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Three Up, Three Down: Beatdown
MJ Melendez brings home four and Nick Pratto drives in three as the Royals crush the White Sox. Even Jackie Bradley Jr. gets in on the act. A total team effort.
We’ve been suckered into this before, but when the offense fires on all cylinders, this is a dangerous-looking ballclub. On Monday Bobby Witt Jr., Vinnie Pasquantino, MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto each had two hits. Salvador Perez added an opposite-field single (that he was thrilled with), Nick Massey had a key at-bat in a big inning and even the offensively-challenged Jackie Bradley Jr. added to the pile with a pair of doubles, a single, three RBI and two runs scored.
It was that kind of night.
On the pitching side, Zack Greinke was Zack Greinke (which is always a good thing), Jose Cuas returned from his brief Triple-A exile to squash an inning and Amir Garrett lost his cookies after striking out Elvis Andrus.
Many times that moment with Garrett would be emblematic of the 2023 Royals. Not on Monday.
The Royals crushed the White Sox by a score of 12-5. They won back-to-back games for the second time all season, and are now 3-4 on the homestand. The record doesn’t do justice to this offense of late. The Royals are averaging 7.4 runs per game on this in the seven games against the Orioles, A’s and now the White Sox. Unfortunately, the pitchers have coughed up double-digit runs in three of those games.
Hey! No negativity here! Only one team scored in double-digits on Monday and that was the Royals. Max Castillo entered after Garrett had to leave the game and recorded the final eight outs of the night with minimal damage.
A win is a win. And this was a very good win indeed.
It felt as if The Royals were on the brink all night and they finally broke this game open in the sixth inning, plating a season-high (for an inning) eight runs.
There were a couple of key moments in that inning that I’d like to focus on. First, the Maikel Garcia plate appearance with runners on first and second with nobody out. Garcia was up there trying to sacrifice.
Remember, the score was 4-4 at the time, but White Sox starter Dylan Cease was looking shaky. He just wasn’t having a good night and after a single and a hit batter, the Royals were looking to gift him an out so the bottom third of the order could try to get a run or two home.
Man, I just abhor the sacrifice bunt. Especially when you’re using it for a batter like Garcia, who has been putting a charge into practically everything he hits. Sure, there’s a double-play threat, but I’d rather take my chance with a guy who’s feeling it as opposed to gifting a struggling pitcher an out.
The good news is, except for one pitch in the zone that Garcia bunted foul, Cease couldn’t even accept that gift. Garcia walked and manager Pedro Grifol went to his bullpen.
That backfired as sidearming lefty Aaron Bummer couldn’t retire left-handed hitting Michael Massey who singled to left and Jackie Bradley Jr. who doubled to right. Just like that, the Royals had three runs and the lead.
Bummer retired the next two hitters and was about to get out of the inning. The next pivotal moment was the intentional walk to Salvador Perez to face MJ Melendez. Now, I don’t dislike the free pass as much as the sacrifice bunt, but there’s a bit of danger in that situation where Bummer couldn’t retire a couple of same-side hitters and you choose to pass up for an aggressive free swinger for a guy in MJ Melendez who is looking like he’s getting locked in.
Melendez had homered earlier in the game and followed that up with a line drive to center, scoring two more.
Another pitching change followed. Jimmy Lambert walked Edward Olivares and Nick Pratto cleared the bases with a double on an elevated changeup.
This is such a pretty swing.
It was the killer instinct from this offense that I was bemoaning about during the Oakland series. The White Sox, since losing 10 in a row, have been playing better baseball of late winning five of their last seven. There’s still a whiff of fragility around that club, though. When the opportunity presents itself, you have to grab it. That’s exactly what the Royals did on Monday. It was good to see that kind of bludgeoning against a vulnerable opponent. It’s been far too long.
I know we have debates over the most exciting play in baseball, but for my money, just give me some smooth defense.
You know you’re going to see some fine glovework when Zack Greinke is on the mound. The dude can still field his position and he’s always going to get some choppers and comebackers hit in his direction. On Monday though we saw some great defense (pretty much) all around the diamond. Home run hero Melendez made a great dash to the right field line before laying out to make a catch on a Hanser Alberto fly ball in the second. A run scored on the sac fly but with his defense, Melendez prevented the inning from unraveling.
I’d really like to get the catch probability on this. I’m telling you, Melendez has made himself into a fine outfielder.
