The KC Royals have lost at least 100 games six times since replacing the old A’s as Kansas City’s major league entry in 1969. Unfortunately, the 2022 Royals may be giving the 106-loss 2005 team a run for its money as the worst in club history.
After a 10-4 drubbing at Colorado Saturday night, Kansas City’s 11-20 record puts it on track to finish with around 105 losses (104.5 to be precise, a mathematically unavoidable result considering the odd number of games played).
It is a collision course the Royals must correct lest they end the season as one of the worst KC teams ever.
So much about the club doesn’t make sense.
Take Saturday’s game, for example.
Poor starting pitching by Carlos Hernández once again plagued the KC Royals.
Coors Field deserves its reputation as a hitter’s dream. It is a launching pad, a high altitude venue that on any given night all but guarantees high scores.
Coors is also a chamber of doom for pitchers who miss in the zone and lack command, the predicament Kansas City starter Carlos Hernández found himself in Saturday evening. In a game likely fraught before it began with implications for his future in the rotation, Hernández couldn’t improve on the 0-2, 7.15 ERA record he brought to it.
He was bad from the start. Before getting an out, Hernández walked Colorado hitter Connor Joe and served up a two-run homer to Charlie Blackmon.
He walked Sam Hilliard and allowed Yonathan Daza a single to start the second, and Dom Nuñez brought Hilliard home with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
The two singles Hernández gave C.J. Cron and Ryan McMahon to open the third foretold José Iglesias’ run-scoring single and, just moments later, Hilliard’s three-run homer that gave the Rockies a 7-3 lead.
Kansas City scored three in the fourth to narrow the deficit to a manageable four, and Hernández’s 1-2-3 treatment of the Rox in their half of the frame gave KC some hope.
But Hernández walked McMahon to start Colorado’s fifth and Brandan Rodgers immediately doubled him home. Royals manager Mike Matheny, who simply waited too long to remove Hernández (more on that in a moment), then gave the game to Ronald Bolaños. He handed the Rockies their ninth run (charged to Hernández) on Hilliard’s sac fly.
Pitching Hernández in Colorado didn’t make much sense. He hadn’t pitched well in any of his previous five starts and Baltimore hammered him for six runs in 4.2 innings less than a week ago. Skipping Hernández until next week’s series with the White Sox would have been the better choice.
KC Royals manager Mike Matheny left fans wondering again Saturday night.
The heat Kings of Kauffman’s Preston Farr recently suggested Matheny should feel surely increased Saturday evening.
Proof of that lies most conspicuously in Matheny’s choice of cleanup hitter. Once again, his decision to hit Ryan O’Hearn fourth flew hard in the face of O’Hearn’s poor performance—he brought a miserable .160 average into the game and hadn’t had a hit in the cleanup spot this season. Not even the pinch-hit homer he hit Friday warranted his presence in Saturday’s lineup.
So, O’Hearn’s 0-for-4 performance was as predictable as Matheny’s insistence on playing him. Only Sunday’s prospect of facing a lefthander, the one thing about him his manager seems willing to avoid, may save the club from another poor O’Hearn game.
Also inexplicable was Matheny’s decision to stick with Hernández after the Rockies battered him for seven runs in the first three innings. Yes, Hernández retired Colorado in order in the fourth, but he was responsible for the two runs the Rockies scored in the fifth to put the game out of reach, and had proven he couldn’t keep his pitches out of the strike zone’s heart.
Perhaps Matheny decided to sacrifice Hernández to save the bullpen from a long night—after all, the Royals play 11 games in the next 10 days, take a day off, play seven straight before another off day, and then another 13 in a row before their next break.
But if that’s the case, and assuming it was an in-game choice, Matheny’s decision to rest the pen and send Hernández out for the fourth and fifth came on the heels of a three-run inning that pulled his club within four of a Colorado club it scored 14 runs against Friday—the game certainly wasn’t out of reach, and cried out for a pitching change.
The KC Royals’ maddeningly bad hitting haunted them again against Colorado.
It’s probably enough to say Kansas City’s season-long hitting woes continued Saturday and prevented a comeback sufficient to overcome the damage Hernández’s pitching did.
After all, KC’s agonizingly poor hitting continued. Salvador Perez and Bobby Witt Jr. homered, but the club went a collective 5-for-32 and only five runners reached scoring position.
Just how deep in the lineup the problems go demonstrates how perplexing the offense is.
Whit Merrifield is batting .173. Perez has been better lately but has an uncharacteristic .210 average. Witt is at .212, Nicky Lopez at .196.
And although he’s batting .316, even Andrew Benintendi, who entered May slashing .373/.419/.463, is in a slump—he’s hitting .234 this month.
The team’s .222 average is the American League’s fourth worst. Its OBP, SLG and OPS are better than only Detroit’s and Oakland’s. Not until they solve their offensive puzzle can the Royals improve.
The Royals need to make a course correction before it’s too late.