Before we get to the result, let’s talk about Kris Bubic. Bubic has been much-maligned in the Royals rotation but he had an absolutely electric start today. It started about as well as you could imagine, the first pitch he threw was an 0-1 pitch because San Francisco leadoff hitter Thairo Estrada was given an automatic strike for not being ready in time. Bubic struck him out on two pitches and cruised from there.
In the end, he went six innings and struck out nine. He allowed no walks, no runs, and only a pair of singles - one of which was a bunt single. Oddly, his fastball velocity was down about one mile-per-hour and the amazing spin rates of last week were much diminished. Most interestingly, he barely threw the brand new slider that was so good last week.
Still, it’s hard to argue with no walks and no runs. It’s even harder to argue with a 44% whiff rate. He also managed to keep his pitch count down; he threw only 76 pitches in his six innings. It’s hard to understand why he wasn’t allowed to start the seventh with as well as he had been pitching and with as few pitches as he had thrown. The whiff rate was Bubic’s career-best and the nine strikeouts tie a career-high, last achieved in the infamous near no-hitter in Chicago a couple of years ago.
Carlos Hernández pitched two-thirds of an inning but came out when San Francisco pinch-hit a lefty for Ryan Yarbrough. Yarbrough got the final out of the seventh but got hit around in the eighth inning including the final nail in the coffin, Michael Conforto’s two-run blast. The Royals might have escaped the inning unscathed thanks to a baserunning blunder by Bryce Johnson. Johnson slid into second on a double by Wilmer Flores slowing him down enough that Nate Eaton could have easily thrown him out at home with any kind of reasonably accurate throw. Unfortunately, the throw was well up the first-base line and MJ Melendez never had a chance to get Johnson sliding home safely.
Anthony DeScalfani was not quite as impressive as Bubic but was pretty close. He only allowed three hits in his 6.1 innings but two of those were smashes to the middle part of the field that resulted in a Vinnie Pasquantino double and an RBI single by Salvador Perez with two outs in the fourth inning. Until Yarbrough’s blunders in the eighth, it looked like those hits might be the difference in the game. The Royals only had three other hits in the game, singles by Pasquantino and Matt Duffy - pinch-hitting for Michael Massey - and a double by Nicky Lopez.
Ryan Yarbrough has now allowed five runs in four appearances for Kansas City. It’s early, but it still begs the question of why the Royals felt the need to give him a guaranteed contract and force other younger and more promising pitchers off the roster. On an unrelated note, Richard Lovelady has made two scoreless appearances for the AAA Gwinnett Stripers with a pair of strikeouts and no hits or walks.
The Royals fall to 3-7. The bullpen and lineup seem likely to improve and gain consistency as the season goes on - if nothing else, Ryan Yarbrough can only get so many more chances to pitch in close games. The rotation is completely lights out right now and if they can maintain that, the Royals might even be able to put on a winning streak of more than two games before long. In the meantime, they will travel to Texas to start a three-game series tomorrow evening. Zack Greinke (0-2, 2.38 ERA) will face off against Andrew Heaney (0-1, 23.63 ERA.)