Saturday, June 22, 2024
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MLB Preview: Oakland Athletics (6-26) at Kansas City Royals (8-24)


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WALK IN THE PARK: The Royals suffered a 13-10 loss to the Orioles yesterday at Kauffman Stadium…no fireworks were planned, but the two teams provided plenty of them during the game, as they combined for 23 runs on 26 hits, including 14 that went for extra bases…Baltimore built an early 8-1 lead after the top of the 3rd inning before Kansas City mounted a remarkable comeback, erasing a 7-run deficit to claim a 9-8 lead in the 7th…they began chipping away at the deficit in the 3rd, when Freddy Fermin hit his 1st career home run in his 1st plate appearance at Kauffman Stadium…Salvador Perez added a 2-run shot later in the inning, and Kyle Isbel hit his 1st HR of the season in the 4th, followed three batters later by an RBI single off the bat of Vinnie Pasquantino… Michael Massey made it a 1-run game with an RBI double in the 5th, but the Royals squandered a golden opportunity in the 6th, when with runners at second and third and no outs, they went popout, intentional walk, back-to-back strikeouts to strand the bases loaded…the Royals completed the comeback in the 7th, when Isbel tied the game on a bunt single and Bobby Witt Jr.’s RBI single gave the Royals their first lead…that put Austin Cox in line for the win, after he pitched scoreless frames in the 6th and 7th in his Majors debut…but Aroldis Chapman, Amir Garrett and Josh Staumont combined to allow 5 runs on 6 walks, 5 steals, 4 hits and a balk over the final 2.0 innings, turning a 9-8 lead into a 13-9 deficit…the Royals scored on an RBI single by Fermin in the 9th, and had the tying run at the plate with 1 out, but Witt Jr. and Hunter Dozier struck out to end the game.

The Royals issued a season-high 9 walks yesterday, 5 of which scored in a game they lost by 3 runs.

Yesterday marked the Royals 10th blown lead loss of the season, and it was the fourth time in Royals history, according to Elias, in which they erased a deficit of at least 7 runs to take a lead, only to lose the game…it previously happened on May 6, 2010 at Texas (trailed 8-0, led 12-11, lost 13-12), Sept. 15, 2000 at Texas (trailed 9-1, led 10-9, lost 12-11) and July 24, 1988 vs. the Yankees (trailed 7-0, led 8-7, lost 10-8).

ROSTER MOVES: The Royals announced prior to tonight’s game that outfielder Kyle Isbel has been placed on the 10-day Injured List with a left hamstring strain, and left-handed pitcher Austin Cox, who made his Majors debut with 2.0 scoreless innings yesterday, was optioned to Triple-A Omaha…in a pair of corresponding moves, infielder/outfielder Nate Eaton and right-handed pitcher Jonathan Heasley were recalled from Triple-A Omaha.

Eaton made the Opening Day roster with Kansas City, but went 1-for-25 in 12 games before being optioned on April 24…in 6 games with Omaha, he hit .304 (7-for-23) with 3 extra-base hits and 3 steals.

Heasley is joining the Royals for the first time this year, after making 21 starts in the Majors in 2022…he’s pitched into the 6th inning or longer in 4 of his 6 starts with Omaha this season, and last pitched on Sunday in Nashville, throwing 94 pitches over 5.1 innings, but did not figure into the decision of a 10-6 win.

Royals starters have recorded an out in the 6th inning just once in the last 8 games, a stretch in which the bullpen has pitched at least 4.0 innings in 7 of 8 games and ranks 2nd in the Majors with 34.2 innings.

GETTING OFFENSIVE: The Royals offense has been heating up over the last two weeks, a 12-game stretch in which they lead the Majors with 5 triples, rank tied for 1st with 30 doubles, 2nd with 49 extra-base hits, tied for 5th with a .274 batting average, 7th with a .468 slugging percentage, 8th with an .803 OPS, 9th with 60 runs (5.0 runs/game) and 10th with a .335 on-base percentage…they’ve matched or out-hit their opponent in 8 of those 12 games, but they’re only 4-8 during that stretch, despite hitting .287 (31-for-108) in scoring situations.

They recorded a season-high 9 extra-base hits yesterday, marking just the 3rd game in franchise history in which they lost with 9 extra-base hits, following July 27, 2011 at Boston and May 25, 2006 vs. Detroit.

In 3 games vs. Baltimore to begin this homestand, the Royals hit .330 and scored 23 runs on 36 hits, including 10 doubles, 2 triples and 8 homers, for a whopping .679 slugging percentage and 1.062 OPS.

