KC Royals: There’s a lot at stake against Baltimore

(Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports) /

At first blush, not much, if anything, seems to be on the line for the KC Royals when they begin a four-game home series with Baltimore tonight. Kansas City is the worst team in baseball, the only club still short of 20 wins, and hopes of postseason play have shifted to 2023.

Adding to this distressing mix is the dark path upon which the club finds itself—at 18-37, and Wednesday’s series sweep-avoiding 8-4 victory over Toronto notwithstanding, it’s on pace to lose a franchise-worst 109 games.

Despite all that, and their firm hold on last place in the American League Central, there are important things to watch for against the Orioles.

Consider what could be at stake.

Baltimore gives the KC Royals a golden opportunity to win some games.

Bad teams give other bad teams hope, and that’s precisely what the Orioles’ visit to Kauffman Stadium offers. Baltimore, 24-33, unsurprisingly owns the AL East cellar and is already 16.5 games out of first place; like Kansas City, their postseason opportunities are in the future, not the present.

So it is that as poorly as the Royals have been playing—they’re 2-5 in June and have lost eight of their last 10 games and 15 of their last 20—the Royals have a chance against the Orioles. Baltimore’s four scheduled starters—Jordan Lyles, Bruce Zimmerman, Tyler Wells and Dean Kremer—are together 7-13 this season, which gives even Kansas City’s struggling offense a chance.

Yes, Kris Bubic, Jonathan Heasley, Daniel Lynch and Brad Keller, the foursome slated to start for the Royals, are a collective 3-18, but they’re also facing inferior bats. The Orioles’ .229 team average is even worse than Kansas City’s .235 and better than only two AL clubs, which means Kansas City’s starters don’t have to be dominant.

Simply put, the O’s give the Royals a chance to score runs. And win some games. Losing the series, or suffering a sweep, will mire the Royals even deeper in their season-long slump.

Can KC Royals first baseman Carlos Santana increase his trade value?

Seldom do players hitting badly generate a lot of news, but that’s precisely what Carlos Santana is doing; well-chronicled, almost to the point of over-saturation, is the Kansas City first sacker’s season-long struggle with the bat. He enters tonight’s game batting .188 and slugging .286, and has homered only twice.

Santana is, of course, in the final season of a two-year deal, and with Omaha’s Vinnie Pasquantino and Nick Pratto (especially Pasquantino) becoming harder for the Royals to resist, he’s sure to be traded or otherwise removed from the roster before long. But trading him for even a modest return is a task his numbers seriously complicate. Santana’s trade value may be all but unmeasurable.

That could be changing, though. Santana’s bat is ablaze this month—underlying his June .539/.647/.692 line and 1.339 OPS are seven hits and four walks in 17 plate appearances, and he went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a pair of singles and a walk against Toronto Wednesday. And he’s hitting .300 with a .404 OBP over his last 11 games.

Only time will tell if Santana’s recent success fuels the kind of turnaround that last season transformed slumping Jorge Soler into a viable trade deadline target (and ultimately World Series MVP with Atlanta). But Baltimore gives Santana the fighting chance the Royals need him to take advantage of.

Will Hunter Dozier return to the lineup for the KC Royals against Baltimore?

Hunter Dozier, last year’s recipient of a generous new four-year $25 million contract and then a thumb injury that hampered him much of the season, had been earning his 2022 money until “something in his side” forced him out of the lineup for the final two games of Kansas City’s just-completed series with the Blue Jays. Dozier was hitting .257 (a vast improvement over last year’s .216) with five homers and 19 RBIs at the time.

As of this writing, there was no new word about his status, but he wasn’t in the lineup the club released Thursday afternoon:

Dozier’s absence isn’t good for the Royals—that .257 average is the club’s second best among its qualified hitters and his five homers trail only Salvador Perez’s eight and Bobby Witt Jr.’s seven.

Kansas City’s chances against Baltimore improve if Dozier plays, and don’t if he doesn’t.

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Keep an eye on the Royals against Baltimore.