The Losses Keep Piling Up
This one hurt worse than most of the 10 before it.
It’s bad, everyone. Things are arguably worse right now than when the Royals lost 11 in a row just a month ago. Why? Now they’re both injured and bad. The team was largely losing 11 in a row with the team they expected to have out of spring training aside from Adalberto Mondesi (more on him to come). That streak started with a blowout loss to Minnesota and then three really bad losses to Cleveland before they were mostly not a part of any game other than one in Detroit that they made a late attempt at a massive comeback.
This stretch started with two close losses to the Twins that they had a chance to win late. Then they got the doors blown off them in Anaheim before miraculously winning a game in Oakland, losing a close game and then not really having much of a shot in the last two. Then they got blown out on Monday, lost a close one on Tuesday and that brings us to yesterday, which is in the running for the worst loss of the season.
With a 3-1 lead heading into the seventh, Mike Matheny pulled Carlos Hernandez, who had thrown three shutout innings with four strikeouts and no walks. He threw 44 pitches. He had just thrown 82 pitches on June 3, so he probably could have gone more, but Matheny had a generally rested bullpen and an off day tomorrow, so he did what made sense to me and he went to that bullpen. He started with Greg Holland.
Holland was awful to start the season. You might recall that he had to be bailed out on Opening Day by Wade Davis to secure a big lead. He’d walked seven and struck out six in seven innings with a 6.43 ERA. He had a few days off before his next outing after that stretch and from that point up until yesterday, he figured a lot out. In 19 outings, he went 17.2 innings with 21 strikeouts, seven walks and four runs allowed. I say all that to remind everyone that Holland had not only been better, but he had been downright good since he figured some things out with his command.
So of course, he had arguably his worst game of the season. He got just one out. He walked the leadoff man and then gave up a bomb on yet another middle-middle pitch from the Royals staff. After giving up a hit to Robbie Grossman, Matheny went with his best reliever, Scott Barlow.
Barlow fell behind 2-1 and then put a fastball on the inner third, but in the center and Baddoo singled to right. Then he pulled a pitch that got by Cam Gallagher to give up one of the runners he inherited from Holland and the lead. As quickly as that, the lead vanished for a team that hadn’t had many leads. It got uglier from there when Jake Brentz gave up his first run since May 11 in Detroit. The ninth inning from Josh Staumont wasn’t any better. He hadn’t pitched since Sunday and I’m frankly not convinced he’s healthy. Another run later and the Tigers were up by three.
It was safe to say that a three-run lead was enough, and of course, it was. The Royals did make it very interesting in the ninth at least, which was something to at least sort of make you feel almost good. Hanser Alberto singled and then with two outs, Whit Merrifield and Carlos Santana drove in runs, but it was enough as Salvador Perez was in full-on swing mode and was down in three pitches to end the game.
Of the quartet of relievers after Hernandez, only Barlow didn’t allow a run, but his command was brutal and he did allow one of the inherited runs. The point I guess I’m trying to make is there was no right answer, which is becoming an increasing problem for a team that’s running out of time to find them. If you’re looking for good news, and I’m sure you are because we all could use some of that, is that the team is stupid streaky. Here’s what they’ve now done this year in stretches:
Maybe they’ll turn it on soon and find some relevance this summer. I’m not getting my hopes up right now, but as JP said in “Angels in the Outfield,” it could happen.
When Adalberto Mondesi is on the field, the game is different. He’s not always the best player on the field, though his limited sample this year is pretty fantastic. But he is always one of the most dynamic players. When he came back last month for the Rays series in Tampa, you could feel some excitement about it and he looked fantastic for those seven games before his hamstring injury.
Then he comes back for yesterday’s game and on the second pitch, he did this:
Then a couple of innings later, he did this:
That looked effortless. And with one out and a man on third, he had to get that done as quickly as possible or a run would have scored. It’s pretty amazing what he can do on the field when he’s actually on the field.
The difference in this team with him on the field is pretty obvious. Not to go too far back, but I didn’t write yesterday and want to touch on this. It makes the decision to not use him in the bottom of the ninth all the more puzzling. Mike Matheny mentioned in postgame that he wanted to give him a chance to win the game, but leaving him in the on deck circle was just as confusing to me as when a manager leaves their best reliever in the bullpen on the road in extra innings because you’re saving him for the save opportunity. It seems that opportunity never comes, just as it didn’t for Mondesi on Tuesday night.
But I digress. It’s just blatantly obvious to see his impact on the field and is what makes it so much more disappointing when he can’t stay on the field. What you saw above were two highlight-reel plays in the span of the first three and a half innings of the first game he played in 16 days. That’s not normal. It’s why you don’t give up on Mondesi. It’s why he would get chances until he’s 40 even if he was only able to play 20 games per year.
