Lynch's Slider Shines in Another Good Start

He served up so many sliders that White Castle might hire him for some offseason work.

At this point, it’s almost difficult to remember how Daniel Lynch was so ineffective during his first trip to the big leagues. Those eight innings over three starts are starting to feel like more and more of a distant memory after he put together his third straight very good start since coming back from Omaha. He didn’t quite the “quality start,” which is silly anyway, but he was very good for five plus innings against an offense that is struggling but is also generally very good against left-handed pitchers.

What I’m so impressed with from Lynch in these three starts since his return is that he’s gone through them in very different ways and succeeded in all of them. Against the Tigers, he was locating perfectly and getting a bunch of weak contact. Against the Blue Jays, he didn’t have great stuff, but he was able to get through an incredibly difficult lineup in an incredibly difficult situation by simply finding a way through it. And then last night, he didn’t really have great command, but he absolutely had the good stuff going for him and used that to his benefit.

He was generally around the zone, so this was one of those instances where he had control but not command. Take a look at his pitch chart.

He missed the target quite a bit, but again the stuff was so good last night that it didn’t matter too often. One thing that we’ve heard about from Lynch is just how good his slider can be. And it’s been a good swing and miss pitch for him before last night, with a 37.8 percent whiff rate. Even in his biggest disaster start, he was getting swings and misses on it, but it was nothing like last night.

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Against the White Sox, he threw 33 sliders total. Not a single one was put in play. You can see that he was pulling a lot of the sliders glove-side, which sort of came toward the end of his outing, but he got 15 total swings on the pitch and 12 misses. The other three were obviously foul balls and he got three called strikes on the pitch. It was absolutely filthy and you could tell from the start. After he made a mistake with his fastball to Jose Abreu (on an 0-2 pitch, a Royals special), he went to work on Jimenez and got him swinging on this slider for his first of the day:

It was such a good pitch that he was able to miss his spot, and badly, and still get a swing and miss from Leury Garcia. This is what I’m talking about when I say you can miss down the middle if you’ve got other things working. You can even see him realize how badly he missed.

That’s just unfair. In all, five of his seven strikeouts came on the slider (one was a foul bunt with two strikes, but still a slider and still a strikeout). It was a truly dominant pitch. It was so dominant, in fact, that he was throwing about 50 percent four-seam fastballs early in the game, but by the end, he’d thrown more sliders than anything else.

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It was pretty apparent throughout the game that he has some work to do on his fastball if he wants to take that next step. Don’t get me wrong, it’s obvious that he can succeed right now with his pitch mix, but if he can add a little more spin on the fastball to get a few more swings and misses on it, he has the looks of a pitcher who can be an absolute monster. But, like I said, he can succeed right now. And some of that is because he can dial up velocity that will cause any hitter problems.

In the fourth inning, he was starting to lose control along with the command that had struggled all game. He gave up a hit to Cesar Hernandez to start the inning and then got Abreu and Jimenez before he lost the zone to Andrew Vaughn with four straight out of the zone and then really pulled a slider and hit Yoan Moncada on the back foot. With the bases loaded and two outs, he had to go through Adam Engel.

His first pitch was another one that missed inside, but when he missed low and away for ball two, I knew he was back in his delivery. He put a sinker on the outside edge that Engel fouled off. Then he missed with a slider in the dirt that I thought wasn’t that bad, but also wasn’t close enough and it put Lynch in a precarious spot with three balls on Engel and the bases loaded in a one-run game. That’s when Lynch reached back. His next pitch was 94.5 MPH and was probably ball four, but it was close. The pitch after was 96.1 MPH that probably caught a bit too much of the plate, but Engel fouled that off.

And then Lynch threw the absolute perfect pitch:

He showed the most emotion I’ve seen from him in the big leagues, but it was a big pitch in a big moment. I love to see it. It’s going to be a little bit before the memory of that slider starts to fade, though. It was another very good outing for Lynch and he’s now put up some numbers since he came back.

Yes, friends, that will definitely work.

I think there deserves some special recognition for the work of the bullpen, specifically Josh Staumont and Jake Brentz. Staumont, working the second of back-to-back nights, was met with a pretty daunting task of runners on first and second and nobody out for Andrew Vaughn. He fed him a heavy dose of curves and eventually got a ground ball to third that was a 5-4-3 double play and gave the Royals a chance to get out of it. On the second pitch to Moncada, Staumont hung a curve and Moncada hit it hard on the ground, but Carlos Santana made a nice play and got the third out.

Then in the ninth, Jake Brentz came on for his first real save opportunity, and it’s hard to have been better than him. He averaged 98.6 MPH on his fastball, threw strikes and got the White Sox 1-2-3 to earn his first career save. Pretty cool for the young lefty ahead of his first trip to St. Louis, where he’s from.

The Royals offense was pretty quiet for the most part, but they did just enough and it was from two guys who it would be really nice if they showed they could be a part of the future. In the first inning, Dallas Keuchel looked sharp for the first two batters, getting Whit Merrifield and Santana out quickly before Salvador Perez singled. Then Hunter Dozier put together one of his better plate appearances of the year. After falling behind 0-2, he worked a walk.

That brought up Emmanuel Rivera, who hit the ball hard. And Engel, uh, well, he didn’t play it well.

He may not want that highlight playing everywhere forever, but I could watch that until the end of time. Engel is a very good defender, but boy was that funny to watch. Two runs scored to give the Royals an early lead for the second night in a row.

And with the score 2-1 in the seventh inning after Staumont had done his thing to keep the White Sox to one, Edward Olivares led off against reliever Reynaldo Lopez. He put a slider on the outer third, but left it just a bit too high and Olivares showed off his opposite field power taking it to right center. Engel almost had it, but just missed it. It was to the point that Olivares himself wasn’t sure if he had been robbed or had a home run.

But he had the homer, his third since his recall and the Royals had the insurance run they needed so badly. It was also another one hit under 100 MPH, which is sort of interesting. It’s also fun to see the shock on his face that Engel caught the ball only to find out he didn’t.

Olivares is now hitting .333/.375/.933 with three home runs since his callup. I don’t know if he can keep it up, but I keep thinking about what a scout told me back a couple months ago about how he sees a guy who has made a jump like Teoscar Hernandez made. I hope he continues to get the chance he deserves.

For now, he, Lynch and Rivera (with some help from the bullpen) gave the Royals a second straight series win against the White Sox. The Royals are now 8-8 against the best team in the division and 5-4 against them in their house. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything, but maybe it does. And, as has been the case a lot lately, it’s nice to see some positives.