Bubic and the Boys Bash Bombs to Beat Boston
Eric Hosmer's return was fun, but probably not for him as the Royals used a couple homers to down the Red Sox.
I think it’s fair to say that we have now achieved the Baby Royals. The roster we saw in Toronto is looking an awful lot like the roster we’re going to see every day, especially with the promotion of Nate Eaton to the big league club yesterday. Here was the Royals lineup with their seasonal age:
MJ Melendez - 23
Bobby Witt Jr. - 22
Salvador Perez - 32
Vinnie Pasquantino - 24
Hunter Dozier - 30
Michael Massey - 24
Michael A. Taylor - 31
Nate Eaton - 25
Nicky Lopez - 27
Kris Bubic - 24
They’re not all babies, but that’s a big chunk of young faces and when you factor in Nick Pratto (23), Sebastian Rivero (23) and Kyle Isbel (25) on the bench to start the game (and Ryan O’Hearn for some reason), it’s just a lot of youth. So while it feels like it’d be easy to tout how well the rookies played, that’s going to get sort of redundant over the last 56 games of the season. But since we’re talking about, they did go 7 for 18 with a home run, three RBIs and a walk. And another one (Dylan Coleman) threw a scoreless inning of relief. Are they going to be good the rest of the year? I don’t know. But they’re certainly more interesting.
And a big part of that interest is guys like Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch and last night’s starter, Kris Bubic. He’s been on a good run since he came back from Omaha and had thrown three straight quality starts coming into the game last night. So when things started off, ahem, poorly, it sure seemed like the streak was going to come to an end. A leadoff walk was followed by a single that Taylor played into a double with an ill-advised dive. Then Rafael Devers did what a good hitter does, went with a pitch and it was 2-0 before Bubic had recorded an out. And the inning ended loudly with Eric Hosmer, in his first at bat back in Kansas City, hit a ball to the wall that Taylor ran down.
After the game, Mike Matheny mentioned that Bubic really didn’t have his fastball early in the game. That’s a pitch that he’s struggled with quite a bit in the past. I think it has a chance to be a good one, but sometimes when he’s not able to command it, the velocity drops as well and that’s when you see a lot of 90 and 91. When he gets confidence in it, that’s when you see 93, 94 and sometimes 95. I think he started to find it a bit in the second inning and his game took off from there.
What started as a potential disaster became a third straight quality start for him. He ended up only giving up those two runs in the first inning and went six innings with five strikeouts and one walk. And after all that work, he’s now posted a 3.76 ERA in 12 starts spanning 67 innings since his return from Omaha. What’s even more impressive, to me, is that he’s posted a 6.3 percent walk rate in his last five starts. I don’t know if he can maintain that, but if he can, suddenly the future looks a little brighter.
I was so impressed last night with the way he made Red Sox hitters simply look silly. On the whole, he had 10 swings and misses and the Red Sox had an average exit velocity against him of 80.7 MPH. He only gave up four hard-hit balls all night. As a team, there have only been 10 games all year where a Royals pitcher threw 80 or more pitcher and gave up fewer hard-hit balls than Bubic last night. It’s only the ninth time in Bubic’s career he’s given up that few. He was on his game.
He made J.D. Martinez look very silly on a three-pitch sequence for a strikeout in the fourth:
That’s just fun at the old ballpark for him to get a still good hitter. He had two groundouts where the ball was hit slower than 50 MPH, both in the fifth inning. One was a bunt, but one was another pitch that he was just completely stymying the Red Sox hitters.
And he ended his night with a fun strikeout of Xander Bogaerts on his hardest thrown pitch of the night by almost a full mile per hour.
I personally thought his changeup looked nastier than normal last night and he has a very good one. But we also know that he can struggle with location sometimes. While he left a few in the middle, he was generally keeping them away from where hitters could do much damage.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can make a mistake with a breaking ball if your fastball is keeping them from sitting on that pitch. There are a couple of mistakes in there, but he didn’t have to pay for them because his fastball was protecting him for most of the night. Maybe the most impressive thing for me last night was the recovery. He threw 27 pitches in the tough first inning and needed just 62 more to get through six for the fourth straight start.
Getting back to the position player rookies for a second, the reason the Royals had a shot was because after Bubic gave up those two runs in the top half of the inning, the Royals came back immediately. Nick Pivetta started the game against Melendez with four straight fastballs. He took two, fouled one off and swung and missed on one. Then Pivetta missed down the middle.
Melendez did not miss. It was his first career leadoff home run and the 11th of the season for him. He hasn’t been great as a leadoff hitter, but I was actually kind of surprised to see that he’s only hitting .260/.296/.440 because it feels like he’s been better than that. I still like him at the top of the order, regardless of what the very early numbers show.
A Witt single then stolen base had him on second base for Perez who hit a fly ball to right that was just a little too far down the end of the bat, but it was enough to get him to third and then Pasquantino hit a sacrifice fly to center to score him and not the game up.
Both pitchers settled down some, but a leadoff walk by Lopez and then a stolen base had the Royals threatening. But this time, the rookies didn’t help matters. Both Melendez and Witt struck out, so, as usual, things were left up to Salvy.
That felt like one of the more controlled swings he’s had in awhile. It feels like he’s been kind of all or nothing lately and seeing him hit the ball the other way like that reminded me a bit of his early days when he was a high average hitter and had decent but not 48-home run power. I’m not saying I wish he would go back to that hitter, but it’s nice that he still has that in his toolbox.
The fun really started in the bottom of the seventh, though. Taylor Clarke had a sort of rough inning and gave up the lead, costing Bubic a win, but his team picked him up in a big way. Lopez led off with another walk to start the inning. I feel like it’s worth mentioning that on June 12, 2021, Lopez was hitting .224/.320/.301. From the next day on, he hit .334/.387/.414. This year on June 12, he was hitting .210/.285/.249. Since, he’s hitting .303/.340/.364. Just saying. Anyway, this time both Melendez and Witt came through. Melendez roped a single to right that got Lopez to third and then Witt hit a single through the left side to score him. And then it was time for Mr. Perez.
This one is a fun one to look at.
That got out in 3.2 seconds. That’s absurd. Was it really a home run? My gut says it’s a bad call. But ultimately it doesn’t matter that much since it gave the Royals a 7-3 lead and would have given them a 6-3 lead. I don’t think they’d have given up the three-run advantage any more than they gave up the four-run version. Scott Barlow as a bit shaky in the ninth, but he got the Royals to the finish line.
It was so great to see Eric Hosmer back at Kauffman Stadium and kind of crazy that it’s his first return trip since signing with the Padres after the 2017 season. He was scheduled to come back with them later this month, so the Royals likely had the video tribute ready, but then he almost got traded to the Nationals and they don’t come to Kansas City this year and then he vetoed that trade and ended up on the Red Sox who happened to be the next team in town. I just have to say that I love the way our city embraces sports heroes.
And I think it’s great that he didn’t come back until the team was filled with all of this youth. Not that the young players don’t understand what the ultimate goal is, but to see the way the fans gave him that huge ovation and then again when he first came up to bat, I have to assume that might provide even a little bit extra motivation to get back to the promised land. I don’t know that Kansas City treats its sports heroes any better than other cities, though I suspect we do, at least better than many, but there’s something special about being one of those guys and never having to buy a drink in this city again. I’m glad the Royals and the fans had a chance to honor a World Series hero and I’m glad they had the chance to beat his new team too.