Saturday, June 22, 2024

MLB Preview: Kansas City Royals (40-88) at Oakland Athletics (36-90)


FOUR SCORE: The Royals suffered a 5-4 loss last night at the Coliseum to mark their 4th straight defeat, falling to 48 games under .500 (40-88) for the first time since Sept. 23, 2018, when they won to improve to 54- 102 en route to a 58-104 season…all of Kansas City’s offense last night came on a pair of 2-run singles, by Kyle Isbel in the 2nd and Salvador Perez in the 5th…Angel Zerpa was charged with 5 runs (4 ER) in 3.0 innings, before Zack Greinke held the A’s scoreless on 2 hits over 4.0 innings in his 1st relief appearance since 2021.

Ê The Royals are 34-34 (.500) when scoring at least 4 runs this season, the worst such record in the Majors, and have lost 6 of their last 7 games when scoring at least 4 runs, including 3 straight…the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball have a combined .725 win percentage when scoring at least 4 runs.

SERIES SPEAKING: Last night’s loss clinched the Royals sixth consecutive winless series—including five losses and one split—since they swept the Twins and Mets in back-to-back series to complete a 6-0 homestand from July 28-July 3…it also marked their 14th consecutive winless series on the road—including 12 losses and two splits—since they took 2 of 3 from May 15-17 in San Diego…the Royals are seeking a win today to avoid being swept for what would be the 11th time this season and first since July 21-23 at Yankee Stadium…the Royals have not been swept by the Athletics since Sept. 12-15, 2016 at Kauffman Stadium, and they haven’t been swept here at the Coliseum in 10 years, since May 17-19, 2013, a series in which they lost all 3 games by 1 run.

The Royals are 10-22 (.313) vs. the A’s since 2018 and 14-31 (.311) since 2016, a stretch in which they are winless in seven consecutive season series (including 2023), with five season series losses and two splits.

The Royals are 5-16 vs. American League West teams in 2023 and have lost all seven series vs. the division.

REHABBING ROYALS: Nick Pratto went 1-for-2 with 2 walks last night and played 7.0 innings at first base in his 5th rehab game with Triple-A Omaha…he has missed the last 24 games on the Injured List with a left groin strain.

Left hander Jake Brentz allowed a run in the 6th inning last night with Double-A Northwest Arkansas, when he surrendered 2 walks and 4 stolen bases, including a steal of home…Brentz recorded 2 strikeouts and did not allow a hit in his 3rd rehab appearance and 1st at the Double-A Level…he last pitched in the Majors on April 29, 2022—almost 16 months ago—after which he underwent Tommy John Surgery.

Brad Keller allowed 2 runs on 2 hits and 1 walk in the 7th inning on Sunday but was credited with the win in his 1st rehab appearance with Double-A Northwest Arkansas…he began this assignment with 2 outings in the Arizona Complex League and has been on the IL since May 19 with a right shoulder impingement.

CLOSE CALLS: Last night’s 5-4 loss marked Kansas City’s 10th consecutive game decided by 2 runs or fewer, a stretch in which 6 of those 10 games have been decided by 1 run…the Royals are 2-8 during this 10-game run, which is the longest in franchise history, surpassing five 9-game streaks…it’s tied for the 2nd-longest streak in the Majors this season, 1 game shy of an 11-game streak by the Phillies from July 24-Aug. 4…in the Wild Card Era (since 1995), only 13 teams have had a streak of games decided by 2 runs or fewer that lasted longer than Kansas City’s current run of 10 games, the longest of which was a 16-game streak by the Yankees in 2014.

The Royals are 21-38 (.356) in games decided by 2 runs or fewer, which is the 2nd-worst record in the Majors, ahead of San Diego (19-36)…they are 5-20 in games decided by exactly 2 runs, and their 20 such losses are their most since 2012 (22) and 3 more than the Padres for the most in the Majors this season.

