Rolling KC Royals make more big statements

The club continues to prove it's for real.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

If not for KC Royals starter Seth Lugo, who's giving no one any quarter this season, Detroit's Tarik Skubal would be, at least statistically speaking, the best pitcher in the American League. He entered Wednesday afternoon's game at Kauffman Stadium 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA.

Unfortunately for Skubal and the rest of the AL, though, Lugo is second to none this year. He leads the league in wins (seven) and ERA (1.79). But Skubal remains dangerous, a pitching force to be reckoned with, and the kind of hurler the Royals have to beat to stay in the long race for the playoffs.

And beat him is just what they did Wednesday. The Royals jumped Skubal early when, after Salvador Perez fanned to open their half of the second inning, Nelson Valáazquez walked, Freddy Fermin doubled him in, and Garrett Hampson, starting at second because manager Matt Quatraro gave hot-hitting Michael Massey the day off, drove in Fermin with his own double.

Velázquez then punished Skubal with a leadoff solo home run in the fourth before successive singles by Maikel Garcia, Bobby Witt Jr., and Vinnie Pasquantino in the fifth resulted in KC's fourth run off Skubal. That run, driven in by Pasquantino, gave the Royals all they needed for an 8-3 win, their second straight sweep after beating Oakland three times over the weekend, and a perfect 6-0 homestand. Skubal was done when the inning ended.

The six hits Skubal gave Kansas City marked only the third time in 10 starts he's surrendered more than five, and he'd allowed more than two only twice before Wednesday. The Royals didn't overwhelm him, but they made yet another statement by beating him.

Kansas City's offense clicked again Wednesday

As important as not letting Skubal dominate them was, he wasn't the only Detroit hurler the Royals mistreated. With the score 4-2, Detroit skipper A.J. Hinch dispatched Alex Lange to the mound for the seventh, but he fared no better than Skubal. In the only inning he lasted, Lange gave up four runs on three hits and a pair of walks — Witt drove in two runs with his 15th double of the season and Freddy Fermin's bases-loaded single accounted for the Royals' seventh and eighth runs of the game.

Fermin, who hit only .238 in April, raised his average to .299 and had three RBI. Witt was 2-for-4 with two RBI and will miss the Tigers — he went 6-for-12 with a double, two home runs, and eight RBI against them in this three-game set.

Beating Tarik Skubal wasn't the only statement the KC Royals made

Wednesday's victory was the Royals' sixth in a row, pushed their record to 32-19, and increased their lead over third-place Minnesota to 5.5 games. Unfortunately, though, first-place Cleveland continued its trend of matching the Royals win-for-win by beating the Mets, and maintained their 1.5 game lead over KC.

But the win continued a key trend of their own for the Royals. The club won't make the playoffs without succeeding against their division rivals; proving they can do what's needed, they're 11-5 in the Central after beating the Tigers. They haven't faced the Guardians yet, but get seven cracks against them next month.

And what about Cole Ragans? After making his mark last season, Ragans continued proving 2023 was no fluke — he struck out 12 and gave up only one hit in six innings. He's pitched badly only twice in 11 starts and is 4-3, 3.34.

Statements? The Royals have been making them all season, and made more Wednesday.

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