Bobby Witt Jr. has scored a run in 6 straight games, matching a career best streak done last September… he recorded an RBI in all 3 games vs. Baltimore to begin this stay and went 5-for-14 with 3 extra-base hits.

Vinnie Pasquantino has 7 RBI over his last 4 games and for the season, his 17 extra-base hits are tied for 4th most in the American League behind Matt Chapman (20), Rafael Devers (19) and Wander Franco (18).

Salvador Perez is tied for the team lead with 6 HR and leads the Royals with 18 RBI…over his last 8 games, he’s batting .400 (12-for-30) with 4 HR and 11 RBI, including a HR yesterday that marked his 100th at Kauffman Stadium, matching Mike Sweeney for 2nd most in this park behind George Brett (136).

MJ Melendez had a season-high 3 hits yesterday—including 2 doubles—and is batting .289 (11-for-38) with a .904 OPS in his last 10 games, after starting the season 10-for-67 (.149) through his first 18 games.

Despite going 0-for-5 yesterday, Nick Pratto is 9-for-23 (.391) in 6 games since his recall a week ago today.

In 3 games since his recall from Omaha, Maikel Garcia is batting .417 (5-for-12) with 2 runs and 2 RBI.

Michael Massey is batting .286 (10-for-35) in his last 10 games after starting the season 6-for-52, and he’s drawn 4 walks in his last 4 games after recording 31 strikeouts and no walks in his first 23 games.

PACE OF PLAY: The Royals 3-game series with Baltimore this week was a wild one, in which the Royals played their 2 longest games of the season and their shortest…Tuesday’s 11-7 loss in 3 hours, 4 minutes was—at the time—Kansas City’s longest game of the year…the Royals followed that up with a 6-0 win in 1 hour and 59 minutes Wednesday night to mark the 4th-shortest 9-inning game in the Majors this season and the fastest game at Kauffman Stadium in 16 years…yesterday’s 13-10 game lasted 3 hours and 24 minutes to match the 4th-longest 9-inning game in the Majors this year…despite this roller coaster of game times, the Royals season average of 2 hours, 32 minutes is still the fastest in the Majors, ahead of the Rays and Yankees (2:33 each).

SUPER DUPER: Royals Replay Specialist, Bill Duplissea, was successful in both of his challenges yesterday, improving to 5-for-5 this season, as the Royals remain the only team in the Majors with a perfect challenge record in 2023…the Royals—under Duplissea’s direction—have finished in the top three in replay success rate in five of the last seven seasons from 2016-22, and since Instant Replay was instituted for the 2014 season, the Royals lead the Majors in overturn rate (66.3%) and have had the fewest calls confirmed (27).

VS. ATHLETICS: The Royals continue this season-long, 10-game homestand tonight with the 1st of 3 games vs. the Oakland Athletics…the Royals have not won a season series vs. the A’s since 2015, when they went 5-1, and have lost four of the last six season sets, with two splits…in fact, the Royals have lost six consecutive series to the A’s at Kauffman Stadium dating back to 2016, a stretch in which they’re just 5-15 vs. the A’s.

These two teams split 6 games last season, with the Royals winning 2 of 3 in Oakland, before the A’s returned the favor here in Kansas City…the Royals held the A’s to 1 run or fewer in half of their 6 meetings last season and pitched to a 2.72 ERA (16 ER in 53.0 IP), their best mark vs. any opponent in 2022.

HBD, JOEL!: Joel Goldberg, who is in his 16th season hosting the “Royals Live” pregame and postgame shows on Bally Sports Kansas City, is celebrating his [redacted] birthday today…Goldy shares a birthday with Mariners pitcher Logan Gilbert (26) and Charles Nagy (56), who was a three-time All-Star during his 14-year career from 1990-2003…other Cinco de Mayo birthdays include English singer-songwriter Adele (35).


BRAD KELLER will make his 7th start of the season—and 112th start of his career— tonight vs. the Athletics, which will mark his 5th career start against Oakland… 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.

WALK THIS WAY: Brad did not factor into the decision of the Royals 3-2 win over the Twins at Target Field last Saturday night after allowing just 1 run in 5.1 innings, lowering his ERA for the season to 3.56 (12 ER in 30.1 IP)…he yielded 11 baserunners, including 6 hits and 5 walks, marking his 3rd straight start with at least 5 walks allowed…four of his six leadoff batters reached base, however only one came around to score, as Byron Buxton—who walked to lead off the 4th—scored five batters later on a wild pitch…Keller exited in a 1-1 tie with 1 out in the 6th inning in favor of Jose Cuas, who stranded the inherited runner…Minnesota broke the tie in the bottom of the 7th, but the Royals answered back in the top of the 8th, before Kansas City scored what proved to be the difference in the game on a wild pitch from Twins closer Jhoan Duran that scored Edward Olivares from third base in the 9th.

