Tonight’s game felt comfortable, then like another pointless loss, and finished on a high note.
The good version of Brady Singer was in attendance for tonight’s game. He allowed two runs, only one of which was earned in six-plus innings. More than that, he seemed entirely in control most of the night and didn’t allow his first hit until a bunt single in the sixth inning. He did walk two, but he struck out 12 - three more than his previous career high - and a six-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio will play every night of the week.
Per Baseball Savant, all three of Singer’s pitchers had a whiff+watch rate of 30% or better. His slider turned into a non-contact strike nearly half the time while he had more than a quarter of his two-seam fastballs drop into the zone with nary a swing. Singer has a rare talent for earning called strikes. Even the best strikeout pitchers rely on batters to swing and miss more; Singer just gets them to helplessly watch their own doom as frequently as anyone. If he has an awful start next time out and you wonder why the Royals don’t just give up and make him a reliever, this is why. When he’s on he’s absolutely deadly. He feels tantalizingly close to figuring it all out and if he does, he could be the staff ace the team has been looking for.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Royals really beat up on Tampa Bay starter Luis Patiño. He went a season-high four innings but walked three and allowed seven hits. The Royals got three runs off of him, all in the third inning. MJ Melendez and Bobby Witt Jr. led off with back-to-back doubles before Andrew Benintendi walked. Witt and Beni committed a double steal as Hunter Dozier failed to check his swing on a full-count and then Vinnie Pasquantino smashed a liner down the first base line but Rays’ first-baseman Ji-Man Choi managed to snare it for the second out. Whit Merrifield came to the plate having not reached base in two weeks. Then he got down 0-2. Then he made himself a part of the triple-double.
With the way Singer was pitching that seemed like it would be more than enough. Unfortunately, Witt’s throwing error helped lead to a run in the sixth inning. Singer was allowed to come out for the seventh but gave up a lead-off single before being pulled.
Sending the starter back out until he gives up a runner has been a staple move for the Royals since Ned Yost became manager. It’s always smacked of either desperation or flattery, depending on the situation. It also feels like it has rarely worked out except in 2014 and 2015, when all the dumb things the Royals have done for years seemed to work despite all reason. Sure, I get that the starter wants to go back out. And I can see why as a manager you might want to let him have his way or try to sneak a couple extra outs from him. But the end result is frequently a lead-off runner and a reliever having to come in to a high-stress situation instead of a clean inning.
Taylor Clarke was asked to clean up Singer and Matheny’s mess and was unable to do so until after allowing Roman Quinn, who was rostered by the Omaha Stormchasers three days ago, to smack a two-run triple and tie the game. Had the Rays finished the comeback we’d be talking about how the team wasted Singer’s start, but also how they ran into a bunch of outs on the bases.
Whit Merrifield and Kyle Isbel were both caught stealing, neither was particularly close to being safe. But the biggest base-running mistake once again involved Hunter Dozier and third-base coach Vance Wilson. In the bottom of the seventh Whit Merrifield hit a single into left and Dozier, who started the play at second base, was waved home by Vance Wilson. I think most Royals fans knew that Dozier was going to be out at home before he even reached third and before Rays left-fielder Randy Arozerena had picked up the ball. I know I said, out loud to myself, “Oh. Dozier is about to get thrown out.” before announcer Ryan LeFebvre even had a chance to yell that Dozier was being sent. Sure enough, despite an off-line throw, Dozier was out at home by a frustratingly large distance.
Ohhhh ya gotta be quicker than that pic.twitter.com/e37NvXBhjF— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 24, 2022
I don’t know how many times Wilson has gotten Dozier thrown out at home but I can guarantee that it’s too-damn-many. It’s good to be aggressive on the basepaths, but you have to do it smartly. That send was not smart. Neither were the two steal attempts.
Fortunately for everyone the base running blunders will soon be forgotten because Michael A. Taylor was not taking prisoners in the bottom of the eighth.
And neither was Bobby Witt Jr.
Perhaps in an attempt to get as much out of Scott Barlow before his time in Kansas City comes to an end, Mike Matheny had him pitch the eighth and ninth innings to earn the win.
- If the Royals can win tomorrow, it will be their third straight home series win. It would also be their first series win against Tampa Bay in a long time. I could look it up but this recap is already going to be posted much later than I usually like to.
- It was weird to see Michael A. Taylor not in the lineup tonight while he seems to have such high trade value. At first I was worried he was hurt, but he ended up pinch-hitting for Kyle Isbel once lefty Ryan Yarbrough came into the game. Perhaps the Royals thought they were going to deal him tonight and it didn’t quite get done? Or maybe they’re just unwilling to wait until a trade is made to start giving Isbel more playing time in center.
- I guess I’m all-in on a full-court press defense of Vinnie Pasquantino because I feel the need to point out that he took yet another walk and very intentionally lined a single into left field during this game. He’s got a lot going for him besides his astonishing hard-hit rates.
The Royals will conclude their series against Tampa Bay, tomorrow afternoon. Kris Bubic will take the mound for KC. Lefty Jeffrey Springs, a Tampa Bay special who is killing it in his fifth season after spending the first three with other organizations, will pitch for the Rays. Game time is 1:10 PM CDT.