The Royals haven’t played a game decided by more than 2 runs since Aug. 11 vs. St. Louis, when they won 12-8, and they haven’t lost a game decided by more than 2 runs since Aug. 7 at Boston, a 6-2 defeat…they’re 4-10 in 14 games since, despite being outscored by a total of just 3 runs during that time.

BOBBY BASEBALL: Bobby Witt Jr. went 0-for-5 last night to mark only his 3rd hitless game in his last 23, a stretch in which he ranks among the top 3 in the American League in total bases (75, 1st), hits (39, 2nd), extra-base hits (17, 2nd), batting average (.394, 2nd), slugging percentage (.758, 3rd) and OPS (1.186, 3rd).

Witt Jr.’s home run on Monday night was his 25th of the year, making him the fifth shortstop in history to record at least 25 HR and 35 steals in a single season, and the first since Hanley Ramírez in 2007-08.

Of his 25 HR, 23 have come as a shortstop, which are 2 more than Jay Bell (1997) for the most in a single season by a Royals shortstop and are tied with Francisco Lindor for the most in the Majors this season.

Through 128 team games—and with 34 games left—Witt Jr. is on pace for 31 homers an 46 stolen bases, a combination that has been matched only three times in Major League history, by Eric Davis in

1987 (37/50), Barry Bonds in 1990 (33/52) and Álex Rodríguez in 1998 (42/46)…Witt Jr. is 5 HR shy of becoming the first player with 30 homers and 30 steals in Royals history, and he would be the Majors’ first primary shortstop to accomplish that feat since Florida’s Ramírez had 33 HR and 35 steals in 2008.

In 70 games since June 1, Witt Jr. is batting .318 with 15 HR and a .912 OPS, and leads the AL with 90 hits.

He ranks 4th in the Majors with 37 steals behind Ronald Acuña Jr. (58), Esteury Ruiz (49) and Corbin Carroll (38) and his pace of 46 steals would be the most by a Royal since Johnny Damon had 46 in 2000.

His 13 Outs Above Average on defense are tied with Dansby Swanson for the Majors lead at any position.

THE RUNNING ROYALS: In 37 games since the All-Star break, the Royals lead the Majors with 49 stolen bases (1.3 SB/game), which are 11 more than the Cubs and Nationals (38 each) and 18 more than the Mariners (31) for the American League lead…after stealing only 40 bags in 56 games through May, the Royals rank 2nd in the Majors and lead the American League with 85 steals in 72 games since June 1…for the season, the Royals rank 4th in the Majors with 125 stolen bases, trailing only Cincinnati (144), Tampa Bay (130) and Arizona (127).

I BELIEVE I CAN FLY: The Royals lead the Majors in sacrifice flies this month (12), since the All-Star break (15) and are tied for the Majors lead since June 1 (27)…for the season, their 43 sacrifice flies lead the American League and rank 2nd in the Majors, trailing only the Dodgers (51)…the Royals have not led the American League in sacrifice flies since 2000, when their total of 70 marked the 4th most in a single season in club history.

Despite not making his season debut until May 2, Maikel Garcia’s 9 sacrifice flies are tied with Cody Bellinger and Eugenio Suárez for the Majors lead…he’s tied with Lou Piniella (9 in 1969) for the 2nd most sac. flies by a rookie in Royals history, trailing Carlos Beltrán (10 in 1999)…the Royals record for sac. flies is 13, set by Darrell Porter in 1979 and matched by Dean Palmer in 1998 and Mike Sweeney in 2000.

ARMS RACE: The Royals lead the Majors with 31 outfield assists this season, which are 6 more than the Cardinals and Rockies (25 each), and are 8 more than the Red Sox, Tigers and Athletics (23 each) for the American League lead…the Royals are attempting to lead the Major Leagues in outfield assists for the first time since 2011 and 2012, when they had 51 in both seasons, which were the most by any team since Cleveland had 51 in 1993.

