The final score: Guardians 17, Royals 3.
That’s almost one Cleveland run for every dollar it costs to park at Kauffman Stadium!
Kansas City is still 2-1 and in first place in the AL Central, albeit with a -11 run differential, and it is just one game. It’s important to keep that in mind. But with that being said, it was an absolutely horrendous day for the much-talked-about 2018 Royals draft class of pitchers. Kris Bubic, Jackson Kowar, and Brady Singer all made their season debuts and were promptly lit up like Christmas trees by a Cleveland offense that had scored 1 run in its first 18 innings of the year.
The Royals were down 6-0 after the first inning and 10-0 after two. I’m not going to take time to tell you about how all of those runs scored. Steven Kwan looks like he’s on his way to being the next Fernando Tatis Jr., because that little lightning rod went 5-for-5 ad reached six times today. Jose Ramirez hit a home run. Oscar Mercado hit a first-inning grand slam. It was a good day for the Guardians, who picked up their first win since their name change.
Bubic, who was solid at times last year, earned the No. 3 spot in the Royals rotation with a strong spring training performance. But despite showing some promising signs, I’ve never been super high on Bubic because I think his upside is capped compared to some of the team’s other pitching prospects. On Sunday, he was an absolute disaster in his season debut, surrendering seven baserunners and recording just two outs. He was pulled before the first inning had even ended, with the Royals trailing behind 2-0, and Taylor Clarke came in and gave up a backbreaking grand slam to make it 6-0.
Jackson Kowar was given the ball to start the second inning, and he picked up right where Bubic left off, giving up four runs. He worked a clean third but gave up two more in the fourth and another in the fifth. His line: 3.1 innings, 11 hits, 7 runs. That’s Vin Mazzaro-like.
Gabe Speier pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless ball before Brady Singer took over in the seventh, and he struggled as well, giving up four runs in the seventh and eighth frames. He pitched a scoreless ninth, at least. It’s not like the Guardians were getting dinks and dunks, either. The ball was flying around all over the yard all afternoon, as Cleveland managed 17 hits, four walks, and seven extra-base knocks.
We knew coming into this season that the rotation was going to be the question mark of the team. The offense has plenty of potential and the bullpen figures to be solid. The rotation is going to be what makes or breaks this team, and they’re going to need the 2018 arms to be miles better than they were today if they have any prayer of contending. Zack Greinke will be fine and Brad Keller seems like a solid bet to bounce back, but if Kris Bubic is really your No. 3 starter, you’re going to struggle to get to 72 wins. I would get Brady Singer in the rotation, simply because I think he’s one of the five highest-upside guys this team has at the position. I also think kicking the tires on a Frankie Montas trade with the As, considering how many young bats this squad has, would be a good decision.
The offense got three runs, two of which coming on the same swing in the third inning: a two-RBI double by Bobby Witt Jr. Ryan O’Hearn added a third run by narrowly beating out a double play in the bottom of the ninth. It probably shouldn’t even count because the team was down 17-2, but we’ll put it on his record. The team managed had just five hits entering the bottom of the ninth today. Salvador Perez had yet to get a hit this year. Carlos Santana and Whit Merrifield are both 1-for-12. With the exception of Andrew Benintendi, Hunter Dozier, Nicky Lopez, and Witt Jr., the offense has done zero through three games.
Here’s another talking point: when only 28,000 people bought tickets for Opening Day, some fans blamed the weather, but there were less than 20,000 in the stands both today and yesterday, and we had perfect weather both days. The Royals have a problem with those numbers. Turns out that charging $22 for parking for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in almost a decade doesn’t leave people flocking through the gates. Who knew?
The Royals are 2-1. They have one more game in this series, so if they can win tomorrow, it would be a terrific start to the season. They’ll give the ball to Carlos Hernandez, who was the best Royals starter last year. He will oppose Aaron Civale, who is one of the young and promising arms in the Cleveland organization. First pitch is at 1:10 pm.