Friday, June 2, 2023
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MLB Preview: Kansas City Royals (12-30) at San Diego Padres (19-22)


GETAWAY DAY GETS AWAY: The Royals suffered a 9-6 loss in Milwaukee yesterday as the Brewers completed the 3-game sweep…the Royals held a 4-1 lead after the top of the 3rd, before Milwaukee scored 7 runs in the bottom half, chasing Jordan Lyles after 2.1 innings and just 60 pitches, just five days after he threw 112 pitches in a complete game loss to the White Sox…the inning began with back-to-back walks by the No. 8 and 9 hitters, after which Christian Yelich singled in a run…the game unraveled from there, as Yelich stole second base and advanced all the way home on a pair of errors that allowed 2 runs to score on the play to tie the game…Lyles was removed following an RBI double by Owen Miller, before Jose Cuas yielded a 3-run home run to Brice Turang, which capped a half inning that saw a 4-1 Royals lead turn into an 8-4 deficit…the Royals offense, which scored 4 runs on 6 hits through the 3rd inning vs. Colin Rea, did not record another hit until the 9th, when Hunter Dozier and Bobby Witt Jr. hit solo shots with the game out of reach.

ELECTRIC SLIDE: For the second time in his young career, Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. earned MLB Electric Play of the Week for a web-gem he made last Tuesday, when he made a diving stop-and-throw from the 5-6 hole to retire former-Royal Hanser Alberto at first base…Witt Jr. and Salvador Perez earned co-Play of the Week honors for a game-saving play at the plate last year on April 9 vs. the Guardians.

DINGER PARTY: The Royals have homered in 13 consecutive games to begin the month of May, after homering in 14 of 29 games in March/April (20 HR total)…it’s the longest active streak in the Majors, and only two teams have a longer streak this season: the Rays, who homered in each of their 1st 22 games to begin the season, the Twins, who homered in 18 straight games from April 18-May 6…this run of 13 straight games with a HR marks the 2nd-longest streak in Royals history, and trails only a club-record 15-game homer streak from April 6-22, 2001.

The Royals have hit 23 homers in 13 games in May, which is already 3 more HR than they had in 29 games in March/April…it’s also tied for the 2nd most HR by the Royals in any 13-game span in franchise history, trailing a span of 24 homers in 13 games from April 5-20, 2004, a run that included a trio of 4-HR games.

The Royals 23 homers in May are tied for 2nd most in the Majors, trailing only the Yankees (26)…of the Royals 23 HR in May, a Major League-most 18 have traveled at least 400 ft., 4 more than the Cardinals (14) for the most in the Majors and 7 more than the Rays (11) for the most among American League teams.

Royals catchers have hit 12 HR this season—including 1 HR in each of the last 3 games—the most of any position on the team and the highest total at the catcher position in the Majors, 2 more than the A’s (10).

Salvador Perez leads the Royals with 9 home runs, including 8 as a catcher…MJ Melendez has homered once as a catcher and Freddy Fermin has 3 HR in 8 games (5 starts) as a catcher since his May 2 recall.

SALVY SPLASHES: Salvador Perez has homered in back-to-back games since returning to the lineup Saturday night, after missing 2 games due to blurry vision…this marks the 35th time he’s homered in consecutive games, 2nd most in franchise history behind George Brett, who did it 38 times…Salvy is tied with Luis Robert Jr. for the Major League lead in HR this month with 6, and in his last 16 games since April 24, he’s tied for the Major League lead with 7 HR and leads the Majors in batting average (.410), slugging (.803) and OPS (1.260).

Perez has recorded a hit in all 9 of his career games vs. the San Diego Padres, in which he’s batting .432 (16-for-37) with 2 doubles, 4 HR and 8 RBI, resulting in an .811 slugging percentage and 1.286 OPS.

MAY FLOWERS: After a slow start in March/April in which the Royals ranked 24th in the Majors in runs per game and 30th in OPS (.624), the Royals offense has blossomed in the month of May, during which they lead the Majors in extra-base hits (55) and slugging percentage (.509) and OPS (.854), rank tied for 2nd in home runs (23), 3rd in runs per game (5.9) and on-base percentage (.345) and tied for 4th in batting average (.273).

