The KC Royals dropped two of three games in Cleveland to open the 2020 season. What went wrong and what went well?
Takeaways and notes from the KC Royals’ opening weekend while acknowledging winning one of three games is better than winning none:
Brady Singer arrives. The Royal highlight of the weekend was Brady Singer’s debut. The 23-year old with all of one professional season’s experience started and delivered against Cleveland Saturday. Stepping into the second spot of a rotation weakened by the absences of Brad Keller and Jakob Junis, Singer struck out seven, walked two, and surrendered three hits and two runs; although the Royals won in extra innings, he didn’t figure in the decision after giving way to the bullpen to start the sixth.
Singer did his job by keeping KC in the game and previewed how good he can be. The lack of rotation depth means the rookie will get plenty of opportunities this season.
Dismal hitting. The low-light of the weekend was the club’s hitting. The Royals scraped out only four hits Friday, five Saturday, and six Sunday, and scored just five runs–none Friday, three Saturday and two Sunday. And they struck out an embarrassing 40 times in 95 official at-bats against Tribe starters Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco and a good, but not great, bullpen.
Granted, Kansas City faced three of the finest starters in baseball and couldn’t touch their breaking stuff. But they chased some poor pitches and passed on too many hittable deliveries.
I’ve already said the offense must improve, but it bears repeating after Sunday’s 9-2 loss. The weak hitting that tainted the weekend won’t be sufficient to beat even the Tigers, who the Royals face in four evening games starting tonight.
Salvy is back. Salvador Perez, now over a year removed from the UCL injury that required Tommy John surgery and stole his 2019 season, looked great. He blocked pitches, called three decent games, and hit his first homer of the campaign. And he still has a gun for a right arm.
Interestingly, manager Mike Matheny didn’t give him Sunday off after Perez caught Friday’s game and the entire 10-inning Saturday contest, although Matheny gave him a bit of a breather Sunday when Oscar Hernandez replaced him late in the game. Salvy looks in top shape.
Lack of rotation depth. That the Royals miss starters Brad Keller and Jakob Junis, both working their way back from positive COVID-19 tests, became painfully evident Sunday when Matheny resorted to a bullpen approach. Newcomer Ronald Bolanos, acquired in the Tim Hill deal with San Diego, started and gave up two runs in two innings. Jorge Lopez, the mercurial veteran of four big league seasons who can’t seem to find his way as a starter or reliever, surrendered two more runs in two-thirds of an inning, as did Gabe Speier when he spelled Lopez.
Josh Staumont and Kyle Zimmer each pitched an inning and were the only KC Royals hurlers not to give up any runs.
Hopefully, Keller and Junis will be back soon.
Kyle Zimmer. Speaking of Kyle Zimmer, he was superb Sunday. Although he gave up a hit in his one inning, he struck out three.
Royal versatility. The KC Royals displayed their versatility against Cleveland. Whit Merrifield, the consummate play-anywhere player slated for primary duty in center field this season, instead started the first two games in right in Hunter Dozier’s COVID-19-forced absence, then at second Sunday when Matheny initially sat Nicky Lopez.
Erick Mejia, also a player capable of playing wherever his manager needs him, started at third base Sunday, while third sacker Maikel Franco moved to first.
Merrifield, by the way, had a hit in each game. He’s led the majors in hits the past two seasons.
Viloria to alternate camp. The Royals created space for Singer by sending catcher Meibrys Viloria to alternate camp. Don’t be surprised to see him back on the active roster before the season ends.
Hud..forever the optimist. Television analyst Rex Hudler proved once again that he’s the most optimistic color man in the game. A natural “glass half-full” guy, he found the bright side of everything.
Next up: Detroit for four. As mentioned, the KC Royals start a four-game series tonight at Detroit. The Tigers, the only team to finish behind Kansas City in the American League Central last season, are tied with Cleveland for the early Division lead at 2-1. They lost their opener to Cincinnati Friday, then beat the Reds twice.
All games of the KC-Detroit series start at 6:10 p.m. Central; the Royals’ home opener is Friday evening against the White Sox.
The KC Royals were fortunate to get out of Cleveland with one win. Let’s hope they get better in Detroit.