since George Brett in 1990.
Alas, Blanco settled for his second double of the day, a homer shy of the cycle and his first career four-hit game as his speed and energy fueled the Royals to an 11-10 win over the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium.
He’ll take it — right after he hits the weight room.
“Definitely went out there looking for it,” Blanco said through interpreter Luis Perez. “As soon as it left the bat, I thought I had a chance. But when I saw it hit [the wall], I thought I needed five more pushups, and it would have gotten out.”
Blanco was one of the sparks in every inning the Royals scored Tuesday. He hit an RBI triple in the third, a bunt RBI single in the fourth, a double in the sixth and the long double in the eighth, which he followed up with his seventh stolen base of the season in just 22 games.
“He contributes to the team in so many other ways… like the speed, taking the extra base, the bunt, things like that might not be magnified or glorified as much as doubles and triples,” starter Daniel Lynch IV said after allowing five runs in five innings Tuesday. “He does so much to help the team win.”
Blanco became the first player in the Majors to record at least two doubles, one triple and one stolen base in a game since Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich on July 20, 2018; only two other Royals have reached those numbers in a game — Amos Otis (June 10, 1981) and Frank White (June 3, 1981).
“Every one of his hits was important,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “That’s what stood out to me. The bunt really sparked that inning as well. Little bit of everything. It’s nice for him because I know he’s been pressing a little bit to get some hits, to drive the ball a little bit, and to see him do that was really rewarding.”
And the Royals needed every last run as closer Scott Barlow gave up four runs in the ninth inning to see a five-run lead dwindle to a one-run lead before he got a ground ball to end the nail-biter.
The Royals got production up and down their lineup, but especially at the bottom and when it turned over. Edward Olivares returned from the injured list Tuesday and immediately produced and increased his trade value. The 27-year-old went 2-for-3 with an RBI, two runs scored and a hit-by-pitch. He led off the third with a first-pitch double, the Royals’ first hit off Tigers starter Tarik Skubal.
“I felt 50-50 confident, but when I hit it, first-pitch swinging, I was ready to go,” Olivares said. “Ready to compete. Get the fastball, ready to swing.”
Blanco became the first Royal to record three extra-base hits out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup since Paulo Orlando did so on Sept. 2, 2015.
And that helped leadoff hitter Maikel Garcia drive in four runs.
“It’s easy,” Garcia said of hitting after Blanco. “He can get a triple or get a double and steal to be on third base for me. Makes it that much easier to get him in. Maybe I feel bad if I get a ground ball, get out, but he’s still scoring.
“When I hit after him, I just think he’s in scoring position no matter where he’s at on the bases.”
The Royals added Blanco to the 40-man roster on June 12 because he had an .895 OPS in Triple-A and had stolen 47 bases in 49 games. They wanted to see what the 30-year-old outfielder could provide for them, even if he wasn’t going to play every day.
What he’s given them is reliable outfield defense, elite speed on the bases when he’s in the lineup or comes in to pinch-run and energy any time he gets on base — regardless of how much he’s playing.
Of Blanco’s 13 hits this season, eight have gone for extra bases.
“You just have to get ready every day, doesn’t matter,” Blanco said. “A day like today, you get the opportunity, and you take advantage of it.”
Blanco certainly did Tuesday. When asked where the game ranked in his professional career, he had a simple answer.
“Primero,” Blanco said. “First.”