Baseball often feels like a game of “when it rains, it pours.” For much of this season, there was a lot of raining for the Kansas City Royals — the starting pitching and offense was firmly on the strugglebus. But, as things often do, corrections can happen fast, too. Tonight’s Royals game wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty darn good, and the Royals came away with a 6-0 win against the Chicago White Sox in their first road victory of the year.
Kansas City scored a pair of runs in the fourth inning off Dallas Keuchel and four in the sixth inning off of Kyle Crick and Reynaldo Lopez, with Carlos Santana finally opening it up again with a bases loaded double.
The “when it rains, it pours” addage sometimes applies to writing recaps, too — there’s usually one or two main stories in a game, performances or fulcrum innings within the game that tip the scales. Tonight’s game was that way, and I’ll take a little bit of an alternative approach to the recap: with a look at the core stories of the game.
Story # 1: The walks
Coming into tonight’s game, the Royals had the fewest walks in the big leagues at 32 and the fourth-lowest walk rate in the big leagues at 6.4%. It is a hallmark of Royals teams under Dayton Moore, for good or ill — mostly ill, considering how good on base percentage is — and even the good Royals teams were stubbornly walk-averse; the Royals had the lowest walk rate among all teams from 2013-2015 at 6.5%.
But tonight, whoo boy, the Royals were walkin ‘a lot. They got 11, which is not a typo, nearly a third of the walks they’ve accrued in their previous 14 games. They were helped by one Dallas Keuchel, who is not traditionally a high-walk guy. But as the Royals broadcast pointed out in kinder terms, Keuchel turned into a pumpkin in July of last year and has a 7.38 ERA in his last 18 games. At 34 years old, he’s probably washed.
Against Keuchel, the Royals couldn’t get it past the infield and only notched two hits. But they didn’t swing out of the zone, to their credit, and walked five teams in four plus innings. Their “big” inning against Keuchel came in the fourth, when they took advantage of Chicago’s poor defense and exhibited some speed to score a pair of runs despite the ball never leaving the infield.
Story # 2: Bobby Witt Jr., a-comin around
After Bobby Witt Jr.’s Opening Day heroics, he sputtered pretty hard. From games two through nine over 36 plate appearances, Bobby slashed .114 / .139 / .200, struck out 36% of the time, and hit into as many double plays as he had extra base hits.
But it’s important to remember that Witt struggled initially in the minors, too, to begin the year. In his first 51 plate appearances in 2021, he had an OPS of .519 and a strikeout rate of 27.5%. He then went on to be awarded the Minor League Player of the Year.
Quietly, Witt has put himself together a nice little hit streak and looks much, much better. With a two-hit night tonight, Witt has seven hits in the last five games and, most importantly, cut down on his strikeout rate.
Now, we’re into micro sample sizes here, so take it with a grain of salt. Still: it was painful watching Witt start off so poorly. It will be exciting if he can continue.
Story # 3: Daniel Lynch, whew he was good
Daniel Lynch had one helluva night tonight on the south side.
The line: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K.
Touched 96.3 mph. Threw a bunch of FB up. Mixed in a ton of sliders. Really, really good outing.
– Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) April 27, 2022
Daniel Lynch’s first start was bad. He gave up multiple meatballs and got punished for it. But it wasn’t all bad: he struck out seven Cardinals and generally looked way better than his 2018 draft compatriots.
Lynch’s second start was really good. He only struck out two in five innings, but he also only gave up four hits and only walked one, allowing zero runs.
The Royals’ 2018 draft class has been pretty bad this year, but if you haven’t been convinced that Lynch is The Guy from that draft, tonight probably did it for you. Lynch simply dominated the White Sox, whose only real contact they could achieve was a barrage of foul balls. He struck out seven while walking two and only allowing two hits to the overmatched White Sox batters. He did so while hitting 96 MPH — as a lefty starter, that’s still a big deal — and throwing his entire pitch mix, including regular changeup usage.
While we’ve already seen all four members of the 2018 draft class in the big leagues, the reality is that if the Royals get one above average starting pitcher and one above average reliever out of that group, that will be a success.
Story # 4: Adalberto Mondesi, injured again
Tell me if this story sounds familiar: Adalberto Mondesi leaves the game with an apparent injury. The Royals say “left knee discomfort,” which could be anything. We’ll know later. It happened in the sixth inning after a successful bunt for a hit.
Mondesi did walk earlier in the game, which was nice. But if Mondesi is injured for a while, it has knockdown implications on the entire roster. Not only does it shift Nicky Lopez to shortstop and Whit Merrifield to second base, but it opens more plate appearances for a combination of Kyle Isbel and Edward Olivares in the right field, too, as well as more plate appearances for Ryan O’Hearn and whoever may be the first guy up from Triple-A Omaha.
We’ll see if it’s serious. Who knows with Mondesi.
Story # 5: The Royals win their first road game
Hey hey hey hey! In game 15 of the season, the Royals pick up their first road win against a White Sox team in absolute free fall. You think the Royals have gone through some tough parts this year? The White Sox are actually trying to compete and just lost their eighth consecutive game. Just brutal.
Well, here’s hoping the Royals can hand the White Sox loss number nine and ten over the next two days, when they play a pair of afternoon games because it’s cold outside. The Royals are 6-9.