What happened to the KC Royals at Kauffman Stadium today should extinguish any remaining doubt that this team requires immediate change.
On a fittingly gray, dingy afternoon, St. Louis finished its annual series with the Royals by pummeling and embarrassing them 10-0, a result lending credence to the notion that this is becoming a rivalry in name only. The punishment began as soon as the game began and didn’t stop until it ended—the Cardinals scored five runs in the first and finished their attack with two in the ninth before leaving town with their third victory against Kansas City in four tries this season.
And it was the game’s first few minutes that signaled one of the changes the Royals need to make before embarking on a three-city road trip that starts Friday evening in Baltimore.
Wednesday’s starting pitcher must, at the very least, be removed from the starting rotation.
It’s time for the KC Royals to do something else with pitcher Kris Bubic.
Today at Kings of Kauffman started with our warning that this game represented a test Kris Bubic probably couldn’t fail.
But fail it he did, and miserably.
Clearly lacking control, he walked leadoff hitter Tommy Edman and then Paul Goldschmidt before serving up a three-run homer to Nolan Arenado. Bubic managed to retire Albert Pujols, who probably played his last game at The K (after all, the Royals aren’t making the playoffs, so an October KC-St. Louis matchup won’t happen), but then gave up a double to Juan Yepez.
Having seen enough, manager Mike Matheny yanked Bubic for Joel Payamps, who immediately yielded a run-scoring triple to Tyler O’Neill and an RBI sac fly to Harrison Bader.
That gave the Cards all they needed—Aaron Wainwright and St. louis’ bullpen blanked KC the rest of the way.
The one-third of an inning Bubic pitched should be the last he throws out of the rotation for a long, long time; in fact, a trip to Triple-A Omaha is likely in order for the third-year hurler whose 13.14 ERA is worse than his 0-3 record. He couldn’t make it out of the first inning for the second time in five starts, and has walked 11 and surrendered 18 runs in 12.1 innings.
Kansas City has options. It can, as we mentioned in this morning’s story, recall Jon Heasley (1-1, 3.63) or Brady Singer from Omaha—Singer pitched there over the weekend and can make at least one more appearance before Bubic’s spot in the rotation comes up again—or start Ronald Bolaños a time or two.
Another hurler to consider is lefthander Drew Parrish, who’s 2-1, 3.38 in five starts at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and went 6-4, 2.38 in a 2021 campaign split between the Naturals and High-A Quad ties.
The bats woke up for the KC Royals Tuesday but promptly went back to sleep.
The woefully inept offense that took a mysterious leave Tuesday night, when Kansas City collected a season-high 15 hits and beat St. Louis 7-0, returned today. Due in great part to the masterful pitching of Cardinal starter Adam Wainwright, who allowed his hosts only one hit and a walk in seven innings, the Royals didn’t score and finished the day with only singles from Edward Olivares, Hunter Dozier, MJ Melendez and Michael A. Taylor.
Four singles won’t beat anyone and Kansas City’s .218 batting average is abysmal. Things at the plate need to change, and have for a long time. But where in the lineup can Matheny tinker?
He can start with re-benching Ryan O’Hearn, who’s 1-for-7 since replacing injured Carlos Santana at first base Tuesday, 1-for-13 on the season, and occupying a roster spot someone else should have. Dozier, the club’s primary DH, is perfectly capable of playing first, which would permit slumping Salvador Perez (.167/.211/.378) to DH more (his main form of rest) and rookie MJ Melendez (2-for-6 since debuting Tuesday) to gain valuable experience behind the plate.
Or the club could raid Omaha’s roster for one of two first basemen—Nick Pratto, who shows signs of breaking out of his season-long slump, or Vinnie Pasquantino, who’s slashing .303/.427/.592 line with five homers and 19 RBIs entering the Storm Chasers’ game tonight with Columbus.
Either move would likely be temporary. Unless a suitor unexpectedly appears while he’s on the Injured List, the Royals probably want to return Santana to first when he’s healthy so he can (hopefully) build trade value in the final year of his contract.
Matheny should also leave Olivares in the leadoff spot. Longtime leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield’s struggles continue—he’s hitting .151—and Nicky Lopez hit .100 in the eight games he batted first. Olivares, on the other hand, an offensive force in the minors when permitted to play regularly, is 6-for-13 since taking over the spot Monday and heads for Baltimore with a .364 average and .417 OBP in 14 games.
It’s also past time for Matheny to give Merrifield some time off. He’s 33 and the 492 consecutive games he’s played may be taking a toll.
The manager might also think about what many consider unthinkable—trying Olivares or Kyle Isbel in center and benching for the time being Michael A. Taylor, whose .226 average hurts the offense. But the Royals probably view his defense too valuable for such a move.
And what about the staff? Matheny isn’t going anywhere, at least not anytime soon. Some of his coaches, however, constitute a discussion for another day.
In any event, some kind of shakeup is in order. Kansas City has lost seven of its last 10 games and 14 of its last 20, and left The K Wednesday in the American League Central cellar. They’ll be tied with Detroit for last if the Tigers lose tonight, but fall a full game behind them if they win.
The Royals are in bad shape. Change is required.