Having a disastrously losing season isn’t all sunshine and roses, but one advantage it does lend a team is the ability to audition young players, let them grow their sea legs, and test them under the glare of something less than a microscope as the team hurtles towards irrelevancy in the 2018 season. The Royals have an opportunity over these last two months to see just what they have with some young players that may be Not Ready for Primetime Players, or may just be the next diamond in the rough.
One such pitcher is Heath Fillmyer, who continued an impressive run of starts by blanking the Cubs over seven innings, scattering just three hits in a 9-0 Royals win in the series finale against the Cubs. Making just his fifth Major League start, Fillmyer lowered his ERA to 3.13, succeeding despite a low strikeout rate that included just three punchouts tonight.
The Royals were well acquainted with Cubs starter Jose Quintana from his days on the south side of Chicago, and they continued to have success against him. Coming into tonight, Quintana was just 3-9 with a 4.05 ERA in 24 career starts against the Royals. That underwhelming track record continued tonight when Drew Butera doubled home a pair of runs in the second to put the Royals on the board 2-0.
Fillmyer made quick work of the Cubs despite being drilled by a 107.3 mph comebacker from Anthony Rizzo on the third pitche of the game. Heath shook it off and dazzled Cubs hitters with his breaking stuff through six innings before he found himself in a jam in the seventh. Back-to-back singles by David Bote and Tommy LaStella put two on with one out and Fillmyer at 94 pitches for the night. Fillmyer struck out catcher Willson Contreras on three pitches, but faced lefty slugger Kyle Schwarber for the last out.
Ned Yost came out to see the youngster and with lefty specialist Tim Hill warming up, Fillmyer could have walked away with a chance to get no worse than a no-decision. But Yost walked away from his mound visit convinced to let Fillmyer battle through. Heath rewarded the skipper by inducing Schwarber to pop out to end the threat, and Fillmyer’s night, the best start of his young career.
The Royals then poured it on, squeezing out runs that had been absent the previous two nights of the series. Jorge Bonifacio and Brett Phillips singled in the seventh to set the stage for Adalberto Mondesi, who drilled a monstrous three-run home run off Quintana that landed in the drink in left.
I’ll just stop the game and watch this on replay. pic.twitter.com/qfqDGsAMvA— Patrick Brennan (@paintingcorner) August 9, 2018
Cubs reliever Tyler Chatwood continued to be one of the biggest free agent busts of last off-season, by coming in relief and allowing four more runs in the eighth to make it a laugher. Jorge Bonifacio added a two-run double and Brett Phillips an RBI triple to put the game away.
The Royals improve to 35-79 and take on the Cardinals this weekend, just one of two teams (the Tigers being the other) the Royals actually have a winning record against this year. Yes, losing a lot of games stinks, but at least the Royals are getting some interesting performances lately out of some young pitchers and hitters. Is it the start of an amazing rebuild? Too early to tell. But it sure beats the hell out of watching Jason Hammel and Brandon Moss.