The KC Royals split a doubleheader on the road Saturday. What went right, and what went wrong?
Notes and thoughts about the KC Royals’ doubleheader split with Minnesota Saturday:
The results and the standings. The Royals entered Saturday stuck in the basement of the American League Central Division, four games behind first place Minnesota, 2.5 behind second place Cleveland and three games off the Wild Card pace. After splitting their doubleheader with the Twins, the only thing different is they now trail the Indians by three full games.
That’s because Cleveland won while the Royals’ lackluster offense and bullpen cost them their opener against Minnesota 4-2, but Whit Merrifield‘s hitting and Danny Duffy and the bullpen’s bounce back were all they needed in a 4-2 nightcap win.
With 39 games left to play, Kansas City remains in the race for the three types of American League postseason spots: the three division winners, three division runners-up, and two Wild Card clubs qualify.
Whit takes things into his own hands. After the Royals managed only five hits and an equal number of base runners in the first game loss, Whit Merrifield supplied all the offense they required to beat the Twins in the nightcap. He picked on Minnesota starter Jose Berrios for three hits in the first four innings, including a double to start the contest, an RBI single in the second to give KC a 1-1 tie, and a three-run homer in the fourth that made the difference in the game.
Merrifield drove in all of KC’s runs and his three hits led the club. His 3-for-4 performance raised his average 23 points to .305. He was 0-for-3 in the opener.
Duffy gets first win. Second game starter Danny Duffy notched his first win of the season and went at least five innings for the third time in his five starts. He struck out eight in his five frames, and gave up just one walk and two hits. He surrendered both Minnesota runs, but it was another steady Duffy outing.
Bullpen rebounds. Together with the KC Royals’ quiet bats, the bullpen shouldered the loss in the first game–Gabe Speier, Tyler Zuber, and Greg Holland combined to give up all the Twins’ runs after Ian Kennedy opened with two good, scoreless innings.
But the pen regained its 2020 form in the second half of the twin-bill. Josh Staumont struck out two in the sixth inning for his fourth hold; Trevor Rosenthal, clearly manager Mike Matheney’s top choice for closer, walked one but struck out the other three Twins he faced in the seventh to earn his fifth save. (Both ends of doubleheaders this season are seven inning games–unless, of course, deadlocks force extra frames).
Staumont’s ERA is now a minuscule 0.93; Rosenthal’s is even better at 0.90. Staumont has 19 strikeouts in 9.2 innings and Rosenthal has 13 in 10.
Sal hot, Alex not. Although Salvador Perez didn’t get a hit in the nightcap, his fourth inning single in the first game gave him an 11-game hitting streak and his average stood at .314 at the end of the day.
Alex Gordon, however, went 0-for-3 in the opener, then watched the nightcap from the bench. He failed to hit safely for the fifth straight game and has a .167 average.
Hoping this isn’t serious. Jakob Junis was scheduled to make his third appearance of the season by taking over for first game opener Ian Kennedy, but didn’t. Back spasms interrupted his warmup and the Royals scratched him.
Bubba returns. Bubba Starling took a cautionary trip to the Injured List several days ago after feeling ill, but was reactivated after testing negative for COVID-19. He returned to the lineup late in the second game, replacing Merrifield in center field when Merrifield moved to right to replace Jorge Soler. Starling went 0-for-1.
Soler’s tough, tough day. Speaking of Soler, and to add another element to the mixed bag that was this doubleheader, the KC Royals’ single-season home run record holder had a miserable day at the plate. He struck out in each of his three trips to the plate in the first game, then unfortunately repeated that frustrating feat in the second.
Lopez appears on track. Despite going 0-for-2 in the first game, Nicky Lopez continues to look better at the plate. He was 2-for-2 in the nightcap and raised his average to .267.
Rookies set for series’ final games. The four-game series at Target Field continues today and ends Monday. Expect rookies Brady Singer (1-1) and Kris Bubic (0-2) to make the starts.
The KC Royals split their doubleheader with Minnesota Saturday. The highs and lows made for a pretty mixed bag.