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Game thread XXXIX: Twins at Royals

If the Royals really are “still in this” it would behoove them to win tonight against their division leader.

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals
MJ Melendez does not want to come out of the lineup anymore than Salvy
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Welcome once again to your Saturday baseball thread. Last week’s game was so bad that it inspired me to stay up late berating the Royals for their lack of accountability. Hopefully, this week’s game will be better.

If it is, it probably won’t yet be because of new hitting coach Alec Zumwalt, who hasn’t even had the job for a week yet. But it might be because the Royals have been forced to abandon playing their veterans. If you missed this week’s action, Salvador Perez went down with an injury which forced the Royals to start letting MJ Melendez get some starts, and then Michael A. Taylor was placed on the injured reserve with a COVID designation which has meant more starts for Kyle Isbel and the promotion and first career major league start of Dairon Blanco. Another injury to Carlos Santana might be what finally opens the way for us to see Nick Pratto or Vinnie Pasquantino with the big league club.

Meanwhile, the Royals consider themselves still in the thick of the playoff race. The season is not quite a quarter of the way done and they’re only 8.5 games back of the division leaders without a massive losing streak to their name. Given their usual pattern of getting hot in the second half, simply avoiding disaster through June might make them actually right. But that’s a long shot. They could help their own cause quite a bit by winning tonight (and tomorrow) against the Twins, who currently lead the division.

The Royals will send Brad Keller to the mound. Brad has an ERA under 3.00 but only a single win to his name. He’s looked nothing like the completely lost pitcher he was last year. That’s been about the only good news for Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred, but I’m sure he’ll take it. This is Keller’s first start of the year against the Twins. His last time out he gave up three runs in seven innings to the lowly White Sox and took the loss. Hopefully, the offense can support him better, tonight.

For the Twins, right-hander Joe Ryan will take the mound. Ryan made five starts last year which kept him below the rookie innings pitched limit. That means he and his 2.39 ERA through seven starts are in early Rookie of the Year consideration. He throws a fastball, slider, curve, and changeup. He doesn’t have elite velocity and earns only a respectable number of strikeouts but seems to have a knack for getting weak flyballs. He faced the Royals exactly one month ago and earned the win with six shutout innings. This lineup looks considerably different, though, so maybe the results will, too.