During the six-game skid the Royals carried into tonight, they hadn’t given up fewer than six runs in a game. They needed a response from the pitching staff, specifically from its young starter Daniel Lynch.
The Royals got that from a struggling pitching staff. However, through seven innings, Kansas City had managed just three baserunners. Just as it looked like a strong night from the Royals’ staff would be wasted, an 8th inning rally manifested just in the knick of time. It was a rally that this reeling Kansas City squad needed, propelling them to a 3-2 comeback win.
The record improves to 15-28 and the losing streak is stopped at six games. It wasn’t a game for the faint of heart, but it was a win.
Lynch got himself into early trouble, surrendering a second-inning run after a leadoff walk and back-to-back singles, putting Minnesota up 1-0. A two-out RBI in the 4th tagged Lynch with his second run of the ball game, but that was all he’d surrender. He labored through his innings, needing 94 pitches to get into the 6th, but he was also effective. He struck out six Twins and worked around most of his trouble.
It wasn’t a great outing, but it was good enough to keep Kansas City in the game. However, Twins starter Devin Smeltzer carved up the Royals lineup. He needed just 80 pitches to get through his 7.0 innings of work, with just three Royals reaching. And if you remove Andrew Benintendi’s single and walk, Hunter Dozier’s two-out single in the 7th was the only other batter to reach base in the seven frames. In five of those seven innings, Smeltzer faced the minimum. He finished his evening with six strikeouts.
Then after seven innings of futility, Kansas City mounted its first threat of the night once Smeltzer left the game after throwing just those 80 pitches. Back-to-back singles from Emmanuel Rivera and Ryan O’Hearn put the tying run on first for the top of the order. With Dairon Blanco running for O’Hearn, Whit Merrifield tied the game at 2-2 with a two-out, two-RBI double. Benintendi’s second walk of the night gave Bobby Witt Jr the opportunity to break the tie, who responded with a go-ahead double to left-center, putting the Royals upfront 3-2.
Joel Payamps immediately found trouble in the bottom half of the 8th, loading the bases with nobody out on three straight singles. Scott Barlow was brought on to try and clean up the mess. Barlow got two huge strikeouts and a groundout to get out of the inning with the lead intact.
He stayed in for the 9th looking for his second six-out save of the season. A leadoff infield single from Byron Buxton made things interesting and after back-to-back fielder’s choices, Gary Sanchez dropped a single in front of Merrifield in right to put the tying run on third. After getting down 3-0 to Gio Urshela, Urshela absolutely smoked a ball right at Witt Jr. who made a tough play on the shot hop and got the force at 2nd to end the game.
It was an absolutely brilliant performance from Barlow in a game that they needed him to be the reliever to stop the bleeding.
These are bleak days, friends. The Royals are just a 1.5 games up on the Reds for the worst record in the league. But a win is a win, as the old saying goes, and the losing streak is over, so we’ll take it.
Up Next: Royals at Twins, Friday, May 27, 7:10 PM CDT, Target Field. RHP Brad Keller (1-4, 3.20 ERA) v. RHP Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.55 ERA)