The 15-year Dayton Moore era has plenty of acquisitions, trades, and roster moves. Some have been great, some have been terrible, and plenty have been everything in between. In February, when news broke that the Royals were trading for Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, there were very few Kansas City fans that weren’t thrilled about the news. Their excitement has been rewarded; following an excellent May, Benintendi opened June with a night to remember, continuing what’s been an excellent season thus far for him.
The Royals took care of the Pirates, 10-5, thanks to an offensive outburst in the middle innings. Benintendi hit a grand slam for his first homer as a Royal at home, and Salvador Perez added with two home runs of his own. The Royals, winners of 11 of their last 17, put together a nice comeback to pick up Brady Singer. They did what they needed to do against one of the worst teams in baseball.
Benintendi opened the scoring with an RBI double in the first, but the Pirates got Singer for four runs over the first four frames. The third inning sprung a familiar problem for Singer, who continues to be plagued by the Hochevar-ian problem of a meltdown inning. Pittsburgh got a total of six baserunners in the third and fourth frames, plating four runs, and putting the Royals in a 4-1 hole.
But the Kansas City offense fought back with the long ball. Sal Perez hit a two-run homer, a rope into the left-field bullpen, to bring the deficit down to 4-3. Then in the fifth, the Royals finally jumped on youngster Will Crowe with a five-spot. Michael Taylor tripled. Nicky Lopez walked. Whit Merrifield hit an RBI single to tie the score. Carlos Santana walked to load the bases. That’s when Benintendi mashed a go-ahead grand slam to right field on the first pitch, putting the Royals up 8-4.
Pittsburgh fought back in the sixth, but Singer and Kyle Zimmer were able to limit the damage to just one run. The Royals would later add two runs on a second homer by Perez and a triple-sac fly combo from Kelvin Gutierrez and Michael Taylor. 10-5.
The home runs make 12 for Perez and five for Benintendi. Whit Merrifield continued to heat up, as he collected three hits and extended his MLB-leading stolen base total to 16. In all, eight Royals had hits, with Nicky Lopez being the only player to go hitless, though he walked twice to make up for it. Carlos Santana, of course, also walked twice, including a hilarious plate appearance that took roughly an hour in the eighth inning and left Denny Matthews all cranky due to it being so late. The offense, overall, did a ton of good things this series.
As for the pitching, it was another weird start for Singer. He had great moments, he had terrible moments, and I don’t feel like I learned anything from him tonight. His final line: 5.2 innings, eight hits, four runs, six strikeouts. He also got some help from the umpiring crew i a bizarre sixth inning where the Royals were just happy to escape with a healthy lead intact. The offensive explosion led to him winning the game, making him 3-4 on the year. He’s still just 23 starts into his professional career, but the Pirates are the sort of team you’d hope he’d fare a bit better against.
The bullpen was excellent, as Zimmer, Jake Brentz, Jake Junis, and Wade Davis (!) got the final 10 outs of the game without giving up a run.
The Royals are now back over .500 at 27-26. Sadly, they do not get to play the Pirates anymore this season, as they end the year 3-1 against lowly Pittsburgh.
Last Friday, Kansas City opened a nine-game stretch with seven games against the sleeping Twins and two against the Pirates. It was a stretch that they needed to do some damage in to climb back in the division a bit. Through five games, they are 4-1 in that stretch, with the opportunity to do more against Minnesota coming up.
Tomorrow is an off day before Minnesota comes into town for the first time this year on Thursday. Kris Bubic and J.A. Happ are the projected starters for the opener. As of right now, the Royals do not have a projected starter for Friday. With Danny Duffy getting close and Carlos Hernandez recently sent down, that feels like a solid chance.
Also: Adalberto Mondesi sat out tonight but it seems like he’ll be good to go this weekend, barring a (always possible with him) setback. Jorge Soler was available tonight (to either strike out or botch a play in the outfield, I guess), so I’d guess you’ll see him in some capacity on Thursday. The most likely outcome is probably Soler DH’ing, Olivares playing right, Dozier playing third, and Gutierrez riding the bench, though I don’t think Soler should be playing in front of anybody on the roster right now. The offense looked good with him on the bench. Keep him there.