Thursday was a day of celebration for many Royals fans. Yesterday was a day of expectations coming due. Today could go any direction and no one would be surprised. So no one is surprised that the Royals lost. It’s still disappointing to see the young Royals put forth such a strong effort and see it all go up in smoke at the last moment.
Daniel Lynch made the start for the Royals and was enigmatic. On the one hand, he was regularly missing his spots, especially high. On the other hand, his stuff was electric, and the Blue Jays had a hard time squaring it up, at least early on. Unfortunately, as he began going through the order a second time, he started struggling. Shortly before he was pulled with two outs in the fourth, he was seen on camera to be checking his hand, leading one to wonder if yet another promising lefty starter’s career might be derailed for the Royals because of chronic fingernail issues. Jeremy Affeldt famously had similar issues for KC before eventually making a name for himself in the San Francisco Giants bullpen. Lynch might find a similarly long career in the bullpen if they can’t figure out the fingernail problems, but it would be a massive blow for the team as they have yet to find a single, consistently good starter out of the mass of college arms they drafted four years ago.
A lineup that features Nicky Lopez and Ryan O’Hearn as its two most experienced bats can not generally be expected to be a particularly good lineup. Still, the unseasoned batters clawed and scraped their way throughout the day to ensure that Kansas City was almost never behind.
In the third inning, rookie Michael Massey led off with a single. Rookie Freddy Fermin (fair-MEEN, according to the TV broadcast) hit a grounder but ran hard and managed to beat out the double play. That paid off when two batters later, rookie Bobby Witt Jr. was able to drive him in with a single up the middle.
With the game re-tied up in the top of the fourth, the experienced batters got together for some run-scoring fun. Edward Olivares led off with a single into left, Ryan O’Hearn belted a triple into right, and rookie Nate Eaton finished things off nicely with a 3-0 sacrifice fly into center to give the Royals a two-run lead. The game remained tied at three all the way until the tenth inning when Vinnie Pasquantino, victim of much bad luck in his young career, got a hold of a hanging slider and thumped it off of the foul pole in right to give the Royals another two-run lead.
Unfortunately for the Royals, Lynch’s short outing depleted their bullpen. As the bottom of the tenth arrived, Pedro Grifol had to make a choice between Collin Snider (7.71 ERA), Amir Garrett (7.39 ERA), Jackson Kowar (8.80 ERA), and Joel Payamps (2.84 ERA). (Manager Mike Matheny had been ejected earlier for arguing whether Massey should have been called out on hitter’s interference.) Grifol went with the obvious choice. But Payamps could record no outs, saw his ERA rise to 3.41 as he was charged with two of the three runs (ghost runners do not count against your ERA) in giving up four hits in four at-bats to the Blue Jays.
- Homeplate umpire John Bacon made no friends on either side. His strike zone was wildly inaccurate and not remotely consistent. He also called Michael Massey out on a catcher’s interference during an attempted pick-off throw to second base. He may have technically been right while making the call but it’s such a low-percentage play that it hardly seems fair. If I were a baseball manager I might call for more such pickoffs in hopes of getting more outs on similar calls, especially when Bacon was behind the plate.
- Seriously, if you’re evaluating Pasquantino based on his current stats you’re out of your mind. He already has seven barrelled balls in 52 batted balls. To put that in perspective, in all of MLB he ranks #41 in barrels per batted ball for anyone with at least 50 batted balls. That puts him just below Pete Alonso and a bit above Juan Soto. There are some other astonishing numbers but I’m going to save those for when I write about him a bit next weekend.
- I don’t honestly care that the Royals lost this game because a guy who should be a middle reliever had to try to close it out. The young guys were doing their jobs and that’s all that matters in a lost season like this.
The Royals will have a chance to go into the break with a series tie tomorrow afternoon. Kris Bubic (1-6, 6.63 ERA) will take the mound for KC in the final game before the break. The Blue Jays will counter with Jose Berríos (7-4, 5.38 ERA) who has often struggled against KC even when he was pitching better overall. It sure would be nice to head the All-Star Break seeing these young kids steal a series victory out of the grasp of the playoff-contending Jays.