KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bobby Witt Jr. capped his highly anticipated big league debut with a go-ahead double with two outs in the eighth inning to send the Kansas City Royals to a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Guardians on Thursday.
Andrew Benintendi drove in Witt, giving Royals reliever Scott Barlow (1-0) a cushion. And after a perfect eighth, Barlow struck out Myles Straw with runners on the corners in the ninth to end it.
The hit was Witt’s first in the majors. The 21-year-old finished the game 1 of 4 with an RBI.
“You couldn’t have scripted that any better,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said of Witt’s debut. “This isn’t one he’s going to forget, and I probably won’t, either.”
In a matchup of former Cy Young Award winners, Cleveland ace Shane Bieber and Royals star Zack Greinke dueled to a 1-all stalemate before turning the game over to the bullpens on a cold day at Kauffman Stadium.
It remained tied until the eighth, when the Royals’ Michael Taylor worked a walk off Triston McKenzie (0-1) and then took second on Nicky Lopez’s sacrifice bunt. McKenzie struck out Whit Merrifield before Witt, regarded by many as the No. 1 prospect in the game, roped a double down the left-field line to give Kansas City its first lead.
“I could kind of see it coming a little bit with the way the game was going,” said Greinke, who signed a one-year deal to return to the club that drafted him 20 years ago. “It felt like it was going to be a special day.”
Lopez also drove in a run for Kansas City. Jose Ramirez had an RBI double for the Guardians a day after agreeing to a $124 million, five-year deal to stay with Cleveland.
Plenty of famous fans braved wintry weather to enjoy opening day.
Several members of the Kansas City Chiefs, including coach Andy Reid, dressed up in Royals gear. So did members of the Kansas basketball team, which beat North Carolina in the national title game Monday night in New Orleans.
It was 47 degrees at first pitch, and a gale blowing out to right field made it seem even colder. Then there was the off-and-on drizzle that turned to shooting pellets of ice during the national anthem, which probably made everybody stuck wearing a jersey long for the sun and warmth of Arizona spring training.
Except maybe Greinke, who wore short sleeves for his first start in a Kansas City uniform since Sept. 30, 2010.
He didn’t have the same dominant fastball that he had in 2009, when he won the Cy Young, but he made up for it with the wisdom of 18 years in the big leagues — and a beguiling 69 mph curveball. Greinke made it through 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run on five hits and a walk while striking out one, then got a standing ovation from the crowd.
Bieber, whose Cy Young came 11 years after Greinke won his, allowed one run on three hits in 4 2/3 innings for Cleveland, which played its first game with a new nickname for the first time since 1915.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.