In the fourth, Alberto attempted a different tack, attempting to reach via a bunt to the left side of the infield. Too bad for him regular shortstop dude and all-around top-notch defender Maikel Garcia was manning the hot corner. Garcia made a fantastic charging play, bare handing the ball and making a throw for the first out of the inning.
Really, the whole infield distinguished themselves with the leather on Monday. They routinely made the difficult plays and did so with panache. It was fun to watch.
On the flip side though was Edward Olivares. I mean, you can’t fault the effort. You just wish he could, you know, actually make the catch. His error came in the second on a shallow fly ball off the bat of Gavin Sheets. It was a catch that should’ve been made, but that’s just what you get from Olivares in the outfield.
You can’t have everything.
I really don’t want to be the guy that complains about the umps…But I’m going to complain about the umps. Specifically, home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez.
Here are the strikes he called against Royals hitters on Monday.
That’s awful. Can’t wait to see the Ump Scorecard tomorrow. Guaranteed to be obscene.
What really got my attention about the zone was Garcia’s first at-bat of the night.
I mean, this is just pure, grade-A horseshit. Garcia didn’t see anything near the zone in five pitches, but the first two were called strikes. That put him in a hole against a pitcher who can be difficult to face even in the best of times.
Garcia has come up and is off to a great start. He’s hitting .348/.346/.435 in his first 26 plate appearances and even his outs have been scalded. His average exit velocity on balls in play is around 92 MPH with a 13-degree launch angle. Those are ropes, my friends.
For an umpire to basically remove the bat from his hot hands is simply inexcusable. That is all.
The Royals made some noise before lunchtime on Monday, trading minor league outfielder Junior Marin to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor league pitcher James McArthur. The Royals, as you’re certainly aware, need pitching. That was before Ryan Yarbrough caught a comebacker on Sunday afternoon. While McArthur was assigned to Omaha, he is on the 40-man roster. I would assume he will be in Kansas City shortly.
On the surface, McArthur isn’t an impressive pitching prospect, but the tools are there. The fastball lives in the mid to low 90s, but the curveball is his best pitch. Baseball America rated that offering as the best curveball in the Phillies system ahead of the 2022 season. As BA notes, at 6-foot-7, McArthur is a large person, which leads to some difficulty in repeating his delivery which leads to issues with command. This year, pitching for Lehigh Valley in Triple-A he’s walking almost 4 batters per 9 and was sporting a gaudy 7.31 ERA.
But the Royals need arms and with just a hint of upside, it’s possible they can unlock something with McArthur in the minors. Whether it’s adding a couple of ticks to his fastball or just finding a way for him to stay within himself and repeat his delivery, it’s worth a shot.
As JJ Picollo would remind us, everything—especially pitching—comes with a cost. For the Royals, that’s Marin, a hulking 19-year-old out of Venezuela. Checking in at a beefy 6-2, 240 lbs., he crushed pitching in the Dominican Summer League in his professional debut in 2021, smashing seven homers and hitting .380/.469/.696. The power didn’t follow him last year in the complex league in Arizona as he hit .315/.379/.413.
It seems like he has bat-to-ball talent and the ability to control the zone. He’s going to need to do some work to stay on the field though at that size.
It seems like a bit of a price to pay for a 26-year-old Triple-A pitcher, especially given that we as Estuary Ruiz in Kansas City this last weekend. Ruiz, as you will recall, was part of the package sent to San Diego in 2017 that netted Ryan Buchter, Trevor Cahill and Brandon Maurer. Ruiz has been packaged in a couple of trades since then and given the chance in Oakland as they’ve torn their lineup down to the studs, he is their leadoff hitter, batting a cool .273/.338/.348 while leading the league with 16 steals. Two different kinds of players obviously, but the point is that there is prospect capital that can be spent. You just don’t want to get burned. Besides, it’s still very much early days in Ruiz’s major league career to render any kind of judgment…goodness, are we in danger of getting derailed here.
Anyway, the point is, as always, the Royals need arms and even though McArthur was DFA’d by the Phillies earlier this week when they needed a roster spot, the Royals felt the urge to grab him before he hit the open market or another team swooped in with a better offer. That’s what happens when there’s a lack of depth in the upper reaches of the system.
The corresponding move to get McArthur on the 40-man roster came from designating Franmil Reyes for assignment. As I’ve written several times, Reyes arrived as a low-risk, high-reward potential guy. It just didn’t click for him in Kansas City.