(Editor's Note: The original version of this KC Royals story included a miscalculation of strikeouts Zack Greinke needs to reach 3,000 for his career. To avoid confusion, we have deleted the Greinke section).
The KC Royals could have grabbed a series win at Wrigley Field Saturday afternoon. But Brady Singer, their resurgent starter who since July has been gradually turning his season around, unfortunately rediscovered some of the trouble that hounded him earlier in the season — he gave the Cubs six runs, didn't finish the fourth inning, then watched from the dugout as his teammates couldn't quite overcome the five-run deficit he helped so much to create. Kansas City lost 6-4.
The defeat evened the teams' three-game series at one win apiece. Someone will win it Sunday. The Royals are now 40-85; their .320 winning percentage bests only Oakland's .279 going into the Athletics' Saturday night game with Baltimore.
That only 37 games remain on the schedule means the Royals can avoid breaking or tying the franchise loss record of 106 only if they win at a greater pace than they have through Saturday. But if they don't go at least 17-20 to finish 57-105, they'll earn the dubious distinction of losing more games than even the Kansas City Athletics, who somehow never lost as many as 106 games in their 23-season stay at old Municipal Stadium.
But that critical 17-win number isn't the only one holding significant meaning for the team and many of its players. In fact, some big numbers are in play as the Royals head into the final stretch of the campaign.
Here are a few.
KC Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr.'s big numbers: 6 and 16
Second-year infielder Witt is making more news than any other Royal. His hot bat — after going 3-for-5 against the Cubs Saturday, he's hitting .345 with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs since the All-Star Break, and .400 with six homers in August alone — keeps him in the headlines and is spawning countless social media posts predicting an early contract extension on the one hand, and trades that could net the club huge returns on the other.
For now, though, the focus should be on the field, where Witt is in position to do what no other Royal has ever done — homer at least 30 times and steal at least 50 bases in a single season. Witt needs six homers to reach 30 and, after swiping his 35th and 36th bases at Wrigley Saturday, 14 steals to reach 50.
KC Royals captain Salvador Perez's big numbers: 1 and 6
Two years removed from his monster 2021 season, when his 48 home runs tied Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the major league lead, broke Johnny Bench's decades-long record for home runs in a single campaign by a primary catcher, and equaled Jorge Soler's Royals' single-season club record, Perez stands on the threshold of one, and possibly two, personal home run milestones.
Just one more home run will give him at least 20 for the seventh time in his 12-year career; six more will get him at least 25 for the fourth time.
KC Royals starting pitcher Brady Singer's big number: 3
With almost every passing start (except Saturday's, of course) Singer's 2023 campaign is looking more and more like his excellent 2022 season. Both began poorly (Singer didn't even make it to May before the Royals sent him down to the minors last year) but improved.
Singer, now 8-9 after Saturday's loss to Chicago, is three wins away from 11, a total which would top the career-high 10 he posted last season on the way to winning the club's Pitcher of the Year award, an honor he may receive again for his 2023 efforts.