Michael Taylor is certainly off to a good start.
Opening Day is just one of 162 games (usually) in a long season, but you typically want to get the year started off right. Some players have jumped out of the gate with amazing performances. Let’s take a look at some of the top hitting performances in Royals Opening Day history.
10. Fred Patek, 1979 vs. Toronto
The Blue Jays were just in their third year of existence with two 100+ loss seasons under their belt, while the Royals were the three-time reigning champs of the Western Division, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Royals drilled them on Opening Day to the tune of an 11-2 score. It was a bit more surprising who did the offensive damage, however. Catcher John Wathan, hitting seventh, hit a bases loaded triple to get the scoring going for the Royals. But it was #9 hitter, Freddie “The Flea” Patek who had four hits, a run scored, and a run driven in to tie the club record for most hits on Opening Day.
9. Tony Peña, Jr., 2007 vs. Boston
Perhaps the most unlikely name on this list, the Royals picked up Peña in a trade with the Braves just over a week before the season opener. He was a light-hitting shortstop known for his glovework, and the Royals were really looking for anyone to replace the disappointing Angel Berroa. Facing Red Sox ace Curt Schilling in the second, Peña laced a pitch deep into the alleys for a triple. Peña would draw just ten walks that season, but one came in the fourth inning on Opening Day. Then in the eighth, he would put the game away with another triple, this time to score a run in a 7-1 win.
8. Alex Rios, 2015 vs. Chicago
Fresh off their first pennant in 29 years, the Royals came into 2015 with some swagger. They went all in with their highest payroll in club history, adding free agents Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios to the lineup. Rios would ultimately have a disappointing season as the starting right fielder, but he certainly looked like a great pickup on Opening Day. He singled in the fourth and sixth against White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija. But the Royals made it a laugher in the seventh with a five-run inning, helped in part by a three-run home run by Rios.
7. Salvador Perez, 2014 vs. Detroit
Salvy has a way of rising up for big moments. So it is no surprise that on Opening Day, against the big bullies of the division, the Detroit Tigers, against one of the best pitchers in baseball, Justin Verlander, Salvy had one of his best days. He doubled off Verlander in the second, then did it again in the fourth to score a run. In the fifth, Verlander held him to a single. In the eighth, Salvy would become just the 13th catcher in the live ball era to have four hits on Opening Day.
“I have to see the ball,” he said. “He tries to throw his pitch, I try to hit his pitch. That’s all I try to do.”
6. Kevin Seitzer, 1987 vs. Chicago
The Royals thought highly of rookie Kevin Seitzer in 1987, hitting him second ahead of sluggers Danny Tartabull and George Brett. He didn’t disappoint on Opening Day, slamming a triple in his first at-bat off White Sox starter Rich Dotson. He singled his next time before the White Sox finally retired him in the fifth. In the seventh he doubled home two runs to make it 5-4 Chicago. He came up in the ninth with not only a chance to win it, but to add a home run to hit for the cycle. White Sox reliever Bobby Thigpen wouldn’t give him the chance, however, walking him before retiring Tartabull to win the game.
5. Jermaine Dye, 2001 vs. New York
After a record-setting season by the offense in 2000, the Royals were hoping to make some noise in 2001 with their talented young hitters like Mike Sweeney, Carlos Beltrán, and Jermaine Dye. But having them start the year in Yankee Stadium against the defending champs was like sending them to the lions. For awhile, it seemed like the Royals could hang with the Bronx Bombers. Jermaine Dye cracked a solo home run in the sixth off Roger Clemens to give the Royals a 2-1 lead. But the Royals would quickly give that lead up and then some, in a 7-3 loss. Dye would end the game with three hits and two runs scored, but the rest of the lineup would manage just four hits combined.
4. Whit Merrifield, Michael Taylor, and Jorge Soler, 2021 vs. Texas
It is probably not a good sign for Rangers pitchers that three Royals hitters from the season opener are this high on the list. Merrifield was “Three Hit Whit”, with one of those hits leaving the ballpark for a home run. He also added a sacrifice fly for a two-RBI performance. Jorge Soler also homered with an absolute laser beam shot, adding a single, two walks, and he was hit by a pitch. But the best performance may have been by Taylor. Not only did he single twice, not only did he smack a home run to center, but he threw out two runners at home, turning in the top defensive performance as well.
3. Lou Piniella, 1969 vs. Minnesota
The very first game in Royals history featured a lineup of misfit cast-offs, and no one better exemplified that than Lou Piniella. By the time the Royals acquired him, he was on his sixth organization by age 25, having worn out his welcome elsewhere by being a bit of a red ass. Manager Joe Gordon put him at the top of the lineup, and in the very first at-bat in Royals history, he doubled off Twins starter Tom Hall. He would single in his next three at-bats, including an RBI single in the sixth to tie the game at 3-3. He would also draw a walk, one of four Royals players to get on base five times on Opening Day with Bo Jackson (1990), Soler and Carlos Santana (2021),
2. Mendy Lopez and Carlos Beltrán, 2004 vs. Chicago
After a surprise run in 2003, Royals fans were optimistic the 2004 edition could make some noise with free agent additions like Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago. But despite two hits from Gonzalez and a home run from Santiago, they trailed the White Sox 7-3 going into the ninth inning. A pair of walks gave Royals fans some home, and Santiago would continue his terrific day with an RBI double. Manager Tony Peña brought in pinch-hitter Matt Stairs to hit for infielder Tony Graffanino, but the move seemed to backfire when the White Sox brought in lefty Damaso Marte to face the left-handed slugger. Peña was forced to pinch hit for Stairs with light-hitting right-hander Mendy Lopez. But Lopez would stun everyone by coming through with a three-run home run to tie the game. After an Angel Berroa single, Carlos Beltrán would win the game with his second hit of the day, a two-run walk-off home run.
1. Amos Otis, 1977 vs. Detroit
The 1977 Royals are generally considered the greatest regular season club in club history, winning a franchise-record 102 games. They certainly got their season off to a good start, winning their first four games of the season, including a 7-4 win over the Tigers on Opening Day. It didn’t take long for the scoring to begin in Tiger Stadium. George Brett led off the game with a single, and two batters later, Amos Otis drove him in with a two-run home run off Tigers starter Dave Roberts. Otis would double in the fifth and score on a three-run home run by John Mayberry. He would add two more singles, including and RBI single in the ninth, to give him eight total bases, the most ever by a Royals hitter on Opening Day.