In 16 games since his April 28 recall, Nick Pratto is batting .377 (20-for-53) with 13 RBI for a 1.053 OPS.

Michael Massey has reached safely in each of his last 12 starts, and over his last 18 games dating back to April 23, he’s batting .310 (18-for-58) with an .845 OPS, after starting the year 6-for-52 through 17 games.

MJ Melendez has reached safely in a career-high 14 straight games and has a hit in 12 of those, a stretch in which he’s batting .320 (16-for-50) with 6 XBH, 8 RBI and an .895 OPS, after starting the year 15-for-90.

Vinnie Pasquantino has reached safely in 57 of his last 61 games dating back to Sept. 15, 2022, a stretch in which he’s slashing .313/.403/.502 with a .905 OPS…on Friday night, he became the first player in the Majors this season with at least 20 walks and 20 extra-base hits, and has since been joined by Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts and Ronald Acuña Jr…Vinnie has not struck out in his last 30 plate appearances since the 3rd inning a week ago tonight vs. Dylan Cease, which marks the 2nd-longest active streak in the Majors behind Kevin Newman (36 PA)…the franchise record for consecutive plate appearances without a strikeout is 123, set by birthday boy George Brett over 27 games and 2 partial ones from July 1-31, 1976.

Freddy Fermin is out to prove that his Most Valuable Player performance in the Venezuelan Winter League last offseason was no fluke, as he’s batting .400 (8-for-20) in 8 games (5 starts) with the Royals since his May 2 recall with 1 triple, 3 HR and 5 RBI, for a 1.405 OPS…his 3 home runs have averaged 421 ft.

VS. PADRES: The Royals are visiting San Diego this week for just the fifth time and first since 2017, when they won 2 games out of 3…they are 7-11 all-time vs. the Padres—despite outscoring them 109-96 (+13)—but have won 5 of the last 8 meetings after losing 7 straight from 2004-14…the Royals lost 2 of 3 last August, which marked the Padres first trip to Kauffman Stadium in 20 years…San Diego won the 1st 2 games of that set before the Royals avoided the sweep with a 15-7 win in the finale, as they batted around in the 1st, 6th and 8th innings to mark the third game in club history in which they batted around three times…in 18 meetings vs. the Padres, the Royals have scored 109 runs for a 6.1 runs-per-game average, their highest mark vs. any opponent.

The Royals are 3-9 in Interleague play, including 3-6 in National League ballparks…this trip began a stretch in which the Royals are playing six National League opponents in an eight-series stretch, including last weekend’s visit to Milwaukee and this week’s stop in San Diego…the Royals will host the Nationals on the next homestand for the first time since 2016, before playing the Cardinals, Rockies and Marlins in three consecutive series.

ROAD WORK: The Royals are 6-13 on the road this season, including 4 consecutive losses…after winning 2 of 3 games in San Francisco from April 7-9, the Royals have lost five straight road series, including dropping 2 of 3 in Texas, Anaheim, Arizona and 3 of 4 in Minnesota, before being swept in 3 games over the weekend in Milwaukee…the Royals have also lost 5 straight series-opening games on the road, a skid they’re hoping to halt with a win tonight.

BRAD KELLER will make his 9th start of the season—and 114th start of his career— tonight vs. the Padres, which will mark his 1st career start (3rd appearance) against them…he’s in his sixth Major League season after being acquired by Kansas City in a trade with Cincinnati, who selected him from Arizona in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft.

CONSISTENCY IS KEY: Brad earned his team-leading 3rd win of the season after recording his 4th start (out of 8) of at least 5.0 innings pitched and only 1 run allowed in his outing last Wednesday vs. the White Sox, a 9-1 Royals victory…he pitched around a pair of walks to lead off the 1st inning—with the help of a 5-4-3 double play—but his leadoff walk in the 2nd came around to score two batters later on an RBI single from Hanser Alberto…following that RBI hit, he retired 10 of his next 13 batters through the 5th inning, including erasing a leadoff single in the 5th on a 1-4-3 double play, and exited after the frame in a 7-1 lead, giving way to the Kansas City bullpen which shut down Chicago’s offense over the final 4.0 frames.