Nine different Royals have recorded an outfield assist this year, led by MJ Melendez’s 8 outfield assists

RAGANS 2023 MISC. NUMBERS: K%: 26.4% | K/9: 8.4% | BB%: 10.6% | BB/9: 3.9% | 1ST-PITCH K%: 62.4%

COLE RAGANS is making his 6th start of the season (23rd appearance) and 15th start of his career today vs. the Athletics…Ragans, 25, was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 1st round (30th) of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of the North Florida Christian High School, and was acquired by Kansas City with 17-year-old Dominican outfielder Roni Cabrera on June 30 for Aroldis Chapman.

GO COLE GO: Cole earned the win in Kansas City’s 4-3 victory last Friday at Wrigley Field, in which he allowed 3 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks in 6.0 innings, with 9 strikeouts…he held the Cubs scoreless until the 4th when 4 consecutive hits—and an error—plated a trio of runs and gave Chicago a 3-2 advantage that held through the 5th…Bobby Witt Jr. cracked a 2-run home run in the 6th, flipping the 3-2 deficit to a 4-3 advantage that held through the end of the game, as Cole struck out Seiya Suzuki, Jeimer Candelario and Patrick Wisdom to finish his 6th and final frame… four Royals relievers—Dylan Coleman (1.0 IP), Taylor Clarke (0.2 IP), Austin Cox (0.1 IP) and Carlos Hernández (1.0 IP)—held the Cubs scoreless over the final 3.0 innings.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: In 5 starts with the Royals since being acquired from Texas on June 30, Ragans is 2-1 with a 2.51 ERA (8 ER in 28.2 IP) and 36 strikeouts (11.3 K/9)…his ERA is the lowest by a Royal through 5 starts with the club since Edinson Vólquez posted a 2.10 ERA through 5 games in 2015 en route to the World Series.

His 36 strikeouts through 5 appearances as a Royal are the most in club history, ahead of James Shields’ 32 from April 1-25, 2013…the club record through 6 games also belongs to Shields, who punched out 39 batters through April 30.

Since re-joining the Royals for his second stint with the club on Aug. 2, Ragans has 33 strikeouts in 23.2 innings (14.2 K/9), which are tied with Dane Dunning for 3rd most in the Majors in the month of August, trailing Freddy Peralta (37) and Zac Gallen (36)…there have only been eight months in franchise history in which a Royals left hander recorded more than 33 strikeouts, most recently done by Mike Minor (41) in May 2021…Ragans’ 33 strikeouts are already 2nd most by a Royals southpaw in the month of August, trailing Danny Duffy, who had 39 in August 2016, which included his club-record 16-strikeout game.

ELECTRIC SLIDE(R): When Cole was acquired by Kansas City on June 30, he had never thrown a slider…as noted earlier this month by’s Anne Rogers, when he arrived to Omaha following the trade, he wanted to be more effective vs. lefthanded hitters and thought a slider could help him do that…Paul Gibson, the Royals Sr. Director of Pitching Performance, agreed and encouraged Cole add it to his arsenal.

Since Ragans’ Royals debut on July 15, when he started Game 2 of a doubleheader against Tampa Bay, he has thrown his new slider 7.2% of the time, and it has induced 14 strikeouts to just 5 hits with a .208 opponents’ average… that includes a 27.7% usage rate vs. lefties, who are 2-for-11 with 5 strikeouts.

WELCOME TO THE CLUB: Ragans was recalled on Aug. 2 to mark his second stint with the Royals since acquired on June 30 from the Rangers, with whom he posted a 5.92 ERA (16 ER in 24.1 IP) with 24 strikeouts in 17 relief appearances this season…Ragans broke camp with the big league club and began the year with 5 consecutive scoreless outings, covering 5.0 innings while allowing just 2 hits.

Made 9 starts with Texas last year, going 0-3 with a 4.95 ERA (22 ER in 40.0 IP).

AN UNFORGETTABLE JOURNEY: A 1st-round Draft selection in 2016, Cole overcame two Tommy John surgeries and missed the 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to become one of the top minor league pitchers in 2022…Ragans had his first Tommy John surgery on March 28, 2018 and felt discomfort while on a throwing program in early 2019, which led to another procedure on May 15, 2019.