He’s yielded as many walks as he has hits (24) over 6 starts this season, which ironically is also equal to the number of strikeouts he’s recorded…the 24 walks are the most allowed by any American League pitcher, while it’s fewer than only Miami’s Edward Cabrera (25) for the most in the Majors.

CAN’T TOUCH THIS: Keller has held opponents to 6 hits or fewer in each of his 6 starts this season, including 3 straight starts of 3 hits allowed from April 7-12… among all pitchers in the American League who have made at least 6 starts this year, his 24 total hits allowed are tied for the 6th fewest, behind Shohei Ohtani (16), Jacob deGrom (19), Jhony Brito (21), Domingo Germán (21) and Joe Ryan (23) while it’s tied for the 10th fewest hits allowed in the Majors.

NO TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE: Over his first 6 starts of the season, Keller has relied on his new curveball 23.8% of the time (according to Baseball Savant), which has yielded a 30.1% whiff rate and a 17.0% strikeout rate, as he has recorded 8 strikeouts in 47 plate appearances that ended with the pitch…the 35.0% whiff rate on his curveball ranks 21st highest in the Majors off the pitch (min. 25 plate appearances) and it’s the 9th-best mark in the American League this year.

He’s induced 22 swings and misses on his curveball this season, which is tied for the 5th most in the AL off that pitch, trailing leader Domingo Germán (45).

SEASONED VETERAN: Keller is pitching in his sixth Major League season, and since his debut in 2018, he leads all Royals in wins (37), starts (111), innings pitched (664.0) and strikeouts (499)…his 664.0 innings also rank 7th in the American League since the start of 2018, trailing only Gerrit Cole (914.1), José Berríos (853.2), Lucas Giolito (804.1), Marco Gonzales (790.1), Lance Lynn (760.1) and Shane Bieber (748.2).

Among all pitchers who have made their Majors debut since 2018, Keller’s 111 starts rank 2nd, behind Bieber (118)…his 664.0 innings also rank 2nd among that group of pitchers—trailing Bieber—and his 37 wins are the 7th most, as Bieber is leading the way with 56 wins since his 2018 debut.

Brad is just 1 strikeout away from becoming the 18th pitcher in Royals history to record 500 strikeouts with the club, and is 9 strikeouts shy of matching Bud Black and Ian Kennedy (508) for 16th on the franchise’s all-time list.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Keller has not earned a decision in either of his last 2 starts, 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 (55.0%)…likewise, his lifetime HR/9 rate of 0.81 (60 HR in 664.0 IP) ranks 4th in the Majors since 2018 (min. 600.0 IP), behind Jacob deGrom (0.71), Zack Wheeler (0.73) and Fried (0.76). Ê His 60.2% groundball rate ranks 4th in the Majors this season (min. 30.0 IP), trailing only Framber Valdez (66.7%), Stroman (62.0%) and Alex Cobb (60.8%)…his 0.30 HR/9 (1 HR in 30.1 IP) this season is the 11th-lowest rate in the Majors and the 6th lowest in the American League.

He’s induced 7 double plays in 6 starts this season and has an AL-leading 83 since the start of 2018, 4 more than Seattle’s Marco Gonzales (79).

VS. OAKLAND: In 4 career starts vs. the Athletics, Keller has gone 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA (9 ER in 17.1 IP)…he made back-to-back starts against the A’s last June—after not facing them for nearly three years—and turned in one of his best starts of the season on June 18 in Oakland, where he pitched 7.0 scoreless innings and limited them to just 1 hit and 3 walks, with 6 strikeouts in a 2-0 Royals shutout victory…his following start last June 25 at Kauffman Stadium was a little more rocky, as he suffered the loss and yielded 5 runs (2 earned) in 3.2 innings of a 9-7 defeat.

HOME WOES: Since the start of last season, he’s gone 3-10 and has pitched to a 4.65 ERA (41 ER in 79.1 IP) in 15 starts at Kauffman Stadium…he has not won a game at home since Aug. 7, 2022 vs. Boston, however that is largely due to his 2.27 run support average at home since the beginning of 2022 (20 RS)…he’s covered at least 6.0 innings in 9 of those 15 starts since last year and has allowed 3 earned runs or fewer in 11 of his 15 starts.

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