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Game CXXXII: Royals v. White Sox

September callups bring an 80-grade mustache back to Kansas City

MLB: JUN 22 Royals at Angels Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s September 1, which means that rosters are expanding. The Royals have taken advantage of that immediately, recalling 29-year-old journeyman Daniel Mengden and his 80-grade mustache. He’ll make his first start of the season tonight and his Major League start in over two seasons.

Along with Mengden, Nate Eaton is also reportedly back in Kansas City

The Royals have historically used this final month of the season to their advantage, often at the cost of draft slots. On September 1, 2011, Kansas City was slotted at pick #3, which turned into Mike Zunino. They finished at #5 and took Kyle Zimmer. On September 1, 2009, the Royals were due to have the #2 overall pick, which turned into Jameson Taillon, but was immediately followed by Manny Machado. A hot September dropped Kansas City to #4, where they took World Series hero Christian Colon. The 2008 squad started September at #5 and a hot September dropped them to #12. Zack Wheeler, Mike Minor, and Mike Leake went in those slots. The Royals got Aaron Crow.

Aside from Machado, none of these are dramatic misses. In fact, the most ill-timed hot September came back in 2018, when the stakes were Adley Rutschman and Bobby Witt Jr. Luckily, Baltimore were so bad in September that a bad September from Kansas City probably wouldn’t have given them a fighting chance at Rutschman anyway. And Kansas City had an 8.5 game lead for #2 entering September, so the wins never really risked their chance at coming away with Witt Jr either. So all was well.

The 2023 class isn’t very top heavy and lacks slam dunk prospects like Rutschman and Witt Jr, so it appears that there isn’t a lot to lose for. So hopefully we’ll get a good dose of guys like Eaton and a decidedly smaller dose of guys like Hunter Dozier and Ryan O’Hearn, but somehow I doubt that happens.

Mengden will take the mound opposite of former Royals and current horse enthusiast Johnny Cueto, who is in the midst of a career revitalization in his age-36 season. Cueto entered 2022 with a 4.38 ERA since 2017 and having not made more than 25 starts since 2016. His only full season during that span came in 2020, when he made 12 starts in the pandemic-shortened seasons and posted a 5.40 ERA for the Giants.

During that span, he posted a 4.5 rWAR in 394.1 innings. In 123.2 innings this season, he’s been worth 3.6 rWAR, his best season since 2016.

For the Royals, Brent Rooker replaces Hunter Dozier today as the DH. For the White Sox, Elvis Andrus leads off for just the second time all season and Chicago is still without manager Tony La’Russa, who is reportedly out indefinitely with undisclosed health issues.

Here are your lineups for this afternoon’s game.