He made his return in 2021 with 19 appearances (17) starts—his 1st game action since 2017—and was selected for the 2021 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

In 2022, Ragans earned Texas’ Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award after going 8-5 with a 3.04 ERA (32 ER in 94.2 IP) and 113 strikeouts (10.7 K/9) in 18 starts between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock.

GOING BACK TO CALI: In 3 career appearances (2 starts) vs. Oakland, Ragans is 0-1 with a 9.58 ERA (11 ER in 10.1 IP), including a relief appearance here on May 12 with Texas, when he allowed 1 run in 1.1 innings…he made 2 starts vs. the Athletics during his 2022 debut season, including his 3rd career start a year ago last week, in which he suffered the loss after allowing 3 runs on 4 hits in 5.0 innings, with 3 strikeouts.

ROAD WORK: In 6 career starts on the road, he is 1-1 with a 3.41 ERA (11 ER in 29.0 IP)… in his 2 road starts with the Royals this season, he’s 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA (4 ER in 12.2 IP) and 20 strikeouts (14.2 K/9), including a career-high 11 strikeouts in 6.2 innings on Aug. 7 at Fenway Park and 9 strikeouts in 6.0 innings last Friday at Wrigley Field.


ABOUT THE A’S: Have won the first two games of this series and will be going for their third series sweep of the season (June 9-11 at Milwaukee, Aug. 5-6 vs. San Francisco)…have won more than two straight games just once this year, a seven-game winning streak from June 6-13…are 24-40 (.375) over the last 64 games dating back to June 6 after going 12-50 (.194) over the first 62 contests…are 36-90 (.286) overall, which is the lowest winning percentage in the majors behind the Royals (40-88, .313)…were swept by Baltimore to open the homestand and have now been swept 17 times this year, which ties the Oakland record set in 1978…including this series, are 9-14-1 over the last 24 series after going 1-16 over the first 17…have a run differential of -300, which is the lowest in the majors…the lowest in Oakland history is -287 in 1979 and the lowest in Athletics history is -344 in 1915.

ONE-RUN GAMES AND OTHER CLOSE CALLS: The A’s won 5-4 last night and half of their wins have been by one run…are 18-24 (.429) in one-run games and 18-66 (.214) in games decided by two or more runs…are tied for the second most one-run losses in the majors and rank third in games (42)…had their seventh walk-off win of the season Monday night, which is tied for fourth in the majors…have scored the winning run in their final at bat in 15 of their 36 victories (41.7%)…are 6-7 (.462) in extra inning games…are tied for fifth in the majors in extra inning losses, tied for eighth in games (13) and tied for 10th in wins.

OFFENSE: The A’s have been hit by a pitch in each of the last four games (eight HBP total) and now have 71 for the season, which is fourth most in the majors and tied for fifth most in Oakland history (98 in 2021, 88 in 2001, 87 in 2019, 76 in 2018)…rank last in the majors in batting (.224), slugging (.366), OPS (.667), runs (453) and extra base hits (319), third in fewest doubles (174), fourth in lowest on-base percentage (.301), tied for fourth in most times shut out (12), tied for sixth in fewest home runs (127), seventh in most strikeouts (1152) and tied for seventh in most grounded into double plays (97)…have 25 sacrifice hits, which is second most in the majors and is the most by an A’s team since 2012 (27).

IN THE PINCH: Ryan Noda had the A’s 35th pinch hit of the season last night, which is tied for second most by an A’s team over the last 32 years (had 57 in 1997)…A’s pinch hitters lead the majors in hits, rank second in plate appearances (149), tied for fourth in extra base hits (8), tied for fifth in doubles (5) and tied for ninth in home runs (3).

PITCHING: The A’s have two shutouts over their last 12 games but have allowed six or more runs seven times over that stretch for a 5.33 ERA (62 er in 104.2 ip)…have a 5.78 ERA overall, which is the highest in the majors and the highest in Oakland history (5.48 in 1997)…also have the highest opponents on-base percentage in the majors (.357), the second highest slugging percentage (.462) and OPS (.819) and third highest batting average (.271)…lead the majors with 76 hit batters, which is an Oakland record and five short of the Athletics record of 81 set in 1911…also have a ML leading 533 walks, which are the most by an A’s team since 2008 (576)…have the most wild pitches in the majors (55), rank fourth in fewest shutouts (4), fifth in most home runs (170) and tied for fifth in fewest strikeouts (1015).

