KC Royals: 3 big things to watch for against Oakland

(Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports) /
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KC Royals, Amir Garrett
(Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports) /

Will the KC Royals’ bullpen get on track this weekend against Oakland?

How bad is Kansas City’s struggling bullpen?

Pretty bad. Its 4.74 ERA and 1.50 WHIP are the worst in the American League. It’s given up more walks than any other pen in the league and has the AL’s worst OBA. It’s saved fewer games, and surrendered more runs, than any other AL bullpen; it’s also hit more batters than only two other clubs and given up the fourth most hits.

The bullpen also had too much to do with three of the four losses the Royals suffered on their just-completed road trip.

Starter Brad Singer, dramatically improved since rediscovering his form during a three-week trip back to Triple-A, deserved to win at San Francisco June 13—he’d yielded two runs and a pair of hits and fanned five in five innings when Manager Mike Matheny gave the game to Amir Garrett to start the sixth with the game tied. Garrett walked leadoff hitter Austin Slater, uncorked a wild pitch that moved Slater to second and, after striking out Brandon Crawford, coughed up an RBI single to Thairo Estrada that broke the tie for good.

Arodys Vizcaíno, like Garrett an offseason acquisition, gave up two runs in the seventh and Josh Staumont surrendered another in the eighth. The Giants won 6-2.

The pen failed Singer again a few days later. Trailing only 1-0 in Oakland after striking out four and walking none in 5.1 innings, and with the club’s first series sweep of the season at stake, Singer gave way to José Cuas with runners at second and third in the sixth. Unfortunately, Cuas, who’d given up only one run since making his big league debut May 31, gave up a three-run homer to Sean Murphy. The A’s won 4-0 to avoid the sweep.

The bullpen also figured in Kansas City’s 5-0 loss to the Angels Wednesday night, another defeat that spoiled the club’s chances for a sweep. It was, to be sure, a game the Royals couldn’t win as long as Shohei Ohtani remained in the game—the Angels’ amazing two-way player struck out 13 and only gave KC two hits and a walk in eight scoreless innings.

But because they’d managed only a run off starter Daniel Lynch and reliever Taylor Clarke through six, the Angels led by just that single run when Garrett took over for the Royals to start the seventh.

And once again, Garrett didn’t get the job done: he gave up a pair of RBI hits, allowing the Angels to extend their lead to three. Foster Griffin did the same in the eighth and KC lost 5-0.

Can the bullpen regroup against Oakland? It must if the Royals hope to continue the bit of success they’re having.