The KC Royals won again. The good things are almost too many to count.
By now, most fans probably know how, and how badly, the KC Royals beat Texas Saturday afternoon. After falling behind by four—just a run shy of the early deficit they dug themselves out of before winning Opening Day—the Royals climbed back in it with three fifth-inning runs, then added seven in a 2015-like sixth to dispatch the Rangers 11-4.
That long sixth frame was vintage “Keep the Line Moving” stuff, incredibly reminiscent of the way the 2015 World Series champions battled their way to so many wins. Still behind 4-3, Kansas City sent six men to the plate and scored three runs before Nicky Lopez made the first out. Whit Merrifield followed with a single to score two and, another out later, Carlos Santana’s double scored two more. Just like that, KC had a 10-4 lead Texas couldn’t do anything with.
But not to be forgotten in the glow of that huge, game-deciding inning are the plethora of other good things these so-far exciting KC Royals did Saturday.
Jake Brentz’s KC Royals debut was good. Then came a reward from Mike Matheny
It’s a mistake to think Jake Brentz caught the Royals’ eye for the first time this spring. Yes, the lefthander so impressed the Kansas City brain trust with his 1-0, 2.89 ERA 10-game Cactus League performance (including 13 strikeouts in 9.1 innings) that the club couldn’t help but put him on the big league roster. But, with a prodigious minor league strikeout rate that regularly exceeded 10 SO9, Brentz has long been on KC’s radar.
Control, however, has impeded his progress, so the walk he rendered in his major league debut Saturday wasn’t surprising. He started the eighth by inducing David Dahl, who collected two hits on the day, to ground out on an 0-2 count, then issued a full-count walk to power-hitting Joey Gallo and a single to Nick Solak. Undaunted, Brentz then struck Nate Lowe out swinging.
Despite KC’s 10-4 lead, Manager Mike Matheny immediately replaced Brentz with Jesse Hahn, who fanned Ronald Guzman to end the inning. Matheny’s reasoning was obvious—after giving Brentz a low-leverage situation for his first big league appearance, Matheny gave his rookie the chance to enjoy a day-capping standing ovation.
KC Royals newcomer Michael A. Taylor continued his torrid work at the plate
Michael A. Taylor, the free agent outfielder Kansas City signed this winter to hopefully straighten out the relative mess that’s been center field since the departure of Lorenzo Cain, is trying mightily to dispel the notion he can’t hit. A career .237 hitter, Taylor batted .333 with a .438 OBP and 1.053 OPS this spring, then went 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs in Thursday’s opener.
Saturday was more of the same—Taylor hit another homer, a solo shot in the fifth accounting for the club’s first run, and a two-run double in the Royals’ big sixth. He drove in three runs again and is hitting .556 with six RBIs.
Kyle Isbel is proving early that he wants to stay in the major leagues
Rookie outfielder Kyle Isbel singled in a run in his first big league at-bat Thursday and, like Taylor, finished Opening Day 3-for-5. Following Taylor’s lead Saturday, Isbel collected two more hits and drove in another run to match Taylor’s 5-for-9 two games into the campaign. He also has three RBIs.
Nicky Lopez is showing signs he also wants to avoid the minor leagues
Exiled to the minors several days ago because he doesn’t hit, Nicky Lopez received a reprieve when Adalberto Mondesi wound up on the Injured List before Opening Day. He started at shortstop in Mondesi’s place Thursday and uncharacteristically went 2-for-4 with an RBI. He managed a so-so 1-for-4 Saturday, but his 3-for-8 is an improvement over 2020’s 1-for-5 two-game start and his miserable .118 Cactus League performance this spring.
The small sample size notwithstanding, Lopez looks better at the plate. He seems more patient and, with the bases loaded in the third, didn’t succumb to the power-fixation that appeared to afflict him at times last season. Lopez struck out, but clearly wasn’t swinging for the fences.
The bullpen gave the KC Royals three solid innings to secure the victory
Those who believe Kansas City’s starting rotation might not be stellar this season will point to the first two games as proof of their point. The Rangers battered Opening Day starter Brad Keller for six runs and nine hits in 1.1 innings, then tagged Mike Minor for four runs in the first three frames Saturday.
Fortunately, the bullpen held Texas down Saturday. Jakob Junis, Jake Brentz, Jesse Hahn and Josh Staumont didn’t give up a run, struck out four, walked just one, and allowed the Rangers just two hits in their three innings of work. Junis struck out one of the four batters he faced in the seventh and Staumont pitched a three-up, three-down ninth.
Other KC Royals pitched in with good second game performances
Two doubles were among the three hits Hanser Alberto collected. Whit Merrifield hit his second homer of the season and went 2-for-4. Carlos Santana, whose propensity to get on base was a major reason the Royals signed him in the offseason, drew his fourth walk and has an early .545 OBP.
The Royals are doing almost everything right. The good things they did Saturday are almost too numerous to count.