STARTING PITCHING: A’s starting pitchers are 2-9 with a 5.32 ERA (55 er in 93.0 ip) over the last 21 games dating back to July 29 and both of the wins are by Paul Blackburn…are 12-56 with a 6.02 ERA for the season…have the fewest wins and highest ERA in the majors and are tied for the second most losses (Royals, 57)…the fewest wins from starting pitchers in Major League history is 21 by the Pirates last year…the ERA is currently the highest in Athletics history (5.94 in 1997)…have tossed 7.1 innings or fewer in each game and have the second fewest innings pitched (573.0).

THE BULLPEN: The A’s bullpen is 2-4 with a save, four blown saves and a 6.51 ERA (34 er in 47.0 ip) over the last 11 games…has a 5.53 ERA overall, which is the highest in the majors and the highest in Oakland history (5.22 in 1980)… also has the most losses in the majors this year (34) and the second most innings pitched (532.2)…has set Athletics single-season records for most losses, walks (288) and runs allowed (354) by relievers…is 21-for-45 (46.7%) in save opportunities…has the lowest save percentage in the majors, the second fewest saves and is tied for the fourth most blown saves (24)…has allowed 94-of-242 (38.8%) inherited runners to score, which is the fourth highest percentage…has the most inherited runners.

ON THE BASES: The A’s are 13-for-14 in stolen base attempts in August and 116-for-139 (83.5%) for the season…rank fifth in the majors in steals, attempts and percentage…the stolen bases are the most by an A’s team since 2012 (122)…A’s opponents are 87-for-124 (70.2%) in stolen base attempts, which is the second lowest success rate in the majors…the 37 caught stealings are the most…A’s pitchers have 11 pickoffs, which is tied for fourth most.

DEFENSIVE DOINGS: The A’s have committed 76 errors, which is tied for fourth most in the majors…A’s outfielders have four assists in the last eight games and now have 23 for the season, which is tied for fourth most in the majors…the A’s have turned 89 double plays, which is third fewest.

HOME AND AWAY: The A’s have won a season-high tying two consecutive home games for the sixth time this year…have not won more than two straight home games since winning the final three home games last year… are 2-3 on this six-game homestand against Baltimore (0-3) and Kansas City (2-0)…went 3-2 on the last homestand against San Francisco (2-0) and Texas (1-2), which was the A’s first winning homestand of the season…are 20-44 (.313) at home, which is the lowest home winning percentage in the majors…went 29-51 at home last year and have back-to-back losing seasons at home for the first time since 2015-16…leave following the game today for a seven-game road trip to Chicago-AL (four games) and Seattle (three games)… went 1-5 on the last road trip to Washington (0-3) and St. Louis (1-2) and are
16-46 (.258) on the road, which is the worst road record in the majors.

TRAGIC NUMBER: The A’s were officially eliminated from the American League West Sunday in game 124 (since Texas, Houston and Seattle have games remaining with each other, one of those teams will have at least 73 wins)…it marks the earliest they have been eliminated from the West, topping the previous mark of game 129 last year on Aug. 28…this marks just the third time in Oakland history the A’s were eliminated before Sept. 1 (game 135 on Aug. 30, 1979)…have a tragic number of two to be eliminated from the playoffs.

