After a rough start, Jason Hammel is coming around for the KC Royals.
Time and time again, KC Royals General Manager Dayton Moore has come out on top. He built the farm system that led to back-to-back World Series appearances and the 2015 championship.
Early in the season, starting pitcher Jason Hammel looked like a rare miss for Moore. But times they are a changin.’ Monday night, Hammel pitched his fourth-straight quality start to lead the KC Royals past the Red Sox 4-2.
Not that it was all rainbows for the Luke Hochevar-look alike Monday night. Hammel dealt with runners in six of the first seven innings. Jackie Bradley’s two-run homer in the fourth inning tied the game after Kansas City scored two runs in the third.
Hammel was strong after that, needing just seven pitches to retire the side in the fifth. He worked around more runners in the sixth and seventh innings but left the mound allowing just two earned runs on four hits while striking out four. Whit Merrifield and Lorenzo Cain drove in runs in the bottom of the seventh to secure the “W” for Hammel.
Hammel was a late addition to the Royals roster after the unexpected death of Yordano Ventura on Jan. 22. The 34-year-old righty got off to a slow start in Kansas City. He lasted more than five innings just one time in his first five starts of the season. His last two starts of April lasted just three innings, and he finished that first month with a 6.65 ERA.
He’s been mostly good since then and almost electric in his last six starts. After allowing a total of 11 runs in a pair of losses on May 10 and May 16, Hammel has buckled down and allowed just 14 earned runs in his last six starts.
Hammel has been even better in June, throwing at least six innings in each of his four starts. He’s pitched seven full innings in two of those starts, and came just an out shy of seven innings in the other two starts.
Control has likely had something to do with the new-found success. Hammel walked 13 batters in his first five starts, and added 10 walks in his next five starts. Hammel has walked just one batter in 27-plus innings in June.
Monday was one of Hammel’s best outings of the year. He made it seven complete innings for just the third time in 14 starts, and his WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) was a season-best 1.43. The best news there is his last three outings have each been his best with a 1.48 WHIP against offensive juggernaut Houston on June 8, and a 1.47 WHIP at San Francisco on June 14.
Hammel’s breakthrough comes at a good time. The KC Royals recently ended a 6-game win streak, but have already bounced back with two wins to remain the hottest team in the American League. Around the entire league, only the Dodgers and Diamondbacks have better records over the last 10 games.
After a dismal 7-16 April, the Royals take a 34-35 record into Tuesday’s game against Boston. With a win, Kansas City can reach the .500 mark for the first time since a 7-7 start.