The Kansas City Royals, for the first time this year, walked away with a series win after taking down the Minnesota Twins two games to one. The Royals' pitching as a whole has been a very pleasant surprise, as it held the Twins to under two runs per game in the series with both the starters and bullpen finding their strides. However, this series was still far from a perfect showing against a team that looks like it's headed for a season at the bottom of the American League Central.
On Friday, the Royals are out in Seattle for a series against the Mariners and while we wait for the absurdly late 8:40 p.m. first pitch, let’s go over the good, the meh and the bad from this most recent set.
The Royals' bullpen has been spectacular to start the season, as it's riding a 21-inning scoreless streak. The likes of Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow and company have baffled hitters from the get-go with their mix of gas and filth. At the moment, what makes this bullpen better than the previous rendition is the emergence of reliable options outside of the big two.
Depth is being spearheaded by the likes of Amir Garrett, who seems to have gotten his footing back after a rocky season last year with the Cincinnati Reds. Like all bullpens do at some point, the Royals' one will hit a rough patch and allow five-plus runs over ten innings. For right now, though, the Royals possess the gold standard of arm barns in the league.
Daniel Lynch and Zach Greinke also provided some good starts in the last two games of the series, going five innings apiece and only allowing one run between them. When you hold a team to fewer than two runs a game in a three-game series, normally you’re walking away with a sweep. Alas, pitching in and of itself does not put runs on the board. Overall, the top and bottom of the Royals' rotation can each walk away with positives.
Hunter Dozier now has a pair of home runs on the year, and both are game-winners. Dozier also got some time in the field when Cam Gallagher was moved to catcher and Salvador Perez was moved to designated hitter for a couple of games. I still don’t feel like the Royals have played their best lineup yet but if Dozier can give them competency over at first, it gives the Royals some options on Perez’s rest days.
Also, props must be given to Andrew Benintendi for continuing his strong start to the season. He collected hits in all three games and was just shy of hitting what would’ve been a game-tying home run on Thursday. The longer the Royals let Benintendi remain unsigned via extension, the more and more his price tag goes up. With their lack of interest in playing the likes of Edward Olivares and the now-optioned Kyle Isbel, they have no other choices for left field.
Carlos Hernandez should be a lot better than he is but for some reason, his power stuff doesn’t result in high strikeout numbers. This is a red flag to consider when it comes time to discuss a new contract. However, unlike Jackson Kowar, he somehow finds a way to not get completely hit around when he doesn’t have his good stuff. During such an outing, he managed to grind his way through 4-1/3 innings pitched on Tuesday.
Michael A. Taylor has also played right at the level one would expect of him offensively, but the Royals probably would like to start seeing a bit more pop at the plate from him. Taylor did raise his batting average nine points this series and was one of the few Royals to get on base in a dismal offensive showing in the finale. He has also been his usual self defensively, which is an elite player in the field.
The Royals have a perfect record this year when Carlos Santana is not in the lineup. So naturally, Matheny put him back in for the series finale and Santana promptly went 0-3 to drop his average down to .069. This isn’t just on Santana, because the Royals right now are trotting out a lineup that features three other players hitting below .150 (Whit Merrifield, Bobby Witt Jr. and Adalberto Mondesi).
Witt, no matter how much he struggles, is staying put in the lineup. With that said, Isbel just got sent down because dropping anyone else from the lineup was inconceivable. The offense is what it is and I don’t want to end every article talking about its struggles, so let’s shake it up a bit and talk about the manager of the team.
I can’t decide if Mike Matheny is managing as someone scared for his job or if he is just this comfortable ignoring everything going on around him. This wasn’t a scenario where Isbel got four starts and just looked overmatched — he got one plate appearance in two games. For Matheny to say that he couldn’t expect Isbel to be ready to play because of a “lack of repetitions” is embarrassing.
Not only was Isbel better than Merrifield, Santana, Mondesi, Dozier, Olivares, and Ryan O’Hearn last season, but he was one of the Royals' best players in spring training. This is a top-five prospect in the organization that somehow, there's no use for. I could also write an entire post about how bad it was to have Nicky Lopez try to sac bunt down by one in the ninth, but I don’t have the energy for it.
Series Grade: B-
The Royals pitched well enough to sweep the Twins convincingly, but the offense could only muster an average of two runs a game. They played almost exactly like they had in their previous three series. The main difference, though is that the Royals walked out on the winning side. That's something to be happy about, but not something to necessarily be satisfied with.
This next series against the Mariners will say a lot about the Royals and their supposed playoff ambitions because if they find themselves near the wild card race at the end of the year, more than likely they’ll have to compete with a team like Seattle for that spot.