PLAYER NOTES: Yesterday, Dany Jimenez became the 19th different pitcher to start a game for the A’s, which is an on-going Oakland record and second most in the majors this year to the Royals (20)…the 19 starting pitchers matches the 1919 and 1935 Philadelphia A’s for second most in Athletics history…the record is 24 in 1915…today, the A’s selected Sean Newcomb from Triple-A Las Vegas and he will be making his A’s debut…the A’s have already set Athletics records for most pitchers (36) and most relievers in a season (32)…have used 57 players overall, which is second highest in Athletics history to the record of 64 set last year…the 57 players are second most in the majors to the Angels (60) and the 36 pitchers are third most (Rays 39, Dodgers 38)…have employed 18 rookies after using an Oakland record 34 last year… have set an Oakland record for most non-Covid IL placements (30)…used the IL an Athletics record 31 times last year (including nine times for Covid).


  • The A’s have won the first two games of this series and have not swept the Royals since a four-game sweep at Kansas City, Sept. 12- 15, 2016…have not swept a series in Oakland since a three-game sweep, May 17-19, 2013.
  • Have won the season series as they lead 4-1 entering the final game today…have now won five season series and split two over the last seven season series.
  • Are 31-14 (.689) against the Royals dating back to 2016, including 17-6 (.739) in Kansas City.
  • Have not lost the season series at Kauffman Stadium since dropping two of three in 2015.

Year Home Road Totals
2023 2-0 2-1 4-1
2022 1-2 2-1 3-3
Oakland History: 339-273
at the Coliseum: 183-122
at Kauffman Stadium: 136-135

Zack Gelof has reached base safely in each of his last 19 games, which is the A’s longest reaching base streak over the last two years…is batting .370 (27-for-73) with 13 runs, seven doubles, six home runs, 11 RBI and eight walks (.439 on-base percentage) during the streak.

TODAY’S STARTING PITCHER: Adrián Martínez (0-1, 5.85 ERA)
FOR STARTERS: Is scheduled to make his 15th appearance of the season but it will be his first start…made 12 appearances, all starts, for the A’s in his Major League debut last year…was recalled from Las Vegas on Aug. 8 for his second stint with Oakland this year and has a loss in three appearances since his return (8.2 ip, 9 h, 8 r, 6 er, 4 bb, 8 so, 6.23 ERA)…was on the A’s Opening Day roster and logged a 6.75 ERA in six relief appearances before he was placed on the 15-day injured list April 24 retroactive to April 23 with a strained right elbow…was reinstated on May 15 and pitched in six more games (2.84 ERA) before he was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas on May 27…had a 5.70 ERA in 11 relief appearances overall at the time of his option.

IN RELIEF: Tossed at least 2.0 innings in nine of his 14 relief appearances, including 3.0 or more five times…averaged 40.6 pitches per outing with a high of 82 on Aug. 8 against Texas…allowed 4-of-9 (44.4%) inherited runners to score and first batters faced were 2-for-11 (.182) with two walks and a sacrifice fly.

THIS AND THAT: Opponents are batting .234 (15-for-64) with the bases empty, .317 (19-for-60) with three of his four home runs with runners on base… has allowed a .333 (11-for-33) average with runners in scoring position and now has a .333 (22-for-66) career opponents average with RISP…had a 2.87 ERA (5 er in 15.2 ip) and .554 opponents OPS in seven day games compared to an 8.64 ERA and .953 OPS in seven night games…has yielded all four of his home runs at night…the opponents three hitter in the order is 6-for-11 (.545) with three doubles and two walks against him…the A’s are 0-14 when he pitches.

LAST APPEARANCE: He pitched in relief last Saturday against the Orioles and was the losing pitcher in the A’s 7-2 loss in 10 innings…entered the game to start the 10th and allowed five runs on a Mountcastle RBI single, a Westburg sacrifice fly, a Hays fielders choice and a McCann two-run single.

LAST MAJOR LEAGUE START: He had a no decision in the A’s 5-4, 10-inning win over Los Angeles (AL) last year on Oct. 3 in Oakland…blanked the Angels on three hits over the first three innings but then allowed a two-run single to Adell in the fourth…also allowed a RBI double to Ohtani in the fifth and was relieved by Pruitt with the A’s trailing 3-0…Pruitt allowed a RBI double to Ward but the A’s scored twice in both the eighth and ninth to get Martínez off the hook.

Mikey Balhan Sports

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