The season is early, just two games old in fact, but this question must be asked about the KC Royals: Might this turn out to be the most exciting team Kansas City has seen since the 2015 club brought the World Series trophy back to town?
The elements appear to be there. The Royals are young, energized and speedy. The infield defense may be the big league’s best. Whit Merrifield, a potential Gold Glover, joins two Royals who already are, Andrew Benintendi and Michael A. Taylor, in the outfield. Salvador Perez is behind the plate. Zack Greinke is back. A bevy of talented pitchers may break through. And the club finally has Bobby Witt Jr., the young phenom sure to soon lose his “prospect” tag,
So it comes as no surprise that the club made things exciting again before bagging its second win in as many 2022 games Saturday afternoon by beating Cleveland 1-0 in 10 innings. The Royals got by the Guardians 3-1 Thursday on eighth-inning RBI hits by Witt and Benintendi.
And it wasn’t just Adalberto Mondesi’s game-winning RBI single, which just happened to be his first hit of the season, that made this contest compelling, although it certainly helped:
No, this game, which makes the Royals a perfect 2-0, boasted more than that.
Underlying the excitement of this KC Royals game was superb pitching.
One thing stands out about Brad Keller’s four-season major league career—he’s pitched his best in even-numbered years. This is, of course, such a year.
And right on cue, Keller was absolutely superb Saturday.
Making his first start of the season, he pitched six masterful, shutout innings against the Guardians, striking out five and allowing them just two hits and a walk. He threw only 69 pitches, 46 of them strikes, before manager Mike Matheny replaced him with rookie Dylan Coleman to start the seventh. None of the uncertainty that seemed to plague Keller last season appeared Saturday; he worked efficiently and effectively.
It was the first time he’d held the opposition scoreless since the 2020 campaign.
Keller, though, wasn’t the only Royal who pitched well. Until the 10th, relievers Coleman, Amir Garrett, Taylor Clarke and Josh Staumont allowed only two hits. And while rookie Collin Snider, appearing in a major league game for the first time when he started the 10th with automatic runner Owen Miller already threatening from second, struggled a bit, he struck out Yu Chang swinging to end the frame.
Before Snider got to Chang, however, Witt gave him some game-saving help. A rookie playing with a veteran’s poise, Witt fielded Oscar Mercado’s grounder but lost his balance trying to cut Miller down at the plate. Unshaken, he skipped a throw to Perez to complete the play:
The KC Royals finally broke through against Cleveland pitching in the 10th.
Not to be outdone, the Guardians added to the sheer suspense of this game by holding Kansas City in check through the first nine innings. Only Benintendi and Nicky Lopez had any luck against the five hurlers Cleveland skipper Terry Franco deployed—Benintendi had three singles and Lopez one before Francona chose Emmanuel Clase for the 10th.
And that’s when Franco’s luck ran out. Hunter Dozier’s leadoff single moved auto-runner Kyle Isbel to third, and Mondesi’s single scored Isbel with the winning run.
And so ended the day’s excitement on the highest of notes.
Saturday’s win gave the Royals no worse than a split of this four-game series. The clubs finish up with 1:10 p.m. CDT games Sunday and Monday.