Marked his 3rd start of 2023 in which he allowed more walks (4) than hits (3).

He’s allowed only 3 hits in 4 of his 8 starts this season, which is tied for the 5th-most such games in the Majors, trailing only Shohei Ohtani (6), Dustin May (6), Drew Rasmussen (5) and Chris Bassitt (5).

WILD THING: Keller has issued 32 walks over 8 starts this season—including 24 over his last 5 outings since April 18—and he leads the Majors in walks allowed this season, ahead of Miami’s Edward Cabrera (30)…these numbers are slightly skewed due to some bad luck, as Keller has thrown 14 pitches inside the strike zone this year that were called balls, which is tied for the 17th most such calls for any American League pitcher (according to Baseball Savant)…of those 14 such pitches, 9 have been thrown over his last 4 starts since April 24—a stretch in which he’s issued 19 walks—and 4 of those 12 plate appearances resulted in a walk.

He’s the first Royal with at least 24 walks in any 5-start span within a single season in 23 years, since Dan Reichert walked 24 from July 16-Aug. 6, 2000.

NO TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE: Over his first 6 starts of the season, Keller relied on his new curveball 23.6% of the time and the pitch yielded a 30.1% whiff rate, which according to Baseball Savant was the 9th-best mark in the American League off the pitch (min. 25 PA)…over his last 2 starts since the calendar flipped to May, he’s only utilized his curveball 7.1% of the time, a dramatic dip in his use of the pitch, and he hasn’t recorded any swings and misses off it…he still ranks 10th in the AL this season with 22 swings and misses off his curveball, trailing leader Domingo Germán (52).

SEASONED VETERAN: Keller is pitching in his sixth Major League season, and since his debut in 2018, he leads all Royals in wins (38), starts (113), innings pitched (673.1) and strikeouts (504)…his 673.1 innings also rank 7th in the American League since the start of 2018, trailing only Gerrit Cole (924.1), José Berríos (865.2), Lucas Giolito (816.1), Marco Gonzales (802.1), Lance Lynn (772.0) and Shane Bieber (754.2).

Among all pitchers who have made their Majors debut since 2018, Keller’s 113 starts rank 2nd, behind Bieber (119)…his 673.1 innings also rank 2nd among that group of pitchers—trailing Bieber—and his 38 wins are tied for the 8th most, as Bieber is leading the way with 57 wins since his 2018 debut.

Brad recorded his 500th career strikeout in his start on May 5 against the Athletics, becoming the 18th different pitcher in Royals history to eclipse that milestone…he’s now just 4 strikeouts shy of matching Bud Black and Ian Kennedy (508) for 16th on the franchise’s all-time strikeout list.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Keller did not earn a decision in his 2 starts from April 24-29, snapping his streak of starts with a decision at 19 dating back to last May 21, a stretch in which he went 7-12 with a 5.42 ERA (60 ER in 99.2 IP) and 7 quality starts…he had the longest run of starts with a decision by a Royal since Tim Belcher earned a decision in 21 consecutive starts from Sept. 2, 1996-June 20, 1997…it was the longest streak in the Majors since Jacob deGrom had 20 straight starts with a decision for the Mets from May 19-Sept. 5, 2017, and the longest in the American League since Hisashi Iwakuma had 23 straight starts from May 20-Sept. 20, 2016 with Seattle.

Royals Hall of Famer Dennis Leonard holds the club record of 26 straight starts with a decision (Aug. 26, 1997-June 23, 1978), in which he went 14-12.

FROM THE GROUND UP: Keller has a career 52.8% groundball rate, which ranks tied with Max Fried for 3rd in the Majors since the start of his
2018 debut season (min. 600.0 IP), trailing only Dallas Keuchel (55.2%) and Marcus Stroman (54.8%)…likewise, his lifetime HR/9 rate of 0.83
(62 HR in 673.1 IP) ranks 4th in the Majors since 2018 (min. 600.0 IP), behind Jacob deGrom (0.71), Zack Wheeler (0.73) and Fried (0.78).

