Is a KC Royals pitcher getting better while another might be getting worse?
Daniel Lynch was a walking question mark when, after beginning the season on the Injured List, he rejoined the Royals and made his first start of the year May 28. After all, he lost 13 games in 2022 and hadn't pitched particularly well in the Cactus League (0-2, 6.32 in six games) before suffering a rotator cuff injury before spring camp broke.
He limited Washington to two runs in 5.1 inning his first game back, then lost his next three starts before shutting out Detroit for seven innings and earning his first win last Tuesday. And if his effort Sunday against the Rays is any indication, he appears to be on the right path.
The third inning homer he coughed up to Jose Siri accounted for the only run Tampa nicked him for, and he walked only one batter in six innings. That lone run he yielded is the only one he's given up in his last 14 innings.
That Lynch had thrown 90 pitches when the sixth inning ended probably explains why manager Matt Quatraro switched to reliever Taylor Clarke for the seventh. Unfortunately, Clarke wasn't as good as Lynch—after fanning leadoff man Luke Raley, he walked Siri and gave up a single to Yandy Díaz; Díaz reached second and Siri third on Bobby Witt Jr.'s throwing error.
Clarke then walked Wander Franco intentionally and uncorked a wild pitch to Harold Ramírez that allowed Siri to score, Díaz to take third, and Franco to make second. Ramírez's sac fly then scored Díaz to give Tampa the 3-1 lead they never lost.
His one inning (Aroldis Chapman pitched a scoreless eighth) marked Clarke's third straight concerning performance. He almost cost the Royals Thursday's opening game win when he blew a save opportunity by giving up three runs and five hits to the seven batters he faced in two-thirds of an inning; three days before that, he took over a 4-1 lead over Detroit from Jordan Lyles and allowed two inherited runners, and three he put aboard himself, to score, and took the 6-4 loss to the Tigers.
So, Quatraro must be wondering if Lynch is rounding into form while Clarke might be losing his. We shall see.