The reality is that the Royals lineup is woefully shallow. In the late days of spring training, it was so easy to see the Royals lineup of Merrifield, Andrew Benintendi, Mondesi, Santana, Perez, Jorge Soler, Hunter Dozier, Kyle Isbel and Michael A. Taylor and think that they could wreak havoc on opponents. I noted before the season that while it looks good on paper, if anything happened to more than one of those guys, the team just didn’t have the depth to overcome it.
Mondesi was hurt before the season started. Dozier injured his thumb on Opening Day and has never hit outside of the occasional bursts. Soler is just now starting to come around. Benintendi is injured now. And they haven’t been able to overcome it, which shouldn’t be a surprise. This has been an organizational issue for a long time now, and one that hopefully is coming to an end with the improvement in the offensive development system in the minors, but something that remains a problem.
Singer Was Good, But Only For Three
I’ve been really critical of Brady Singer over the last few weeks. Part of it is maybe a little bit because of how he’s handled himself after games and part of it is simply that he has too much talent to struggle the way he has at times. He came out throwing strikes yesterday, which was a welcome sight given that he’s had his control issues at times. He threw a first-pitch strike to the first seven hitters and to 10 of the 13 hitters he faced.
But he only faced 13 hitters. The broadcast showed Carlos Hernandez warming up while the Royals batted in the bottom of the third inning and alarm bells went off around Kansas City wondering why. When Hernandez entered, Singer was shown sitting on the bench, drinking from a water bottle and talking to Matheny, which made me wonder what was going on. We learned after the game that he had some shoulder discomfort after his last start and the team had planned ahead to keep him on a short leash.
I think I believe it. I’m not completely sure, but I think I do. Usually when guys are pulled for injuries, they aren’t casually drinking water on the bench but are instead in the trainer’s room. It was so innocuous that I sort of wondered if maybe he was dehydrated from it being so hot, but as it turned out, this was a case of load management. Remember, Singer threw just 64.1 innings last year, his rookie year. He’d thrown 212.2 professional innings. If he’s got some discomfort, I’m good with them finding creative ways to limit him a bit to make sure he stays healthy.
I was incredibly impressed with him in the second inning. I thought he made a good pitch to Jonathan Schoop to start the inning. It was 1-2 and he put a slider off the plate. It maybe was a little higher than you want, but I think this is one you have to give Schoop some credit on. I actually really liked this pitch sequence.
Then I thought he made a nice pitch to Harold Castro on a sinker down and maybe not quite far enough in, but it was probably enough. He just inside-outed a ball to left field that Merrifield should have cut off but ended up rolling to the wall. With runners on second and third and nobody out, the Royals were willing to concede a run for an out.
Nomar Mazara hit a ball that Singer made a mistake on and he hit it hard, but it was right at Santana at first base. Schoop went back to third. There was one out. He dominated Niko Goodrum, getting a strikeout on three pitches with the third pitch pretty much in the same spot as the hit he allowed to Schoop was.
Of course, it looks better against a lefty. And then I thought he got away with a bad pitch to Willi Castro on a pitch middle-middle that he grounded to Alberto. It was a really nice job of pitching around trouble and giving the Royals a shot to actually start on top for once, which they did with the Mondesi bomb from above.
And in his final inning, he had two quick outs before Akil Baddoo took a pitch below the zone to right for a soft double and then he left another pitch middle-middle that Jeimer Candelario hit for a double of his own to tie the score.
I was so curious to see how he’d respond to that inning, but we didn’t get that chance. Hopefully, we get to see him out there next week against the Yankees to see how he handles Yankee Stadium.
Carlos Hernandez Shoved
For all the bad that the last three innings showed for the pitching staff, Hernandez looking the way he did was such a welcome sight. I’ve always been a fan of him in a relief role, but he’s struggled with both control and command. I’m not going to go too deep into his outing because I’ve already written too much about a brutal game, but I want to talk about his curve.
He threw 16 of them in his 44 pitches and got nine swings and six whiffs. That’s very good. He had another five called strikes and two foul balls. Of the one put in play, it was hit at just 76.3 MPH. These are all the curves that were strikes, either swinging or looking:
Here’s his last pitch of the outing. Just nasty.
I think he filled up the zone a little more than I’d like, but when you pair that with a fastball that topped out at 100.6 and averaged 98.6, it worked. The control was much better. The command wasn’t wonderful, but he doesn’t need amazing command with the stuff he does. It was a really fun three innings watching him work.
Much Needed Day Off
I’m not sure if it’s needed for the team, but I think we all could use one. They’ve played 14 games in 14 days and won only four of them. We could use a day off from the losing and hope something turns with the chance to regroup.