Heading into Saturday afternoon needing a win over the New York Yankees in order to keep their hopes of splitting their late-July series alive, the Kansas City Royals couldn't get the job done. Unlike Friday night's collapse, however, this one seemed to be over from a very early point in the game.
By the bottom of the first inning, starting pitcher Jonathan Heasley had already given up a pair of earned runs and thrown 33 pitches. The second inning wasn't much kinder to the Oklahoma State product, as New York struck for two more runs to take a 4-0 advantage in their home park. In his first game back from the injured list following a bout with right shoulder tendinitis, Heasley was simply unable to establish himself early on. He talked about those troublesome first couple of innings after the game.
"I just kind of got off to a slow start," Heasley said. "Didn't execute in the first inning overall with anything, really. When I was in the zone, it was [in the] middle and obviously, this lineup is going to make you pay for it. With that being said, I'm glad I got out of that inning the way I did. Kind of felt like I limited the damage and then felt like I settled in a little bit, honestly after that."
Heasley indeed did settle in after that, seeing his offense add a run in the top of the third and then himself toss a one-two-three bottom of the third. The Royals added another run in the top of the fourth, but things then unraveled once the Yankees stepped back into the batter's box. Errors by shortstop Maikel Garcia and second baseman Whit Merrifield served as roadblocks instead of helpers for Heasley, and a DJ LeMahieu single gave New York its fifth run in four frames. Heasley was removed thereafter and replaced by Wyatt Mills, who stopped the bleeding. When asked about how much the Royals' errors in the field impacted his start, Heasley said developments like those are simply how baseball works.
"Obviously, it's part of the game and it's going to happen," Heasley said. "You've just got to try to focus on the next pitch, keep doing your job and try to make the next pitch and get the guy out. I felt like I settled in, like you [the reporter] said, got through the third and then was looking good to get through the fourth there. That's just the way baseball goes. Wouldn't have done anything differently there in the fourth inning and unfortunately, I had to come out then. But it is what it is, that's just the game."
It wasn't very long ago at all that Heasley looked like one of Kansas City's most promising young pitchers. Dating back to a June 21 start against the Los Angeles Angels, however, the 25-year-old has given up four or more runs in all but one outing. His home run issues have crept back up again and when combined with some spotty command that has betrayed him and led to seemingly countless walks in 2022, that's a recipe for disaster. Even if Heasley is able to settle in after allowing opponents to do some damage, sometimes that damage is done too early and too often.
It's been a good month for a few of the Royals' young starters but unfortunately for Heasley, he hasn't been a member of that group. For the rest of the season, he'll look to find some stability and consistency. Not only could there be a spot in the starting rotation on the line, but bullpen competition is ramping up as well. It's time for Kansas City to find out who belongs in the club's plans for 2023, and it's time for Heasley to buckle down and get back on track.