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Bobby Witt Jr. hits his first career MLB home run

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KANSAS CITY — When Bobby Witt Jr.’s first career home run bounced downfield and Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader sent it back into the stands, the ball wasn’t lost forever like some thought so when they saw it land in the fountains at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals picked up the scoring ball and began to frame it for Witt. And he doesn’t mind that it got a little wet in the process.

“That’s cool,” Witt said Tuesday night, shrugging and smiling after throwing a solo shot at Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson in the second inning. “I can tell he went to the fountains.”

The first of what will likely be many in Witt’s career, the home run extended his hitting streak to 11 games and gave the Royals a lead they didn’t relinquish in their 7-1 win over the Cardinals on Tuesday, snapping a four-game losing streak. The victory gave starter Brad Keller a well-deserved win after pitching 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing four hits with three walks and two strikeouts.

The Royals’ seven runs were one more than their previous four games combined, their 15 hits were a season high and their youth was on display. MJ Melendez, the club’s No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, made his big league debut and hit his first career hit — a single on the backcourt at sixth.

And right fielder Edward Olivares, 26, was 4-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI, doing even more to prove he belongs in the everyday roster.

“Just a special day for [Witt], pretty cool for him and MJ both,” manager Mike Matheny said. “For our fans to see two guys we’ve been talking about for a while doing something good to help us win, a special day.”

In the second inning, Witt made a change low and out of bounds, the ball leaving his bat at 102.5 mph and traveling 417 feet, according to Statcast. The 21-year-old was already rounding second base by the time the ball went over the wall, but it wasn’t until Witt entered the dugout and was greeted by his teammates that he broke into a big smile.

“That was awesome,” said Witt, baseball’s No. 1 prospect. “Just coming onto the pitch today, seeing [Royals greats] Mike Sweeney and Reggie Sanders here. … With MJ here, back home, wearing the new uniforms, it was just awesome. Lots of energy there. And a lot of Cardinals fans, so it was good to beat them with a lot of fans here.

Witt knew that Hudson was a sinker, so Witt would have to get under the ball to get it up in the air and respect his wide-spread approach. When Hudson threw a change low, Witt met him with the barrel.

“The pitch that Witt hit, I tip my cap to him, because he basically scraped it off the plate,” Hudson said.

Witt is one of three players in Royals history to post a 10-game hitting streak before his 22nd birthday, joining Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler, and Witt’s 11th straight game with a hit matches Hosmer, who struck in 11 consecutive games as a 21- from July 19–30, 2011. Butler holds the club record at 14 games from September 30, 2007–April 14, 2008.

The Royals knew that kind of production came from Witt. When he made the opening day roster, they knew he might struggle against first-time Major League pitchers. Witt was 5-for-39 (.128) in his first 10 games as pitchers attacked him with a heavy dose of off-speed pitching.

To start his rookie year, Witt saw 48.2 percent non-fastballs, which is slightly above the MLB average (44.6).

“It’s kind of just settling in more and more every day,” Witt said. “All the preparation, the work we’ve done with the staff and the presence of my teammates, makes me feel at home here.”

Assistant batting coach Keoni De Renne worked with Witt in the minors before the two were promoted to the major leagues this year. The moment may have come to Witt at the start of the season, when he was chasing throws he usually wouldn’t make and facing more talented throws than before.

Now? De Renne sees a “calm in him from pitch to pitch”. Scouts and coaches alike were thrilled with Witt’s ability to adapt within bats, rather than between them. It’s starting to show.

“Having conversations with him like, ‘You don’t have to do it all in one shot and one game. Go for it,'” De Renne said. , that he finds what he wants to do and that he is doomed.

“That’s why I think he’s starting to make progress.”