KC Royals: Returnees shine in big series finale win

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals brought back three players before Wednesday’s game. They helped fuel a series-clinching victory.

Whoever thought Franchy Cordero, Mike Montgomery, and Jakob Junis wouldn’t see action for the KC Royals again this season didn’t get it right. All three returned to the active roster Wednesday afternoon, just in time to contribute to Kansas City’s 12-3 drubbing of St. Louis that clinched the next-to-last series of the season.

Cordero appeared lost for the season after hamate bone surgery last month, Montgomery seemed destined not to pitch until next season after a lat injury forced him out of the fourth game of this campaign, and Junis, suffering through a disappointing season in the rotation, was optioned only a week ago to the club’s alternate training site.

But, coming just two days after the Royals brought back Jorge Soler, a series of roster moves landed the trio back in Kauffman Stadium in time for Wednesday’s rubber match of the Royals’ three-game series with the Cardinals. Cordero, who joined the Royals in July and hit only .154 in 11 games before his injury, immediately made up for lost time. He punched an RBI single in his first at-bat back, made a fine catch in center field, and blasted two home runs.

His first homer, a three-run shot, came in the sixth and put the game out of reach at 9-1. He followed with a solo shot in the seventh to make it 12-1. The home runs were Cordero’s first two of the season; he hadn’t homered in the majors since 2018, when he hit seven for the Padres. Cordero had three hits for the third time in his career and his five RBIs are the best he’s had in a single game.

Junis seemed an unlikely candidate for a return this season after his 0-2, 6.94 ERA (67 ERA+), and a poor Sept. 15 start against Detroit (five runs and seven hits in 2.1 innings) forced the club to option him to T-Bones Stadium last week. Speculation throughout his short career that Junis might be a better reliever than starter will only increase after Wednesday’s performance—he struck out all three Cardinals he faced in the seventh, getting Tyler O’Neill looking on a fastball, Dylan Carlson swinging on a slider, and Harrison Bader looking on another slider.

And Montgomery, another surprise return after a lengthy recovery from his lat injury, pitched a scoreless eighth after manager Mike Matheny obviously liked what he saw from Junis but still wanted to take a look at Montgomery.

The three returnees, who replaced Erick Mejia (optioned), Bubba Starling (Injured List), and Kyle Zimmer (Injured List), didn’t alone account for the blowout victory, which gave KC a 23-33 record with only a four-game series against Detroit left in this short season. Salvador Perez matched Cordero’s performance with three hits, two homers, and five RBIs of his own. He now has 10 home runs and is slashing .356/.371/.667 in what should be a Comeback Player of the Year season.

And Danny Duffy closed out his 2020 campaign with a 5.2 inning, five strikeouts, one walk, one run outing that evened his record at 4-4.

Adalberto Mondesi had two hits and scored three runs, the first of which came in the opening inning when Perez’s first homer gave the KC Royals an early 2-0 lead (they scored two that inning, one in the second, three in the third, five in the sixth and one in the seventh). Maikel Franco and Hunter Dozier also had two hits.

Had rookie Scott Blewett, appearing for the first time since making his big league debut with two scoreless innings against Milwaukee last week, not given St. Louis a pair of runs in the ninth, the bullpen would have shutout the Cards.

Now, with only four games left in this short season, expect Cordero, Junis, and Montgomery to get more work. The Royals are clearly trying to get last-minute looks at young outfielders (Edward Olivares is playing regularly since coming over from San Diego in the Trevor Rosenthal deal and Nick Heath is seeing action) so Cordero may find his way into each game. And Junis and Montgomery can get a couple of more looks before the offseason while giving some taxed relievers well-deserved rests.

Next. Top prospect Pena working out on his own. dark

The unexpected returns of three players gave the KC Royals a boost Wednesday night. We’ll likely see more of them before the season concludes in a few days.