In my pregame thread for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals tonight, I wrote this:
Anyway, the story of tonight will undoubtedly be how Daniel Lynch performs. His fellow 2018 draftees were very, very bad on Sunday. And while there’s plenty of time to turn it around, it is solely up to Lynch to ensure that the four most important pitchers in the system right now don’t all roll snake eyes to begin the year.
I am happy report that, indeed, Daniel Lynch was the story tonight. I am unhappy to report that, unfortunately, Daniel Lynch followed the footsteps of his fellow 2018 draft class in being really bad. The Royals lost 6-5 to the Cardinals—their 20th loss to their intra-Missouri rivals since 2017—even though Salvador Perez provided a herculean effort with two home runs, it wasn’t enough to dig out of the whole Lynch put them in.
St. Louis smashed three home runs against the lanky lefty, who switched back and forth between tossing really nasty sliders and simply tossing some of the worst pitches we’ve seen this year. I mean, just look at this location:
Whoo, that’s bad! Look: Nolan Arenado is going to hit home runs off you sometimes. He has a career wRC+ of 145 against lefties. But living in the middle of the plate is not going to work. If you want to focus on the positive: Lynch did only walk one batter, and he struck out seven in his five innings. You can squint and see where he can improve, because the stuff and the arsenal is there.
Unfortunately, Lynch’s awful start is the third in a row where Royals starters have pitched, shall we say, poorly. Lynch, Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Kris Bubic, and Carlos Hernandez—the young group of pitchers that this season and rebuild depends upon—have now given up a combined 26 runs in only 16.1 innings.
For the Royals part, their offense produced well! Kansas City responded immediately in the second inning, nearly instantly erasing the Cardinals’ three-run lead with a pair of dongs from Salvador Perez—his first of the year—and Michael A. Taylor.
With two outs in the seventh inning, the Royals continued to try and claw back. Nicky Lopez singled on a ground ball to right field, and Cam Gallagher—playing in his first game behind the plate this season—hit doubled to the opposite field, scoring a hustling Lopez. Whit Merrifield then walked on four pitches. But Bobby Witt Jr., who has been quietly overmatched this young season at the plate, grounded out.
Then, in the eighth inning, Perez smacked his second homer of the year and of the game to bring the Royals within one run.
Still, when your starting pitching is so bad, it’s very difficult to win. You have no margin for error, and when you are relying on a 21-year-old rookie to be your best hitter, you’re gonna have a hard time until said hitter acclimates to big league action. And when your pinch hitter is Ryan O’Hearn, well, you’re gonna have a hard time (the game ended off O’Hearn’s bat in the ninth inning).
Watching the St. Louis Cardinals play the Kansas City Royals organization is often an exercise in frustration, because it has grown ever clearer that the Cardinals are the organization the Royals think they are. While the Royals started patting themselves on the back the moment they made the playoffs in 2014 and have continued to operate like a successful organization despite their last winning season being seven years ago, the Cardinals simply hold themselves to a high standard and competently win games every season. And that’s just what they did tonight.
Tomorrow, the Royals and Cardinals finish the second half of a short two-game I-70 series matchup at 12:15 p.m. before hosting the Detroit Tigers over Easter weekend.