The offense ignores opportunity
A vintage Zack Greinke start went for nothing as the offense squandered precious run-scoring opportunities. The Royals drop their fourth straight.
This isn’t going so great.
After starting the season with a couple of (close) wins, the Royals’ offense remains largely in cold storage. Now, when the pitching has given them a fighting chance, the margin of error with a lineup that has gone dormant is razor-thin. Zack Greinke delivered another vintage Zack Greinke performance, but Jake Brentz couldn’t keep the Tigers at bay in his inning. The result: a 4-2 loss. The losing streak stands at four games.
(There’s always a little talk around streaks in baseball. When exactly does a string of wins or losses become a streak? For me, I think it’s four games. Feels about right. It’s certainly something to note.)
While the Royals have come a long way since the debacle of 2019, it keeps residence in the memory. That was the year they won their first two games against the White Sox and then promptly went on a 10-game losing streak. I can also callback to April of 1992 when the Royals crashed immediately, losing their first seven and ultimately winning just three of their first 20 that month. There’s a lot to choose from when it comes to poor Aprils in Kansas City. Such is the life of a Royals fan.
Still, I insist this can be different. Last year, with the same nucleus of players, they finished April with a 15-9 record and were atop the Central. Teams will have poor stretches, even the ones with eyes on October. A four-game losing streak in August doesn’t go unnoticed, but it’s a lot less troublesome. Now, we’re left to wonder if this is how the season is going to go.
You have to waste a couple of chances before you can cash in
The Royals have yet to score a run in the first inning this season. This is a problem if you’d like them to ever take a lead again. They squandered a golden opportunity in their half of the frame on Thursday. After Bobby Witt Jr. tripled, he was caught breaking for home on an Andrew Benintendi check swing.
I wasn’t a fan of Witt Jr. breaking for home in that situation. Granted, the contact play was on, meaning he was to break the moment the bat met the ball. Fine. But in this case, Benintendi checked his swing. The wide camera angle along the third base line appeared to show Witt Jr. frozen for just a moment before he dashed home. I actually think he may have been caught in something of a no-man’s land with the ball coming down the line to the third baseman. He made the decision to go. It wasn’t great. Although he did stay in the rundown long enough to get Benny to second. Points for that, I suppose.
In the second, the Royals had a little something cooking with the bottom half of their order after Carlos Santana walked and Hunter Dozier lined a single. With runners on first and second, Mondesi squared to bunt, but got a pitch up and in, resulting in an imperfect bunt that allowed Mize to go to second for a force out.
God, I hate the bunt in that situation.
I mean, I hate 98 percent of bunts. But this one was especially rank. For one thing, it’s incredibly early. Why give up an out in the second inning when there is so much baseball yet to play? Also, I really don’t like the idea of bunting to advance runners for Michael A. Taylor, who strikes out a lot. (Which he did.) Maybe Mondesi had the idea to bunt for a hit. Nicky Lopez does it all the time. Except with guys like Santana and Dozier in front of him, they’re a threat to get forced out. They don’t move all that fast.
It’s just a frustrating play to watch unfold.
When a team has a runner on first and second and nobody out, the average scoring around 1.4 runs in that inning according to the Run Expectancy Matrix. Not swinging away in that situation, hurt the Royals.
Taylor had an opportunity at redemption just two innings later. Another triple, this one from Hunter Dozier, and a Mondesi walk put runners on the corners for the center fielder with one out. Again, the contact play was on. (It always seems to be on for the Royals.) This time…success!
It wasn’t hit all that hard—79.7 mph off the bat—but with the Jeimer Candelario playing even with the bag at third, the reaction time is reduced. Once Candelario didn’t field the ball cleanly, the Royals had their run.
And then they plated another on a Merrifield single. Two runs in an inning without a bunt or other type of productive out! Who knew that could be done?
Alas, that was all they would score.
Seriously, never bunt
With a runner on first and nobody out in the sixth inning, Mondesi did it again! Was it not enough to try once? And again, he goes out of the strike zone to get the bat on the ball. And again, he fails.
You hear talk about “Baseball IQ” from time to time…guys have a great baseball IQ. What Mondesi did at the plate on Thursday…that wasn’t it.
This is the pitch chart of both Mondesi bunt attempts:
You know how the baseball gods take exception? That failed sacrifice attempt was the first in a string of 10 consecutive outs made by the Royals offense. They wouldn’t have another runner reach base until Taylor walked with one out in the ninth.
Zack being Zack
I thought Greinke’s first inning was a masterpiece of command.
As I was writing this, I thought to myself, “Do I really want to use the word ‘masterpiece?’” Yeah. Yeah, I do. Look at that chart. Stare at it. Nothing in the middle of the dish and a generous strike zone. The outs are on the edges, as are the fouls. Swing all you like, opposing hitters…You’re not doing anything with those pitches.
The second inning wasn’t more of the same as Greinke started catching far too much of the plate while spraying the change around. He required 26 pitches to get out of that inning. The great thing about Greinke is, he is always making the adjustments to get back into the game.
He allowed just three singles the rest of the night, with two of those erased on double plays. He evenly distributed his fastball, change and curve, but only recorded four swings and missed on the night. He had a CSW% of 21 percent and didn’t strike out a single Detroit batter. It was just the fourth time in his career he started a game and didn’t strike anyone out.
There needs to be an asterisk on that nugget, given his start on July 7, 2012, for Milwaukee. He was ejected after throwing just four pitches. He went ahead and started the next night because…he only threw four pitches. That was the last game before the All-Star break. And then, because it wouldn’t be a fun Greinke fact without something really fun, he started the first game after the break. Meaning he started three games in a row for the Brewers. See? Fun!
I also like that his previous start with no strikeouts was against the Royals.
Snider Slider or Slider Snider
I could go either way, but this is a very nice pitch.
That’s 41 inches of vertical break. If you’re curious.
Alas, it was Jake Brentz who drew the short straw on Thursday. Between Snider, Dylan Coleman and Taylor Clarke, those three combined for three scoreless innings with three strikeouts and just one hit allowed. Brentz on the other hand gave up three consecutive two-out singles which ultimately provided the margin of defeat.
I didn’t think Brentz located poorly. The go-ahead single from Victor Reyes was a fastball down below the zone on a 1-2, it was just a good piece of hitting. The fastball at 95 mph seems to rise when elevated. The slider showed decent depth. But that was another pitch that he left in the middle of the dish once and it was squared up for a single.
It’s such a tightrope that is walked when coming out of the bullpen. On Thursday, Brentz took the fall.
Mariners 5, White Sox 1
Jarred Kelenic, Cal Raleigh and Mitch Haniger provided all the offense for Seattle with home runs. Logan Gilbert and four relievers allowed just four hits and one unearned run. The Mariners escape Chicago with one win in three games.
The second game of the four-game set with the Tigers is tonight. Here’s how the pitching matchups look heading into the weekend.
Friday - Tarik Skubal vs Brad Keller at 7:10 PM
Saturday - Matt Manning vs Kris Bubic at 3:10 PM
Sunday - Tyler Alexander vs Carlos Hernández at 1:10 PM