His 58.3% groundball rate ranks 4th in the Majors in 2023 (min. 35.0 IP), behind Alex Cobb (64.8%), Framber Valdez (64.0%) & Logan Webb (59.9%).

He’s induced 10 double plays in 8 starts this season and has an AL-leading 86 since the start of 2018, 6 more than Seattle’s Marco Gonzales (80).

NEW IN TOWN: Tonight will mark Brad’s 1st career start vs. the Padres (3rd appearance), and Petco Park will become the 26th different ballpark in which he’s appeared in a Major League game, leaving only Citi Field, LoanDepot Park, Dodger Stadium, Citizens Bank Park and Coors Field as active stadiums he has yet to pitch in…he faced San Diego in a pair of relief outings last August at Kauffman Stadium and pitched only 1.0 combined inning.

In 27 career Interleague games (22 starts), he’s 10-8 with a 3.93 ERA (57 ER in 130.2 IP), including a win in his start on April 7 in San Francisco, where he pitched 5.2 innings of 1-run ball…he’s one of seven Royals with at least 75.0 innings pitched vs. National League teams, and his 3.93 ERA trails only Danny Duffy (3.49) in that group…his 97 career Interleague strikeouts rank 3rd in club history, behind Duffy (140) and Zack Greinke (133).

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: He’s pitched into the 6th inning in 10 of his last 12 starts on the road since last April 28, including in 3 of his 4 road starts this year in San Francisco, Texas and Minnesota, where he covered a combined 17.2 innings with only 3 runs allowed (1.53 ERA)…he’s won 5 of his last 7 starts away from home since June 18, 2022, with the only exceptions being last Aug. 2 at the White Sox (L), April 24 at Arizona (ND) and April 29 at Minnesota (ND).


On Sunday in Chavez Ravine, Padres get swept by Dodgers, lose 5th straight game

  • Ryan Weathers made the start yesterday afternoon, getting recalled from Triple-A El Paso pregame…he was saddled with the loss after allowing 4 runs on 3 hits and a homer…he walked 4 with 4 strikeouts.
  • San Diego went 0-for-9 with RISP and had only 3 hits (all which were doubles from Fernando Tatis Jr., Trent Grisham, and Xander Bogaerts).
    Swing it, Soto
  • After hitting just .202 through the end of April, Juan Soto has hit .370 since May 1…his +.168 batting average increase from before/after May is the 3rd highest increase in the Majors, trailing just the Red Sox’s Triston Casas’ +.200 and the White Sox’s Luis Robert’s +.209 clip.

Michael Wacha has a 14-3 (.824) record since 2022

  • Starter Michael Wacha received his 3rd win of the season in his last outing on May 9th @ Minnesota (the Padres last win), allowing just 1 run in 6.0 innings…Wacha is now 14-3 (.824) since the beginning of 2022, the 2nd-best winning percentage among starters during that stretch with at least 15 decisions…trails on LAD’s Tony Gonsolin, who has a 17-2 record (.895) since 2022.

Padres lose 5 of 6 so far to Dodgers

  • The Padres lost 2 of the 3 games in San Diego vs. the Dodgers from May 5-7, and they were swept in Los Angeles this weekend in 3 games…this most recent series defeat marked the Padres’ 11th straight regular season series they’ve lost against the Dodgers…San Diego’s last series win was on June 21- 23, 2021…the Padres will play 2 more regular season series against the Dodgers (August 4-7 in San Diego and September 11-13 in Los Angeles).

Against the Royals

  • The Friars have won 11 of the 18 all-time matchups against the Kansas City Royals dating to their 1st meeting in 2022…their .611 winning percentage (11-7) vs. the Royals is the Padres’ all-time best winning percentage against any opponent…it’s the Royals’ 2nd lowest winning percentage against any of their opponents (.389) ahead of just their .278 winning % (5-13) vs. the Nationals/Expos.
  • The Padres and Royals have combined to scored 11.39 runs per game…since 1997, it’s the 4th highest combined run scoring average between 2 teams (Sportstrader).
  • This is the 1st time the Padres have hosted the Royals since 2017…in 2022, the last time the clubs played, San Diego took 2 of 3 in Kansas City

Runs per game

  • In the Padres’ losses this year, they’ve scored just 1.77 runs per game… that’s the fewest R/G in losses of any team this year…in their 5-game losing streak, they’ve scored 2.0 runs per game.
  • San Diego’s 3.93 runs per game overall in 2023 ranks 25th in the Majors.

