KC Royals: Quick takeaways from the Angels series

(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /

The KC Royals won their series with the Angels. What went well, and what didn’t?

Some takeaways from the KC Royals’ 2-1 series victory over Los Angeles while wondering how much longer the club will be without Adalberto Mondesi, and when Ervin Santana will pitch:

KC Royals catcher Salvador Perez absolutely owned LA during this series.

The Angels opened their only trip to Kansas City this season by beating the Royals handily Monday night. But despite the 10-3 loss, KC catcher Salvador Perez served notice that he was to be reckoned with.

Perez went a perfect 4-for-4 and drove in a run. The highlight, of course, was the 2-2 splitter from Alex Cobb he slapped into left field for his 1,000th career hit:

The Royals and Perez turned the tables on LA the next night—Perez was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI single that proved to be the winning run in KC’s 3-2 series-tying win. And it was the six-time Gold Glove backstop who, after it bounced into him and then LA hitter Jared Walsh, picked up Greg Holland’s slider in the dirt and threw out David Fletcher at third for the final out.

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Perez capped his stellar series with another 2-for-4 performance Wednesday afternoon. His solo home run in the third (his third blast of the year) gave KC a lead it never surrendered and he added an RBI double in the seventh. He finished the series 8-for-12 (.667) and carries a .333/.395/.641 slash into tonight’s game against Toronto.

While one KC Royals pitcher stayed hot, is another one heating up?

It’s early, but Danny Duffy is proving he wants to stay in Kansas City when his contract expires at the end of this season. The lefthander has been all but flawless in two starts: after beating Cleveland with a six scoreless inning, five strikeout performance 10 days ago, Duffy shut down the Angels Tuesday night by giving up only a run and fanning six in the Royals’ 3-2 win. He’s 2-0 with an 0.75 ERA (609 ERA+) and looks much like the Duffy whose 12-3 2016 season earned him his current five-year, $65 million deal.

Brad Keller started 2021 at the other end of the pitching spectrum—Texas shelled him for six runs in 1.1 innings Opening Day and the White Sox popped him for four in 3.1 innings a week ago. But Keller appeared more aggressive against the Angels Wednesday, shutting them down on a run and striking out five in 5.2 frames to even his record at 1-1. It’s the kind of effort Keller must continue to give if the KC Royals expect to be better.

Two KC Royals newcomers might be showing signs of life at the plate.

Kansas City signed left fielder Andrew Benintendi and first baseman Carlos Santana to do two main things: hit and get on base. Coming into this series, though, both were relatively quiet. Benintendi was slashing .207/.281/.207, Santana .185/.313/.333; to make matters worse, they had a homer and five RBIs between them.

Monday night was more of the same with both going 0-for-3 with a walk. Tuesday night was a bit better—Benintendi was 1-for-3 with another walk and, despite a hitless night, Santana drove in two runs.

Wednesday brought better news. Benintendi collected a single and double (his first extra-base hit of the year) in five at-bats, and Santana hit a two-run homer and walked twice.

The Royals are taking the right approach with rookie outfielder Kyle Isbel.

For the first few days of the new season, Kyle Isbel was one of the club’s pleasant surprises. After making the Opening Day roster, he banged out three hits in his first major league game, including a single in his first at-bat, and added two more hits the next day.

But he went hitless in four straight games, came back with two hits in the next, and was 0-for-4 against the Angels Monday night. Manager Mike Matheny benched him Tuesday and Wednesday.

It was the right thing to do. Isbel clearly started to struggle, not surprising for a rookie who’d never played above High-A ball, and needed some time off. He’d struck out 14 times in 28 at-bats and was hitting .240 against righthanders, and LA started righties in all three games. (Isbel’s eight-game line is .250/.276/.321).

It’s probably not time for the KC Royals to fret about Nicky Lopez’s hitting.

Had things gone according to plan, Nicky Lopez would be working at the Royals’ Northwest Arkansas Alternate Training Site, not playing shortstop in Kansas City. But Adalberto Mondesi’s injury forced the club to recall Lopez and his soft bat, the very piece of equipment that caused his demotion to the minors.

That soft bat owned him against the Angels. He singled in the first game, then went hitless Tuesday and Wednesday to finish the series 1-for-10.

But the Royals don’t need to worry too much, at least not yet. Through the first 10 games, Lopez’s line is .258/.314/.258, a vast improvement over his dismal pre-2021 numbers, and he was slashing .333/.400/.333 when the LA series began. Lopez appears to be improving, so Kansas City needs to ride it out for now.

Finding ways not to lose series is critical for the KC Royals.

Whatever anyone thought about retired Kansas City manager Ned Yost, he was absolutely right about one thing. “Winning series” was Yost’s mantra; he knew the pursuit of championships is an incremental exercise founded on avoiding series losses.

Although another 100-loss season isn’t likely for these Royals, it’s far too early to project precisely how and where this season will end. But not losing series is a big reason the club led the American League Central at the end of Wednesday’s play. Kansas City won its opening series against Texas 2-1, split two games with both Cleveland and the White Sox, and took two of three from the Angels.

Next. KC lucky to have Hanser Alberto. dark

Kansas City had a good series against the Angels. Now they face four games with the Toronto Blue Jays.