Finding solace amid a bumpy start for the KC Royals

After a disconcerting start, are there encouraging signs for the Royals?

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After Tuesday evening's 4-1 victory over Baltimore, the KC Royals are 2-3 and occupy fourth place in the American League Central. While some of the early results haven't been great, from bullpen collapses to futile offensive performances, it's too early to give up hope — there are definitely some positives to take away from the Royals' first few games.

The KC Royals starting pitching is notably better

It was an entertaining offseason as the Royals constructed a new pitching staff, but the early returns have been better than expected for the rotation. The 1.74 ERA put up by Royals starters is the second-best in the majors; it's an unsustainable rate, of course, but still auspicious for a team that struggled so much with pitching last year. The rotation's success should spur belief that the Royals can be more competitive.

Take Cole Ragans' Opening Day start, for example. It was an uneven outing, with Ragans allowing five hits and three walks and taking the 4-1 loss, but he fanned nine and gave up only two runs as he worked around a potent Minnesota lineup. Even when he wasn't at his best, he provided an important opportunity for the Royals to stay within reach of a division rival.

Two days later, Seth Lugo pitched six shutout innings and gave up only two hits and a walk in his Royals debut. Kansas City ultimately lost to the Twins as the offense failed to capitalize on Lugo's excellent start, and reliever Will Smith gave the Twins four runs in the ninth. Michael Wacha allowed three runs in his Monday start against Baltimore, but limited the Orioles' hits to one inning. It was an otherwise impressive game for Wacha against a team that could win 100 games.

If these newcomers continue to pitch well, it will make their offseason acquisitions pay significant dividends.

And the returnees? Brady Singer and Marsh were vital to the team's two wins. Singer pitched seven scoreless innings and struck out 10 in beating Minnesota Sunday, and Marsh cruised through his longest, most efficient outing of his career as Kansas City defeated the Orioles 4-1 Tuesday. The Royals couldn't ask much more from their fifth starter, who certainly wasn't guaranteed a job at the start of spring training and didn't secure it until a week before Opening Day.

Marsh was obviously pleased with Tuesday's win — as he told's Byron Kerr, "For me personally I wanted to go out there and win ... Regardless of who it is, it's good playoff team, good roster, for sure, but I want us to go to the playoffs too. Just going out there and taking anybody on and trying to get outs is what I'm here to do and I thought we did that tonight."

The struggles in the bullpen and early offensive malaise have already cost the Royals, but the rotation was one of the glaring weaknesses of last year's club. The first impression in 2024 has been nothing but positive. The frustrating losses curtailed the excitement about of the victories, but against two potential division winners, the Royals have shown they can compete.

The Royals have had some offensive postives

Kansas City allowed an average of 3.4 runs over their first five games. That's a remarkable achievement against two of the better teams in the American League, but the offense didn't take advantage of the rotation's good efforts. But despite the lack of overall success outside of last week's 11-0 thrashing of the Twins, there have already been some standouts at the plate.

Maíkel García has been good. Touted as a potential star in the making, he's hitting only .250 but can count two doubles, a triple, and two home runs among his five hits. It's nothing new for García to make impactful contact, but this year he's hit the ball in the air more to tap into his extra-base power.

Another bat to continue watching is Kyle Isbel's. The center fielder's .286 batting average and .857 OPS almost don't do his performance justice — he's been robbed on several well-hit balls that had they fallen safely would have made his impressive stats even better, but his encouraging approach at the plate is a necessary one for the Royals. If he is on the verge of his long-awaited breakout, Isbel could be one of the best stories of the year for Kansas City.

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