Padres have lost 5 straight and 7 of their last 8

  • San Diego has now dropped 5 straight games, their longest losing streak since they lost 5 straight from August 10-14, 2022…if they lose again today, it’ll be their longest skid since they lost 7 straight from Sept. 24-Oct. 1, 2021.
  • They’ve also lost 7 of the last 8 games, and 5 of those 7 losses came at the hands of the Dodgers…the Padres .125 winning percentage in that time since May 6 is the lowest in the Majors.

Wacha set for 10th career start vs. KC
31-year-old right-hander Michael Wacha is set for his 10th career start vs. Kansas City tonight to kick off the 3-game set… he has 7 quality outings in his 9 career starts vs. KC, going 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA (21 ER, 56.0 IP), 1.11 WHIP and .250 opp. AVG…his lone start vs. KC last season came on Sept. 16 at Fenway Park, tossing 7.0 innings of 1-run ball in BOS’ 2-1 victory.

Wacha earns 3rd win of season in MIN
Wacha made his 7th start of the season last Tuesday at Target Field vs. MIN, and tossed a season-high 6.0 innings for the 4th time, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits while walking 3 and striking out 4 in SD’s 6-1 victory…over his last 2 outings, he’s now allowed a combined 1 earned run on 5 hits while limiting the opposition to a .119 clip (5-for-42)…his 3 wins are tied with Seth Lugo for most on the club, and his 3 quality outings are tied with with Yu Darvish and Blake Snell for 2nd-most on the SD staff, behind only Seth Lugo’s 5.

We like our chances
Since the beginning of 2022, Wacha has an .824 winning decision (14-3), which is the 2nd-best winning percentage among starters with at least 15 decisions, trailing only LAD’s Tony Gonsolin (.895, 17-2)…Wacha’s winning .824 winning % since 2022 is ahead of Justin Verlander (.792, 19-5), Clayton Kershaw (.783, 18-5) and Zac Gallen (.783, 18-5).

A tad more comfy at home
In his career, Wacha has made 9 more road starts (110) compared to at home (101), and has tossed 20.0 more total innings on the road (580.1) than at home (560.1) as a starter…he has a 3.61 ERA at home compared to a 4.28 ERA in away parks.

Big May guy
Tonight will be Wacha’s 42nd career start (46th app) in May, his most in any calendar month…he has a 3.91 ERA in May, 1 of 3 months he has a career sub-4.00 ERA, posting a 3.43 ERA in 41 April appearances (40 starts) and a 3.42 ERA in 24 July appearances (21 starts).

Hard hit%
Is currently getting hit hard a career-low 28.8% of the time, ranking in the 91st percentile in MLB this season…his career average hard hit % is 35.1 %.

Wacha’s pitch mix
Wacha throws his changeup 30.2% of the time, and is limiting opponents to a .200 AVG against it (10-for-50)…his cutter drops an average of 24.3 inches – which is 4.3 inches and 15% more rise than other ML cutters – tied for the 10th-most vertical movement of any cutter in the Majors (min. 75 throws)…but opponents are hitting .333 (9-for-27) against it, with 2 of his 4 HR allowed coming against the pitch…opponents are hitting .200 vs. his changeup, .227 vs. his 4-seamer, .364 vs. his sinker and .200 vs. his curveball.

Barrels and contact
Wacha has allowed just 1 barrel across his last 2 starts, but has allowed 11 barrels in his 642 pitches thrown and 118 batted balls for a 9.3% barrel rate, the 3rd-highest barrel rate of his career (10.5% in ’21 and 9.6% in ’22)…he ranks in the bottom 30th percentile in the Majors…18.3 percent of his pitches thrown have been put in play, a tick below his 18.4 career average, and his 32.2 ground ball percentage is the lowest of his career, well below his 45.0 percent ground ball rate…his 35.6 % fly ball rate is by far the highest of his career, having averaged a 21.6% fly ball rate in his career.

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