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Three up, three down: Opening Day
Greinke is solid in his 2023 debut, but the offense is a no-show as Royals drop the opener by a score of 2-0.
One of the things I’d like to do this season is to write an insta-analysis of the just-completed game. Recaps the next day are fun and all, and I’m sure if something monumental happened in a game, I’ll be writing about it, but I think it may be beneficial to fire off a postgame dispatch. It won’t be every game. But I’m hopeful it will be often enough that it’s worthwhile.
I’m taking my cue from the late Grant Wahl who, on his soccer Substack, would offer a quick writeup of a game he covered. Wahl, if you’re not familiar, was a Kansas City native who wrote for Sports Illustrated covering college basketball and soccer. It was soccer that was his passion and his Substack was brilliant. He passed away in Qatar, covering the World Cup last December. While Wahl passed far too young, his was a life well lived.
So we’ll see how this goes. It could be a good time. Or it could be a little much to do on a nightly basis. Say, why don’t you subscribe to see what happens!
The first game is in the books and the Royals drop the opener 2-0. They were outhit by the Twins 10 to 2 and just couldn’t get anything going on offense. Starter Zack Greinke went 5.1 innings, striking out four, but takes the loss. He was charged with both runs.
Item One: Setting the Opening Day roster
To set their 26-man roster ahead of the game, the Royals traded reliever Richard Lovelady to the Braves for cash considerations. Atlanta then optioned the lefty to Triple-A Gwinett.
That closes the books on the Royals career for Lovelady, a pitcher who seemingly never got and love (sorry!) from the organization. He underwent Tommy John surgery back in 2021 and spent most of last year rehabbing. He had a strong spring for the Royals, striking out 10 and walking none in eight innings of work, which had me thinking he had a decent shot to make the team.
Here’s what JJ Picollo had to say about the trade.
The three guys Picollo is referring to would be Jackie Bradley Jr., Matt Duffy and Franmil Reyes, non-roster invitees to spring camp who made the Opening Day roster.
I’m not going to get too bent out of shape on the Royals moving on from a reliever at this point in his career. Sure, it could come back to bite the club and it’s entirely possible (probable, even) the Royals are selling low, but as Picollo mentioned, Lovelady appears to still be in the process of building velocity in his recovery from surgery and the Royals are obviously comfortable with their current stable of relievers.
Having written that, it wouldn’t be surprising if we see Lovelady pitching in October for a team that is almost a lock for postseason play. That could sting.
Item Two: Opportunity lost
Kyle Isbel was the offensive spark for the Royals, who ultimately failed to ignite anything against the enigmatic Pablo López. It felt like the guy was on base all spring (he finished with a .438 OBP) and he carried that over to Opening Day. Isbel was the Royals first baserunner of the game when he drew a four-pitch walk in the bottom of the third. In his next at bat in the fifth, he laced a one-out double to the right-center gap. Baseball Savant had the exit velocity at 104 MPH, the Royals’ hardest-hit ball against López.
It was a little moment after the double that was incredibly impactful and impressive. He got a massive lead off second before Lopez delivered a pitch to Edward Olivares. Lopez broke contact for his one time out in the PA. He was then a bit preoccupied with Isbel, delivering a ball out of the zone before coming in too far and hitting Olivares.
After Bobby Witt Jr. walked, we saw a truly suboptimal plate appearance from MJ Melendez. Jumping ahead 3-0, he watched a fastball down the pipe, which is fine. Still ahead in the count, Melendez then chased two consecutive pitches out of the zone.
The last pitch resulted in a weak ground ball to first and a 3-2-4 double play. Rally extinguished.
Item Three: Momentum shift
Do you believe in momentum in baseball? Maybe you should. Immediately after the Royals squandered their opportunity, the Twins capitalized on theirs. Isbel, starting in center and who otherwise had a very strong defensive game, made an ill-advised dive on a Byron Buxton line drive to the right-center gap. Really, the correct play there would’ve been to take the angle and play the ball on a hop. It’s going to be a double. Take a chance and dive, you put the leadoff batter on third. Which is exactly what happened.
After a single from Trevor Larnach to open the scoring, Grienke was done one batter later. Southpaw Amir Garrett entered the game, ostensibly to face a couple of left-handed batters, but the Twins countered with a pair of pinch hitters. Their moves were successful as they drew a walk and a single to plate a second run.
The Royals never threatened again and those two runs were all the Twins would need to take the opener.