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Witt smashes first career home run and Royals smash Cardinals 7-1

MJ Melendez also collected his first career hit!

Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Bobby Witt Jr. (7) is congratulated by catcher MJ Melendez (1) after hitting a home run during the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium. It was the first MLB home run hit by Witt Jr.
Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Bobby Witt Jr. (7) is congratulated by catcher MJ Melendez (1) after hitting a home run during the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium. It was the first MLB home run hit by Witt Jr.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

There was a moment there where Royals fans everywhere quietly muttered “oh no, not again” to themselves like the bowl of petunias in Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy. It happened in the third inning. Against Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson, Michael A. Taylor, Nicky Lopez, and Edward Olivares accrued three consecutive singles. But with the bases loaded and no outs, Andrew Benintendi popped out and Salvador Perez, deep in a horrific slump, meekly grounded into a double play. No runs.

However, if you managed to keep watching after that kind of disappointment that has plagued the Royals for the past two or so weeks, you were treated to a great game, one in which the Kansas City Royals cruised against the St. Louis Cardinals and won 7-1.

The 30,000 foot recap: Brad Keller shoved, tossing 6.1 scoreless innings and bringing his ERA down to 1.74. In the seventh inning, Collin Snider coaxed a ground ball double play out of Paul DeJong to keep Keller’s outing spotless. The Royals struck first, scoring in the second inning thanks to Bobby Witt Jr.’s first career home run and sending the knockout punch in the seventh inning after RBI hits from Edward Olivares, Andrew Benintendi, Witt, Michael A. Taylor, and a sac fly from Whit Merrifield.

Like last week, we’ll go ahead and highlight five stories.

Story #1: Bobby Witt Jr.’s first career home run

Witt’s season has been a bit of a roller coaster so far. After starting off with his game-winning hit on Opening Day, Witt started to press. But in the 10-game hit streak he put together before tonight, you could see it coming together: he was hitting the ball hard.

Tonight, Witt finally knocked his first career home run. It was crushed, a deeply impressive swing on a breaking ball that was down and out of the strike zone—truly a good pitch. It didn’t matter. At over 102 MPH off the bat, it went 417 feet into left-center field.

That home run was only one hit on the day on a multi-hit game that also so a Witt walk.

Story #2: MJ Melendez gets his first hit and impresses

MJ Melendez led all of the minor leagues last year with 41 home runs. But he also walked a lot and hit .293. Today he showed a little of everything. Melendez knocked his first career hit, a low opposite-field line drive off a sweet, low-effort swing. Then, in the Royals’ five-run seventh inning, Melendez spit on some nice breaking balls to earn a walk.

But that wasn’t all. Melendez almost earned himself his own first career home run on a line drive with a 101.7 MPH exit velocity that was caught at the track. While Melendez struggled this year in the minors, he didn’t wait long to show the skills that spurred his amazing 2021 campaign.

Story #3: Edward Olivares - professional hitter

Olivares certainly proved his way through the upper minors. In his age-23 season, Olivares put up a 123 wRC+ in Double-A. Last year, he put up a 155 wRC+ in Triple-A in a frustrating season that saw him called up and demoted like a yo-yo. But this year, Olivares seems to be making the most of it. Coming into this game, Olivares was hitting .292 with a 126 wRC+ before turning in a four-hit night, all of which were crushed:

  • Single against Hudson, 100.6 MPH exit velo
  • Single against Hudson, 100.5 MPH exit velo
  • Double against T.J. MacFarland, 90.9 MPH exit velo
  • Double against Jake Woodford, 106 MPH exit velo

The most frustrating part about the Royals this year is not that they’ve been bad—it’s that they’ve been bad for no reason whatsoever. Along with Witt, Melendez, and Kyle Isbel, Olviares ought to be starting every day. Vinnie Pasquantino should be, too, but that’s a different story for another day.

Story #4: Brad Keller shoves, again

Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Brad Keller (56) pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium.
Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Brad Keller (56) pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Keller’s down year last year was frustrating, but he seems to have turned it around. Keller has been nothing but brilliant this year, and now sports a sterling 1.72 ERA. He’s doing standard Keller things—not overpowering, but nevertheless coaxing soft contact and ground balls. This honestly wasn’t Keller’s sharpest night, as he only had a pair of strikeouts against three walks. But it was good enough.

Story #5: Salvador Perez is brutal right now, and not in a good way

Salvy is in a deep, deep slump. He came into today only 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position. In the third inning with the bases loaded, he does what he does—swing at a pitch out of the strike zone that he has no business swinging at. It resulted in a double play.

Perez went hitless in five plate appearances and left seven (7!) men on base. That’s a whole lot. Coming into tonight, his OPS in his last 30 plate appearances was .203—yeah, his OPS—a figure which will dip even lower after tonight’s abysmal performance. Hopefully he can snap out of it, but maybe he just needs a day off. Here’s hoping that happens.