While the KC Royals put the cap on another series loss by losing to the Cubs Sunday, one of their minor league affiliates achieved quite a different outcome.
Columbia, Kansas City's Single-A Carolina League entry, thrashed visiting Myrtle Beach. Thoroughly. The Fireflies scored four runs in four different innings — the first, second, fifth, and sixth — and waltzed away with a 16-3 win.
Along the way, Columbia pounded out 15 hits, were the grateful recipients of nine walks, and went 8-for-17 with runners in scoring position. First baseman Brett Squires, who the Royals signed to a minor league free agent deal last summer, had four hits, including the Fireflies' only homer, and drove in four runs; after Sunday, he's batting .256 with a .383 OBP and 11 homers in his first professional season.
Daniel Vazquez also had four hits. The shortstop is in his second season with Columbia.
Starter and winning pitcher Mauricio Veliz, who began his career two years ago in the Dominican Summer League, threw six innings, surrendered two of the Pelicans' runs, walked only one, and struck out two.
KC Royals starter Brad Keller is on another injury rehab assignment
Although his recent switch from the 15-Day to 60-Day Injured List ended any chances he had to return to Kansas City's rotation this season, it looks like Keller, beleaguered by his pitching woes and a problematic right shoulder most of the season, is making another rehabilitation assignment move.
Keller, out of big league action since May with right shoulder impingement syndrome and who's since pitched on rehab stints in Triple-A and the Arizona Complex League, has been assigned by the Royals to another at Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
His time with the Naturals didn't get off to a particularly good statistical start Sunday. In an inning against Corpus Christi, he gave the Hooks their only two runs and also surrendered two hits (including a home run), and walked one. But he was credited with the win as the Naturals won 5-2.
Sweeping Oakland this week would be a good thing for the KC Royals
Barring some monumental collapse by another club, the awful distinction of being the worst team in the majors will belong to the Royals or Athletics when this season ends. (A tie is, of course, possible, and might be the most fitting outcome).
Kansas City was the early May venue for the two teams' first head-to-head battle of 2023; fortunately for the Royals, they avoided a series sweep with a Sunday afternoon win that derailed Oakland's chance to shed the "worst" label. Had the A's won that day, Kansas City would have replaced them at the bottom of the majors.
Now, the stage is set for another tussle between the two teams who've both lost more games than any of the majors' other 28 clubs. The Royals, 40-86, and A's, 34-90, begin a three-game series in Oakland Monday night.
Sweeping the other would probably have no impact on how either cellar-dweller finishes this season — last-place Kansas City is 10 games behind fourth-place Chicago in the American League Central, and the last-place A's trail fourth-place Los Angeles by an astounding 26.5 games in the AL West.
In the "race" to avoid being baseball's worst, Kansas City leads the A's by five games, a margin the Royals can increase to a more comfortable eight if they sweep the series. An Oakland sweep, however, would trim KC's lead to a mere two games.
What will happen is anyone's guess. These are, after all, two bad teams headed in the same general direction.