Royals Offense Hits, Then Runs
The explosion from the first two innings was followed up with a whole lot of nothing.
When the lineup came out, there were certainly some raised eyebrows with Jorge Soler being moved up to second in the lineup. And given his issues this season, that’s completely understandable. But I honestly kind of get it. While I still stand by my thoughts yesterday that it’s probably just time to move on, I agree with what Mike Matheny said about needing something different in the number two spot and how it’s something that can hopefully give him a different perspective and get him going. Because as much as he’s struggled, the point remains that the Royals offense doesn’t get close to its ceiling unless Soler is near his.
And the game started off about as well as anyone in the organization could have hoped. First, a Whit Merrifield single, which isn’t that surprising given that he’d hit .325/.344/.475 since the start of the Minnesota series at the end of May coming into the game. With him on first, the Royals had a chance to see their big change in action. And it’s almost like Garrett Richards wanted to test him immediately. On an 0-2 count, he put a four-seam fastball right on the outside corner.
Maybe I’m seeing what I want to see here, but that’s a pitch he’s grounded into a double play about a million times this season. And instead, he went with the pitch and grounded a single into right field. It was the 27th ball he’s hit the other way all season long. I’m not going to sit here and parrot what the broadcast says about going the other way all the time because I don’t think that’s exactly right, but he definitely needs to go with pitches more often and he did it here.
And then Carlos Santana, who had also been struggling with just a .314 SLG since the moment Merrifield started hitting, found a slider down the middle that he jumped all over and hit a ball 424 feet to right center field and the Royals had a 3-0 lead before Danny Duffy even took the mound.
It seemed like maybe the Royals had a chance.
After Duffy gave up a home run to lead off the bottom of the first, he did bounce back and, even with a walk, kept the damage to just one run. And then the Royals went back to work immediately. Michael A. Taylor hit a line drive to right center that found its way over the wall for his first home run since May 21 and just his second extra base hit since June. Then two batters later, Merrifield got in on the action with a shot to dead center to give the Royals a 5-1 lead.
It wasn’t a hit or even an especially good swing, but Soler was worked on the outer edge after the home run and once again took a pitch the other way. Again, I don’t subscribe to the theory that he has to hit the ball the other way just to get back on track, but what I like about what he did in his first two at bats is that he actually showed a willingness to make an adjustment.
The issue, though, is that the offense went on complete hiatus with a 5-1 lead that you knew was going to start to dwindle away with the way the ball was flying. After Merrifield’s home run, the next Royals runner to get past first base hasn’t happened yet.
In the third, they got a two-out single with Emmanuel Rivera’s second hit of the game (more on him soon). The next batter ended the inning.
In the fourth, they got a two-out single from Merrifield for his third hit of the game. The next batter was Jorge Soler, who once again made an out to the right side, but it was an out nonetheless.
In the fifth, Ryan O’Hearn singled with two outs. The next batter ended the inning.
In the sixth, they changed things up. Hunter Dozier led off with a single, but Taylor hit into a double play. The two-out single from Nicky Lopez was followed with, you guessed it, an out to end the inning.
In the seventh, Soler led off with a single to, yep, right field on a 93 MPH line drive. Another hit to the opposite field is at least a good sign that he’s making an effort on his approach.
But Santana hit into a double play and then Salvador Perez struck out to end the inning.
Then the rest of the game, they really changed things up by just not getting on base at all. So when you look at the overall game, they scored five runs on 12 hits with three home runs and it sure seems like the offense figured some things out. And they even hit 1.000 with runners in scoring position! But, you know, they also only had the one at bat, so it’s not as impressive as it seems. There’s still work to do.
On the pitching side, Danny Duffy just didn’t seem sharp to me. His fastball had good life, but the Red Sox got to it when they were able to get to it. He didn’t get this two-seamer far enough in on Enrique Hernandez for the first home run allowed:
Then in the second, Bobby Dalbec continued his assault on the Royals this season with another home run.
I actually thought that was a pretty decent pitch that he just turned on to absolutely smoke. But this pitch to Hunter Renfroe was in a bad, bad spot.
So it was another game with more bad command from a Royals starter, or a bulk inning guy or whatever you want to call it. It continues to be a huge issue for this team, and I continue to maintain that the issue starts at the top, but I won’t belabor that point even though I think most have come around to the position I’ve held on Cal Eldred for years now. I didn’t even mention the mammoth bomb Josh Staumont allowed because this is a family website, but it was bad too.
But again, while the pitching was a problem, the offense just completely shut down after the second inning, which is something we’ve seen them from before. It’s not necessarily an early scoring barrage and then a shutdown all the time, but they seem to have spurts that they simply can’t maintain, and that’s an issue with this team. Even if they’d been able to tack on two runs from the third through the ninth, they’d have had a shot at the win, but the Red Sox comeback was inevitable when the offense calls it a day early.
Spin Zone, Week Two
Staumont’s spin rates concerned me before all this, and his sinker definitely saw some big-time drop, though it was only three pitches. The fastball was down a chunk, though, too, so you have to wonder if that’s going to be an issue with him moving forward as he hopefully eventually figures some things out. This doesn’t have much to do with spin rates, but I thought Hernandez looked pretty good actually, which is a good sign for the team.
So, uh, the Red Sox look like they’ve got some issues here. It’s pretty easy to see why Richards is struggling. This seems like a team worth watching over the next few weeks.
It wasn’t Wander Franco the other day with his big debut with a double and a home run and some outstanding defense, but it was a nice debut for Rivera with two singles. He did get eaten up by a grounder off the bat of Xander Bogaerts, but he made the other plays that were put his way. I don’t know if it means anything. It wasn’t that long ago that the Royals had a player collect three hits in his big league debut and Kyle Isbel was down in AAA a month later, so a debut doesn’t mean much of anything in the long run, but Rivera represents an opportunity for the Royals.
We don’t see a ton of success for Royals players when they come up from the minors. We’ve seen pitchers Jackson Kowar and Daniel Lynch get knocked around and have to go back to AAA this season in addition to Isbel’s struggles. We’ve seen Kelvin Gutierrez seem to take steps backwards that ultimately got him designated for assignment. What the Royals need is a success story. I don’t think Rivera has to be the third baseman of the future for this team, but I do think it would be very nice if he could find his way to being a solid player. As Clint Scoles mentioned, if he can do what Maikel Franco did in 2020, the Royals would absolutely love that. They need someone to step up and be a success story if they want a shot to compete sometime soon. Heck, even if he could do what O’Hearn did in 2018 when he came up later in the year, that would be huge. They just need a win, even if it’s not on the field.