The bats come alive
It wasn't just the bats. There was quality pitching and some smooth defense. Sometimes, it just all comes together.
Some games, everything clicks.
When that happens—as it did on Tuesday evening for the Royals at The K—the result is quite pleasing.
Quality starting pitching, timely hitting and young prospects collecting a couple of milestones. It all made for an entertaining game of baseball. Perhaps the most entertaining game of the year.
Witt Jr. powers up
When a guy with major league power potential, hits the first home run of his career, it’s worth chronicling. Bobby Witt Jr. went down and got a changeup.
Seriously, that pitch was diving, well out of the strike zone. If I posted a pitch chart of Witt’s at bat, you’d think Baseball Savant had the sequencing of pitches backward.
If you’re going to knock one out of The K, especially in this new deadball era, it would have to have come against that meaty sinker that is labeled as pitch number one. Right?
It just goes to show how locked in Witt is at the dish. He currently owns an 11 game hitting streak where he’s raking at .342/.386/.488. In that span he has a pair of walks up against only seven strikeouts in 44 plate appearances. Quite the contrast from his first 10 games of his big league career where he whiffed 13 times in 40 PAs.
Yes, the start was frustrating, but the great thing about a prospect like Witt is that all you have to do is give him time. I should amend that to read the great thing about a prospect like Witt is that a club like the Royals have to give him time. Even they knew they couldn’t jerk the kid around and move him in and out of the lineup. He had to play every day. Now he’s rewarding that necessary patience.
It’s such a pretty swing.
That pitch was so low. The catcher is turning his wrist to recieve the ball. What a great piece of hitting.
Melendez makes his debut
Speaking of MLB firsts, MJ Melendez made his debut for the Royals on Tuesday as the designated hitter. He went 1-3 with his first major league hit coming in the bottom of the sixth.
A nice, controlled swing to take the ball a 92 MPH 2-0 sinker the other way for the knock. First hits are cool.
Melendez also drew a walk in the Royals’ “keep the line moving” seventh inning when they batted around and scored a season-high five runs. Only one of the pitches was close to the zone, but it was a solid PA from Melendez who resisted the temptation to chase.
Melendez was off to a slow start in Omaha, hitting just .167/.286/.295 in his first 21 games, but the strikeout rate was a solid 24 percent and the walk rate was just north of 14 percent. It says to me the adjustments he made between 2019 and 2021 are sticking. Like Witt, Melendez is another guy who, now that he’s up, the Royals will have to be patient with. What a nice, controlled piece of hitting.
Speaking of which, we are very close to the Optimal Royals Lineup of 2022, aren’t we? Edward Olivares is getting fairly regular time in right these days and now owns a five game hitting streak after collecting four hits on Thursday, including a pair of doubles. He’s showing he should be the everyday right fielder. Of course the Royals are enamored with Michael A. Taylor’s defense, but if they could just see fit to at least platooning him with Kyle Isbel in center, we’d be getting closer to that ideal lineup.
And don’t look now, but Nick Pratto is getting warm in Omaha. He’s now hitting .253/.320/.483 and is tied for the team lead with five dingers. The guy he’s tied with, Vinnie Pasquatino is still crushing the baseball, hitting .303/.427/.592. I know I wrote just yesterday that it looks like Carlos Santana is coming around, but with both these young guys putting up quality plate appearances in Omaha and with the pipeline opening ever so wider with the addition of Melendez, the heat is on. They really should be thinking of going all-in on the prospects.
Let the kids play.
Keep the line moving, 2022 version
That seventh inning saw the Royals score five times. For some fun perspective, that was more runs they they scored in their previous three games combined. This offense has been dry.
It started with a Nicky Lopez walk and then…
Olivares double - one run
Benintendi single - two runs
Merrifield sac fly - three runs
Witt single - four runs
Taylor single - five runs
Five hits, two walks and a productive out. Yeah, that’s about keeping the line moving.
Hitting is down across the majors, but watching this Royals offense flail on a nightly basis is not fun. For one night thought, it was highly entertaining.
Keller shoves - again
All these words, and not really a mention of another outstanding outing from Brad Keller. All this dude is doing in 2022 is shoving every fifth day. It’s amazing.
He threw way more sliders on Tuesday than he has in any previous start this year. Fifty percent of his offerings were the slider. As a result, he filled up the zone a bit more than usual on the pitch, but managed to skirt any kind of danger.
Fourteen Keller sliders were put in play. One went for a hit. A lousy single. Five starts in to the 2022 season and opposing batters are hitting .071 against the pitch. It’s a weapon even if it catches too much of the plate.
Keller only got four swings and misses on the pitch (probably what you would expect on a night where he only struck out two) but was able to navigate just fine. The game log is kind of wild.
First inning - leadoff single, erased on a double play
Second inning - two-out walk
Third inning - one-out single
Fourth inning - one-out double
Fifth inning - two-out walk
Sixth inning - no runners allowed
Seven inning - leadoff walk, one-out single
The seventh was the only time it felt dangerous for Keller. And since it was so late in the game, Mike Matheny had his fireman, Collin Snider, at the ready. A double play ground ball later and Keller finished his night with 6.1 scoreless frames.
It has to be so difficult to be a pitcher for this club. Every start is a highwire act, where if they allow two to three runs it looks impossible for the offense to overcome. Don’t forget that when Keller put those two runners on in the seventh, it was a 2-0 game with the outcome very much in doubt. The offensive explosion came after Keller exited.
Still, those runs were welcome no matter when they came across. And another fantastic Keller start made sure the Royals were always in control of this one.
Twins 7, Orioles 2
Jose Miranda collected his first major league hit for the Twins, a run-scoring double in the third, to open the scoring. Overall, Minnesota collected 10 hits, eight for extra bases. Starter Joe Ryan gave up two runs on six hits in 4.2 innings, but the Twins bullpen dealt, allowing just a single baserunner over the final 4.1 frames while punching out five.
White Sox 3, Cubs 1
Ahhhh, the Windy City rivalry. The Sox draw first blood in 2022 behind a Michael Kopec start and five relievers, capped off with another Liam Hendriks save. It was their fourth victory in last 15 games.
Pirates at Tigers - Postponed
The Royals close out their split homestand (or whatever this is called) with a 12:10 PM game against the Cardinals. Adam Wainwright gets the start for St. Louis while KC counters with Kris Bubic.
The Royals are off on Thursday before heading out on a three city, nine game road trip with stops in Baltimore, Texas and Colorado. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, this is a good time for the team to collect a few wins.
I'm all in with you on Isbel. I wish they could give more at bats.