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The Good, Meh & Bad from the Royals' Series Against the Mariners

The Royals received a wake-up call while in Seattle.

We are officially two weeks’ worth of games into the 2022 MLB season and I think it’s fair to say that as of right now, the Kansas City Royals have drastically underperformed relative to expectations. The Royals were handled by the Seattle Mariners, getting swept in the three-game series and getting outscored 22-12.

Sometimes you call something ahead of time and things don’t quite come to fruition, but this result was very much foreseeable. The bullpen's pitching — outside of game one — was substandard, and the offense still has yet to show the faintest sign of consistency. Manager Mike Matheny also didn’t make anything easier for the boys in blue either.

It's going to be hard to come up with the first third of this article but alas, there were still some positives to take away from this sweep.

The Good

Jun 11, 2021; Oakland, California, USA; Kansas City Royals left fielder Andrew Benintendi (16) reacts after being thrown out at home against the Oakland Athletics during the eighth inning at RingCentral Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Benintendi continues his stellar start to the season, as his batting average is now up to .388 after recording a hit in all three games. He drove in a pair of runs, including a pinch-hit single on Sunday in the 10th inning that gave Kansas City a one-run lead. The leadoff position for the Royals has been underwhelming, to say the least, and it might be time for the Royals' best hitter to start getting more at-bats than he already is. If it wasn’t for Benintendi, the Royals might be sitting closer to a 2-12 record than their deceivingly competitive 5-9 mark.

Carlos Hernandez also had seemingly the best start out of the three Royals starters last week, going 5-1/3 innings and grinding his way through another start where he did not have his best stuff but kept his team in the game. While it was far from a great start, Hernandez is one of the few pitchers to improve on each performance he’s had this year.

Hunter Dozier also continued his clutch streak, as he blasted the game-tying home run on Sunday — giving him three on the year and all three have either been game-winning or game-tying shots. The only issue for Dozier is that the bulk of his hot start is being propped up by his clutch antics and .529 SLG, as he hasn’t drawn a walk all season. If his SLG falls back to his career average, his OPS goes from a stellar .818 to a mediocre .727.

The Meh

Apr 14, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Bobby Witt Jr. (7) fields a ground ball during the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Bobby Witt Jr. hit above .300 for the first time in a series, which is good, and the glove has still been stellar — easing people’s concerns about his ability to man the hot corner. However, all of his hits were singles and outside of his hit on Saturday, he did no damage at the plate. The Royals as a franchise, both currently and in the future, will go as far as Witt can carry them and while this series could be a solid building block going forward, he needs to become a more dangerous threat with the bat.

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Joel Payamps, even though he ended up allowing the winning run on Sunday, still managed to go the entire series being perhaps the Royals' best reliever. The Royals aren’t necessarily hurting for bullpen depth right now, but Payamps showed in spurts last year that he was capable of being a reliable bridge guy to get the team to the likes of Josh Staumont and Scott Barlow.

The Bad

Apr 10, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi (27) fields a ground ball during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The bullpen finally had a bad game as Jake Brentz went full Vin Mazzaro on Saturday, allowing five earned runs after starting the inning walking the first four batters and giving up a double two batters later before Matheny saw enough. This came after the Royals rolled out Staumont, who elected to not use his 100 mph fastball and instead tried to float his curveball by Ty France. France promptly deposited it into the outfield for the game-tying RBI.

It's also clear that the Royals are wasting their time trying to convince themselves that Adalberto Mondesi is a major league-caliber player, as he went 1-11 in the series with seven strikeouts. His slash line for the year is .125/.176/.125, and his OPS dropped from .350 going into the series all the way down to .301. To say the Royals have wasted the last seven years on a player with the offensive IQ of a blindfolded Bartolo Colon doesn't appear to be an understatement at this point. 

Matheny is as responsible for the game two defeat as the bullpen, as it was his defensive positioning that pulled Michael A. Taylor out of center field and moved Dozier to right field to make room for the bat of Ryan O’Hearn. The two-run double in the sixth may have been run down by Taylor and Whit Merrifield, or Edward Olivares probably would’ve thrown the runner out at the plate in the seventh. Also, benching Nicky Lopez and Benintendi in the final game of the series when Kansas City had already lost the first two games of the series is inexcusable.

Because of the three-batter minimum rule, Matheny couldn’t go out to get Brentz after his second walk. However, he could’ve after the third or the fourth. Instead, he waited until the game was all but over after Brentz gave up a double to Jesse Winker to give the M’s a three-run lead with two men on and no outs. As I said last week, I can’t tell whether Matheny is managing like he’s scared for his job or if he is managing like someone who’s leaning into galaxy brain antics. He’s done very little to answer that question.

Series Grade: D+

Apr 12, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny (22) looks on from the dugout before a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The reason why there is a plus attached to the end of this grade is that all three of these losses were defined by one inning. Game one was the four-run fourth, game two was the six-run eighth and the series finale was determined by a walk-off hit. The fight the Royals showed to tie up the last two games of the series after being down early was admirable, but they still left plenty of opportunities on the table.

The Royals have yet to win a game where their opponent has scored more than four runs on the year so unless the pitching plays at a top-10 level, there’s not going to be much winning with the roster as it's currently constructed. I do not doubt that Matheny is a good guy, but I do have my doubts surrounding his ability to be a good manager. He chose to make the defense worse in game two to force O’Hearn into the lineup, then decided that it was a good idea to bench his two best bats on Sunday.

They’ve got the White Sox up next and so far, the Royals have only managed to defeat teams in the division this year. Perhaps that’ll bode better for them. However, if they put in a similar performance as they did against Seattle, changes will need to be made both on the field and in the dugout.