The Royals position players are not holding up their end of the bargain. I know that that is a weird thing to lead off with on a night when the pitching staff gave up eleven runs, but it’s true. Royals defenders committed four more errors tonight which leaves them alone in last place with the most errors in baseball. Even more concerning than the errors are the constant mental mistakes. Nicky Lopez was forced out of the game after getting spiked when Adalberto Mondesi failed to cleanly field a groundball and put him in harm’s way. Ryan O’Hearn almost doubled down on an error that loaded the bases by throwing late and wildly towards first-base when he finally picked up the ball. Both Whit Merrifield and Mondesi failed to catch a pop-fly between them because neither took charge of the play. And that’s all just from the top of my head and only from this game. It’s a problem. I’d cut them some slack due to COVID, but none of the teams they’ve played have seemed to have these focus issues.
That also doesn’t touch on what the Royals have done as hitters so far this season. They left twelve runners on base, tonight. Twice they loaded the bases against Gio González and failed to score any runs. They had runners all night long but found it nearly impossible to bring them home. Same as the night before. Same as last year.
I know that people have been talking as if the Royals just needed some pitching to go with their young hitters but the reality is that even the best of the current crop of hitters are wildly inconsistent. I’m not sure that’s ever going to change, at this point. It doesn’t help that the bottom of the lineup has fewer teeth than a gummy bear. The questions about Nicky Lopez’s ability to handle big-league pitching appear to have been answered in the negative. And for all the Royals claims of a glut of outfielders, none of them have distinguished themselves at all beyond Merrifield, who should probably be starting at second, and Soler, who should be the designated hitter.
Yes, I’m far too grumpy considering the tiny sample sizes and the fact that we are getting to enjoy baseball at all. I’ll try to chill out a bit.
Ronald Bolaños did not have a good night. But he came so close to being OK. With two out and a man on he induced a groundball from Yasmani Grandal but it found its way into the outfield to extend the inning. He then fired a wild pitch in the process of walking Edwin Encarnacion to give up the first run of the game. Then Eloy Jiminez blasted a pitch to center that hit Bubba Starling in the glove before bouncing over the fence for a home run. And just like that, instead of no runs or even just one run scoring, four had come home.
Bolaños did give up another home run in the second to young phenom Luis Robert - who went four-for-five and finished a triple short of the cycle. Kevin McCarthy pitched around his own mistakes and those of O’Hearn in the third to keep things scoreless. Jake Newberry gave up a couple of runs in the fifth, aided by his own throwing error. Glenn Sparkman and Gabe Speier con-Speier-ed with poor defense to give the White Sox four more runs in the ninth. But Kyle Zimmer was the pitching star of the night; he came in and shut things down for three innings from the sixth through the eighth. It’s exceptionally pleasant to see him succeeding after we spent so long wishing on him.
As for hitters, it wasn’t all bad news. Merrifield and O’Hearn both had good nights.
They both had three hits; O’Hearn included a double and drove in the other two Royals runs. All against lefties. Bubba Starling had two walks; maybe it’s a sign he’s about to get hot. Mondesi also continued his recent hot stretch with a double and a single.
Matheny emptied his bench minus Alex Gordon in the bottom of the ninth so Nick Heath got his first big-league at-bat - he struck out - but Brett Phillips, Oscar Hernandez, and Franchy Cordero went back-to-back-to-back with pinch hits - the last a double - for the final run of the game.
The Royals are now 3.5 games back of the division-leading Twins. The season is far from over - unless it gets canceled due to COVID concerns - and they could still make a dramatic comeback into the playoff picture. They’ll start by trying to avoid the sweep tomorrow when Jakob Junis returns to face off against Dylan Cease.